From NBC/NJ's Mike Memoli
LITTLETON, NH -- Even Oprah can only do so much for Barack Obama's candidacy, the candidate himself said today.
"People will certainly come to an event to see Oprah, and that means that I've got access to more people," Obama told reporters after a rally in the local high school this morning. "It helps to create the event. Ultimately, though, I'm going to have to make the sale to the people to support me."
Obama's camp announced this morning that the talk show host and international icon will make campaign appearances for Obama in Iowa, South Carolina, and New Hampshire early next month. A spokesperson for the campaign here in the Granite State said the format for the event in Manchester event has yet to be determined. "I'm very grateful that she's taking the time to do this and I think it will be a lot of fun," Obama said.
Asked how Oprah compares to Bill Clinton, Obama conceded that he's "a great surrogate for Hillary" as well. "And so, if he wanted to endorse me I'd take it. I don't think he will," he added.
Obama also responded to Hillary Clinton's criticism of his health-care plan, which she called confusing. "I presented a health-care plan. It's the same health-care plan now that it was then," he said. "I'm not sure exactly what she meant." He also called the debate over mandate "a manufactured issue." "Senator Clinton says 'I'm gonna make universal health care by mandating that everybody buy it.' But if people can't afford it, it doesn't matter what the mandate is, they're not gonna buy it. And by the way, Sen. Clinton still hasn't explained what exactly this mandate is." He said the problem with her approach "is that she hasn't been straight with the American people about how she would impose this mandate." "Without an enforcement mechanism, there is no mandate. It's just a political talking point," he said.
Finally, Obama said that he, not Clinton, would be "the most effective messenger" for America's interests abroad. "If she wants to out her experience by having visited countries, that's fine," Obama said in response to Clinton touting her travels as first lady. "I don't think that Madeleine Albright would think that Hillary Clinton was the face of foreign policy during the Clinton Administration."
Still, he said he wasn't interested in a "tit for tat" on who has spent more time abroad. "I'm more interested in repairing the damage that's been done by the Bush Administration around the world," he said. "I believe I am the most effective messenger for America's interests in this current climate... I think I can have more credibility, not just as a consequence of the years that I lived overseas, but because I have relatives overseas, because I've traveled overseas, because my mother spent most of her working adult life overseas. And I know not just the leaders of these countries, but I know the people in these countries. I know their hopes and their dreams and their aspirations and their struggles."
During his answer on foreign policy, Obama was interrupted by the Littleton High School public address system announcing a list of students who should go to the principal's office. "I promise you I've heard my name announced like that," he joked afterwards. "I have some memories. Brought back some flashbacks."