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Today On The Presidential Campaign Trail

By The Associated Press

IN THE HEADLINES

Obama tries to move Democratic campaign beyond pastor's sermons to public policy issues ... DNC chairman under Bill Clinton urges Democrats to unite behind Obama ... McCain's promises would cost billions but he's vague on how he'd pay for proposals

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Obama tries to put the minister controversy to rest

WASHINGTON (AP) - Democrat Barack Obama and his wife said Thursday the public is tired of hearing about incendiary remarks by their former pastor, as they sought to put the controversy that has rocked his presidential campaign to rest.

"We hear time and time again voters are tired of this," Michelle Obama said in an interview the couple gave to NBC's "Today" show.

"They don't want to hear about this division, they want to know what are we going to do to move beyond these issues," she said. "And what made me feel proud of Barack in this situation is that he is trying to move us as a nation beyond these conversations that divide."

Barack Obama said he initially tried to give the Rev. Jeremiah Wright the benefit of the doubt when films clips first surfaced on the Internet of fiery sermons the pastor gave at their Chicago church - a series of haranguing declarations from the pulpit in which he damned the United States for racial oppression and accused the government of deliberately spreading the HIV virus to harm black people.

"When the first snippets came out, I thought it was important to give him the benefit of the doubt because if I had wanted to be politically expedient I would have distanced myself and denounced him right away, right? That would have been the easy thing to do," said Obama. This week he denounced Wright's comments as "giving comfort to those who prey on hate."

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Former Democratic leader switches to Obama

WASHINGTON (AP) - A leader of the Democratic Party under Bill Clinton has switched his allegiance to Barack Obama and is encouraging fellow Democrats to "heal the rift in our party" and unite behind the Illinois senator.

Joe Andrew, who was Democratic National Committee chairman from 1999-2001, planned a news conference Thursday in his hometown of Indianapolis to urge other Hoosiers to support Obama in Tuesday's primary, perhaps the most important contest left in the White House race. He also has written a lengthy letter explaining his decision that he plans to send to other superdelegates.

"I am convinced that the primary process has devolved to the point that it's now bad for the Democratic Party," Andrew said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

Bill Clinton appointed Andrew chairman of the DNC near the end of his presidency, and Andrew endorsed the former first lady last year on the day she declared her candidacy for the White House.

Andrew said in his letter that he is switching his support because "a vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote to continue this process, and a vote to continue this process is a vote that assists (Republican) John McCain."

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McCain promises billions in spending

WASHINGTON (AP) - Republican John McCain is making promises that would cost billions of taxpayer dollars, yet he is vague about how he would pay for them.

McCain is handing around a campaign grab bag of goodies. There are little treats like a summer gas-tax holiday and new mortgages for struggling homeowners, and there are big plums like tax breaks for corporations and families with children.

The expected GOP presidential nominee has nothing on the Democrats. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama would spend billions of dollars themselves on things like paid family leave, universal health insurance and preschool for kids.

The difference? Unlike the Democrats, McCain has made a career of trying to cut spending. He rails against spending in nearly every speech. McCain gets laughs by singling out silly sounding projects like a federal DNA study of bears in Montana: "I don't know if that was a paternity issue or a criminal issue."

And he gets attention when he says it was spending, not the war in Iraq, that cost Republicans their control of Congress in 2006.

Now McCain is promising ambitious cuts in spending to pay for his ideas. The cuts would not pay for all his promises, but McCain says they needn't.

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THE DELEGATE BREAKDOWN
Barack Obama: 1735.5
Hillary Rodham Clinton: 1597.5

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THE DEMOCRATS

Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama hold events in Indiana.

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THE REPUBLICANS

John McCain holds a meeting on health care in Cleveland before talking to voters in Des Moines, Iowa.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY:

"It's only when you become the front-runner that suddenly people are looking for potential chinks in the armor." - Democrat Barack Obama, in an interview on NBC's "Today" show.

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STAT OF THE DAY:

Six in 10 Republicans and three-quarters of Democrats attach extreme importance to the economy, according to a recent AP-Yahoo News poll.

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Compiled by Ann Sanner.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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