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NBC "Today" Interview - Transcript


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NBC "Today" Interview

MR. LAUER: Senator Clinton's Democratic rival, Senator Barack Obama, has been surging in the polls. Will that translate to votes today?

Senator Obama, good morning. Nice to see you.

SEN. OBAMA: Nice to talk to you, Matt.

MR. LAUER: Let me start by asking you the question that Meredith started by asking Senator Clinton, and that is, what's more important today, winning the popular vote state by state, or winning the delegates?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, I think what's important for me and any other candidate is making sure that we get our share of delegates and that we win our share of states. I don't think that today is going to end up being decisive, but I think it'll give you a good sense of who's connecting with voters' concerns right now.

And as I travel around the country, what I'm hearing from people who are worried about losing their home or people who have seen their wages stagnate and they're trying to figure out how to pay for college or pay for gas at the pump, is who can bring the country together to solve big problems like health care or college affordability and who can overcome the special interests in Washington that have come to dominate and really set the agenda. And that's what I think we can do, and that's why we're resonating, I think, right now as we travel around the country.

MR. LAUER: As I mentioned, you're surging in the polls. Do you wish in some ways, Senator, that Super Tuesday were next Tuesday -- in other words, that you had more time to enjoy this momentum that you seem to have nationwide?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, what I think we've seen -- this was true in Iowa; it was true in South Carolina; to a large degree it was true in New Hampshire and Nevada -- is when people know my track record, we do well. People suddenly find out, you know, this guy has devoted 20 years to working on behalf of people who need help, whether it's on the streets of Chicago as an organizer, as a civil rights attorney, at the state level providing health care to people who didn't have it or tax breaks to working families at the federal level, working on issues like nuclear proliferation or alternative energy.

So they suddenly get a much more well-rounded picture of the way that I have fought to make sure that working families have a better chance at life and the way I've been able to bring Democrats and Republicans together around change. And so our constant refrain is, if you know what I stand for, then I think people will be attracted. And that's what we're seeing in the polls right now.

MR. LAUER: In many ways this is a giant chess match today. And I know in a war room somewhere you've got the map of the United States laid out and you're looking at how things are going, polling state to state. Common logic says that Hillary Clinton's going to do pretty well in New York. It's her home state. You should do very well in Illinois, where you should take the delegates, or the lion's share there.

What are the states right now that we're all considering too close to call that you think you can score a win?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, you know, I'm not sure. I really don't have a good enough sense. We've been seeing, as you indicated, that the polls are tightening in a lot of states -- California, Massachusetts, Connecticut. But those are all states where, just two weeks ago, Senator Clinton had a double-digit lead; in some cases, like California, a 30-point lead just a few weeks ago.

So, you know, the fact that we've made so much progress, I think, indicates that we've got the right message. And the question is, you know, are we going to be able to pull some of these states out?

MR. LAUER: Right.

SEN. OBAMA: No matter what happens, though, Matt, I suspect that we're going to probably see a split decision tonight. And then we're going to have time over the next month, month and a half, to continue the campaign, to continue to talk about how we're going to deliver on affordable college, how we're going to help parents who are juggling with issues like day care. And those are the kinds of debates that I welcome.

MR. LAUER: Which leads me into my last question. And briefly, if you will, if you and Senator Clinton continue to have to battle it out for the next month or six weeks, and if the Republicans get very close in the next 24 hours to choosing their nominee, does that present a major advantage to the Republicans to sit on the sideline and watch you two bloody each other?

SEN. OBAMA: You know, I don't think so. One of the things that's been striking in the first four contests is Democrats have doubled their turnout from four years ago. I mean, we're seeing huge turnout, not just among hard-core Democrats but independents and disillusioned Republicans. That gives you some sense of where the country wants to move.

And when I'm the nominee, I think, whether I'm going up against John McCain or Mitt Romney, they're going to have to defend George Bush's failed economic policies and failed foreign policy. And I will represent a clean break, taking the country in a new direction. That's a debate that I'm happy to have.

MR. LAUER: Senator Obama, it's nice of you to join us on what is a huge day for American politics. Thanks for your time this morning.

SEN. OBAMA: Thank you, Matt. I appreciate it.

MR. LAUER: All right, and good luck.

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