Barack Obama says
voters in Iowa, though relatively few are black like
him, care little about that and much more about whether he'd
be a president who would make their lives better.
''I am getting a
fair hearing and I will get a fair hearing and I think
we're going to win this place,'' Obama said Friday,
campaigning for the Iowa caucuses that are now just
eight weeks away.
''People are less
concerned about race and much more concerned about, is
this somebody who is going to be fighting for me,'' he said.
Obama is among
the top tier of Democrats in polls in Iowa, along with
Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Edwards, and electability in
the 2008 election against the Republican nominee is a
top issue among Democratic activists.
senator says he's encountered concerns before about whether
voters are ready to support a black candidate.
''I heard this
when I was running for the U.S. Senate,'' said Obama.
''Illinois is 12% African-American, it's not a majority
African-American state or even a substantial plurality
The latest Census
estimates, for 2005, show Illinois at 15%
African-American. Iowa registers a scant 2.3%.
during a taping of Iowa Public Television's Iowa
Press program for airing later in the weekend. He
said he answered doubts about the role race plays in
politics when he won a tough Democratic primary for
his Senate seat.
there's no way that folks downstate are going to vote for
you,'' said Obama. ''Downstate Illinois is pretty similar to
Iowa culturally and demographically. We ended up
winning that primary by 20 points, we won the white
vote, we won the rural vote, we won the farmer vote,
there wasn't a vote we didn't win against strong
Talk about race
''gives the voters too little credit, and we're confident
that we're going to do well,'' said Obama. ''If they feel
that I can make their lives a little better, the last
thing they are going to be thinking about is my
On the subject of
electability, he also took a swipe at Clinton, whose
high negative ratings concern many Democrats.
that I can appeal to the Republicans, independents in a
way that none of the other nominees can,'' said Obama. ''If
you start off with half the country not wanting to
vote for you, you don't have a lot of margin of
Iowa's importance, he said, ''If you don't do well in Iowa,
you're going to have problems catching up, there's no doubt
about that. That's true not just for me, but for
Senator Clinton as well.''
Obama pledged to help struggling families as president,
saying that he and his wife, Michelle, have had their own
difficulties balancing careers and family time,
including shuttling kids to doctors, daycare and other
''And we had a
lot more resources than most people,'' said Obama, who
talked about his plan at a round-table with eight working
women in Des Moines. The women shared their thoughts
on trying to pay for daycare, having no paid sick days
and trying to save for retirement.
Obama said his
proposals would expand the federal Family and Medical
Leave Act, encourage states to develop programs for paid
time off and would double funding for after-school
programs. They also would expand the Child and
Development Care Tax Credit to help families afford child
Obama said he
wants more people to be able to take advantage of the law
that now allows workers at businesses with at least 50
employees to take unpaid leave to care for ill family
members or a new child. He proposes expanding that to
businesses with at least 25 people.
proposed similar plans, including dropping the family and
medical leave threshold to 25 employees, getting states to
experiment with paid leave and encouraging businesses
to allow their workers to spend more time at home on
flextime schedules and telecommuting.
Obama said his
proposals would help people like his mother.
''I was raised by
a single mother and for most of my childhood she was
juggling work with also still trying to get her education
and raising two kids, and it was tough,'' he said.
''And there were times where she was really feeling as
if she didn't have much support.'' (AP)