From NBC's Mark Murray, Lauren Appelbaum, and NBC/NJ's Adam Aigner-Treworgy
In an NPR interview, Obama was asked about the McCain campaign's charge that he played the race card. "This notion that somehow I was playing the race card is ridiculous," he answered. "What I said in front of a 98% conservative rural white audience in Missouri is nothing that I haven't said before."
"I don't come out of central casting when it comes to what presidential candidates typically look like," he continued. "It doesn't just have to do with race. It has to do with my name. It has to do with my biography and my background. It has to do with our message of change."
Obama added, "In no ways do I think the McCain campaign has targeted race issues. Although I will say the way they have amplified this is has been troublesome. And the eagerness in which they've done it, they think they can exploit this politically. In fact, what I have said -- and there's no doubt about this -- is that they want me to appear risky to the American people. And I don't think that there is any doubt that people are still trying to figure out what's this young guy doing here running for president."
"Our job is to make sure that the changes we're promoting is the changes that have to be made. If we don't make them, in fact, that's the riskier course."
In his press avail in Panama City, FL, McCain also commented on the issue. "I think his comments were clearly, were clearly the race card because of what he said. Everybody can read his remarks and in fact his campaign retracted those remarks so I think it's very clear and I was very disappointed. I was very disappointed at his comments. So his campaign retracted those remarks so let's move on."
But the Obama campaign didn't necessarily retract those remarks. The McCain camp cites a Politico article, which noted that "Obama's campaign quickly put out a statement Thursday retracting the candidate's suggestion that McCain had improperly used race." But here's the Obama statement, and it doesn't seem to retract what he said in Missouri on Wednesday: "This is a race about big challenges -- a slumping economy, a broken foreign policy, and an energy crisis for everyone but the oil companies. Barack Obama in no way believes that the McCain campaign is using race as an issue, but he does believe they're using the same old low-road politics to distract voters from the real issues in this campaign, and those are the issues he'll continue to talk about."