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World News

Obama, back in U.S., defends his globe trotting

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, back in the United States on Sunday, came under fresh attack from Republican rival John McCain and defended his weeklong globe trotting, saying “we did it really well.”

After a week of cheers from overseas crowds and praise from foreign leaders, Obama turned his attention back to domestic affairs and a tight battle for the White House. He rejected charges that his world tour had been overly ambitious.

Obama told a gathering of minority journalists in Chicago he met with many of the same leaders McCain met after his White House rival clinched the Republican nomination.

“In terms of me governing, being an effective president, that trip was helpful,” Obama said. “I’ve established relationships and a certain bond of trust with key leaders around the world who have taken measure of my positions and how I operate.”

Obama earned good reviews for a trip that took him to Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle East and Europe, where he met with world leaders, visited U.S. troops and spoke to a crowd of 200,000 in Berlin.

He said he was uncertain what political impact the trip might have on his November presidential battle with McCain.

“A week of me focusing on international issues doesn’t necessarily translate into higher poll numbers here in the United States because people are understandably concerned about the immediate effects of the economy,” Obama said. “And that’s what we will be talking about for the duration.”

But a daily Gallup tracking poll showed Obama’s lead over McCain grew during the course of the week from 3 points to 9 points. The most recent poll was taken Wednesday through Friday -- putting much of it after his huge rally in Berlin.

As the Illinois senator prepared to switch his emphasis to the economy, McCain kept up his attacks on Obama’s position on Iraq. McCain, in an interview broadcast on ABC’s “This Week,” said Obama’s call for withdrawal of American troops from Iraq over a 16-month period was designed to help his drive to win the Democratic nomination.

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) smiles as he leaves 10 Downing Street in central London July 26, 2008. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico

McCain’s campaign also needled Obama about canceling a visit to see injured American troops at a base in Germany last week, implying that he did so because he could not bring the media along. It even aired an advertisement in which the announcer says: “And now, he made time to go to the gym, but canceled a visit with wounded troops. Seems the Pentagon wouldn’t allow him to bring cameras.”

McCAIN QUESTIONS OBAMA JUDGMENT

“Senator Obama doesn’t understand,” McCain said in an interview conducted on Saturday. “He doesn’t understand what’s at stake here and he chose to take a political path that would have helped him get the nomination of his party.”

But McCain, an ardent supporter of the war, said he was not questioning the patriotism of his opponent, just his judgment.

Obama defended his call for troop withdrawal, saying it should have begun earlier, and the real lack of judgment was McCain’s vote for the war in the first place.

“I continue to believe that the only way for us to stabilize the situation in Iraq -- I believed it then, and I believe it now -- is for the parties to arrive at a set of political accommodations,” he told the journalists.

McCain also sought to turn Obama’s trip against him, suggesting it was a slight to U.S. voters.

“With all the breathless coverage from abroad, and with Senator Obama now addressing his speeches to ‘the people of the world,’ I’m starting to feel a little left out. Maybe you are too,” the Arizona senator said in a Saturday radio address.

Obama told the journalists McCain had visited Mexico, Colombia and Canada recently.

“I was puzzled by this notion that somehow what we were doing was in any way different from what Senator McCain or a lot of presidential candidates have done in the past. Now, I admit we did it really well,” he said.

“But that shouldn’t be a strike against me. You know, if I was bumbling and fumbling through this thing, I would have been criticized for that,” he said.

Obama plans to meet on Monday with former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, billionaire investor Warren Buffet and others to discuss the issue of the economy.

“This will be a first step in a series of meetings and proposals that we’ll be presenting during the remainder of this campaign,” Obama said in an interview with Reuters on his way back to his home in Chicago.

(Writing by David Wiessler; additional reporting by Caren Bohan; editing by Bill Trott)

For more about the U.S. political campaign, visit Reuters "Tales from the Trail: 2008" online at blogs.reuters.com/trail08/

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