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NBC "The Today Show" Transcript

Interview

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NBC "The Today Show" Transcript, with Senator-Elect Barack Obama (D-IL)

MATT LAUER: While there were suspenseful elections across the nation last night, one race that was never in doubt was the contest for the open Senate seat in Illinois. Rising Democratic star Barack Obama won by a huge margin; as a matter of fact, the largest in history for a U.S. Senate seat from Illinois.

Senator-elect Obama, good morning. Congratulations.

SEN.-ELECT OBAMA: Thank you so much. It's great to talk to you.

MR. LAUER: Before I get to your win, let me ask you about the presidential election. Do you think at this hour Senator Kerry should concede?

SEN.-ELECT OBAMA: Well, you know, I think it's important for Senator Kerry to assess the situation very carefully. Obviously we're still feeling a little traumatized from 2000. My hope would be that we don't have a similar situation that drags on for weeks. But I do think that it's only been a few hours. Let's make sure that we get this one right.

I think that's something that the president would want as well so that when he walks in, he at least can feel confident that he won fair and square and that the people of America are not going to get a sense that there's a cloud hanging over this victory as well.

MR. LAUER: The numbers do not look good for Senator Kerry in Ohio; the margin of victory about equal to the number of provisional ballots still out there. I mean, I guess you would agree that sooner might be better than later for Senator Kerry, at least as a gesture to the American people, so, as you mentioned, that same cloud doesn't hang over our heads.

SEN.-ELECT OBAMA: Well, I think what is important is that obviously the officials on the ground in Ohio move as rapidly as their law permits. I think that a statement from Senator Kerry that would indicate that he is prepared to concede, if and when the numbers come in, in a way that are indisputable, and I think a measured tone from the White House, all of that will help us move forward in what, by all accounts, has been an extraordinarily close race.

MR. LAUER: Now to you personally. You've come an awfully long way in a fairly short amount of time, from a state senator in Illinois to the man who gave the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, now to winning a Senate seat. Growth like that does not come, as I remember from my teen years, without growing pains. What have some of the growing pains been for you?

SEN.-ELECT OBAMA: Well, you know, the most difficult thing is dealing with the lack of time for my family. I mean, I've got very young children who are gorgeous and the apple of my eye. I've got a wife who's had to carry the ball on our family life.

And I think that just figuring that transition out and balancing the demands of the sort of national attention I've been receiving with that family life, and making sure that I'm representing the constituents here in Illinois who are sending me to do a job for them, those three things, I think, are going to be tough but manageable.

MR. LAUER: The label of rising star of the Democratic Party is something that comes with some weight attached to it. There are people who are already saying that you may be a future presidential candidate. So as you enter the Senate and you enter a Senate that is now more strongly controlled by Republicans, what pressure do you feel? And what level of optimism do you have that you and other Democrats can get anything done?

SEN.-ELECT OBAMA: Well, my hope is that both sides, Democrat and Republican, recognize that it's time to move beyond the sort of slash- and-burn, scorched-earth politics that I think has become the custom in Washington. It's very difficult to solve problems like health care or the loss of manufacturing jobs or to improve the educational system so our kids are competitive without working together on a bipartisan basis.

And ultimately you still need 60 votes in the Senate to make things happen. The Republicans don't have 60 votes. My hope would be that they recognize that, and the Democrats are willing to serve as a loyal opposition.

MR. LAUER: And it appears you'll lose the leadership of Tom Daschle, the Senate minority leader. Who will you support as the new minority leader in the Senate?

SEN.-ELECT OBAMA: Oh, I think that's premature. That's something that obviously we will be working as a caucus to figure out over the next few weeks. But I do want to give honor to Tom Daschle, who rendered outstanding service on behalf of his state and on behalf of the country. I think he will be missed.

MR. LAUER: Senator-elect Barack Obama, congratulations again.

SEN.-ELECT OBAMA: Thank you so, Matt.

END.


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