By Scott Helman
The Democratic presidential nominee will have to earn a decisive victory next November to bring about the sweeping change America needs, Senator Barack Obama said yesterday.
In an interview with Boston Globe editors, Obama said that he is capable of winning a "mandate for change" in the general election, while his chief rival, Senator Hillary Clinton, would be too polarizing to capture more than a slim victory. If she is the Democratic nominee, he said the country would see a replay of the partisan contests of 2000 and 2004.
"Even if we win, we will have just eked out a victory, and we can't govern," Obama said. "I mean, if we have a 50-plus-one election, we cannot get a serious healthcare bill done. We can't have a serious agenda on climate change. And that is what I'm trying to break through, and I think I have an opportunity to break through."
Obama has staked his candidacy on being the candidate of change, arguing that the challenges confronting the next president - including the Iraq war, Iran's nuclear ambitions, the healthcare crisis, and a looming Social Security shortfall - will require a leader with bipartisan appeal willing to shift the tone in Washington and level with the American people about the sacrifices they must make.
But his critics and primary rivals question whether he is sufficiently experienced to be president, a charge to which he remains sensitive.
A senator from Illinois for less than three years, Obama, 46, said that he would put his resume up against Clinton's or that of his other leading rival, former senator John Edwards of North Carolina. Asked if there were a minimum experience threshold to run for president, he said, "Absolutely there is, and I think I meet it."
Obama said he found it ironic that the commentators who question his credentials are some of the same ones who lament how "incompetent" Washington is. The question they seem to be asking, he said, is: "Why haven't you gotten more fully steeped in this culture that is dysfunctional?"
In his first 100 days as president, Obama said he would devise a plan for a phased withdrawal of American troops from Iraq; begin discussions on how to fix healthcare; bring in specialists on climate change and energy policy; and ask his attorney general nominee to re-evaluate every executive order President Bush had issued during his tenure.