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NBC "Today" Interview with Senator Barack Obama (D-IL)


Location: Unknown


MATT LAUER: Now to the run for the White House. On the Democratic side, Senator Barack Obama caused some political excitement when he got into the race. And this weekend he'll be back in the spotlight when he and Senator Hillary Clinton go head to head for the African-American vote at a civil rights commemoration in Alabama.

NBC's Norah O'Donnell caught up with Senator Obama.

Norah, good morning to you.

MS. O'DONNELL: Hey, good morning, Matt, and a surprise to report to you. Bill Clinton will now join his wife, Senator Hillary Clinton, this weekend. It's going to be his first major public appearance with her since she launched her campaign, and he's bringing some star power, just as Senator Barack Obama is gaining on Hillary Clinton in the polls.

(Begin videotaped segment.)

MS. O'DONNELL: Senator Obama, who could very well be the first African-American president, on Sunday will journey to Selma, Alabama.

SEN. OBAMA: Personally, this is important, because I trace my involvement in public life to the inspiration of the civil rights movement.

MS. O'DONNELL: With Senator Clinton also commemorating the march from Selma, it will be the latest showdown between the two front- runners, this time to win over black voters.

SEN. OBAMA: I don't take it for granted. I don't think Senator Clinton or any of the other candidates should take the African- American community for granted.

MS. O'DONNELL: A month ago, African-American voters heavily supported Clinton, but now favor Obama. Since his announcement, Obama has barnstormed 19 cities, raised millions and sliced in half Clinton's once sizable lead.

SEN. OBAMA: You know, I always am cautious about polls this early. I think they're volatile. You never know.

MS. O'DONNELL: His rise in the polls comes after Hollywood mogul David Geffen suggested Obama's strength is that he's not from the Bush royal family or the Clinton royal family, who have held the White House for the past 20 years.

(To Senator Obama.) Do you believe that there is a fatigue out there among the American people?

SEN. OBAMA: I wouldn't personalize it in that way. I do think that we're in a moment where the country is looking for something different.

MS. O'DONNELL: Geffen's remarks caused the first big fight between the Democrats. And now, for the first time, Obama admits his campaign may have gone too far.

(To Senator Obama.) So what did you learn from that?

SEN. OBAMA: What I told my staff is that I want all our statements to sound like me. And, you know, I tend -- I can mix it up.

MS. O'DONNELL: You seem to indicate that you're ready to hit back hard, but now you're saying maybe your campaign shouldn't have done that. I mean, how are you going to defend yourself?

SEN. OBAMA: You know, the best way to respond is with the truth, firmly and persistently.


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