Obama touts change in Jackson stop|[03/11/08]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 11, 2008

JACKSON — Commanding the attention of about 9,000 at a raucous rally, Sen. Barack Obama wrapped up his final appearance before Mississippi’s primary today by reminding his audience at Jackson State University of the opposition he faces in the home stretch of state contests.

Woven into a long list of stances on universal health care and foreign policy — most of which don’t differ much from those espoused by Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. — Obama addressed the recent attacks from the Clinton campaign.

Obama said electing the former first lady would be “an improvement” over President Bush, but his campaign offered a different kind of change.

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“The kind of change she’s offering is just a change in party. It’s not a change in doing business,” Obama said, adding his opponent for the party’s nomination has decided to “throw the kitchen sink” at him with negative ads geared to stem a steadily rising tide of support for the freshman Illinois senator.

Referring to pictures circulated showing Obama wearing native attire during a trip to Africa in 2006, Obama called such tactics “straight out of the Republican playbook.”

In recent weeks, two Clinton volunteers resigned after e-mails were circulated about Obama’s religion. On Friday, a top Obama campaign official resigned after referring to Clinton as a “monster” in an interview. Both campaigns distanced themselves from the incidents.

Obama, 46, was born in Hawaii to a white mother and a Kenyan father. He joined the 1.2 million-member United Church of Christ in 1988.

As was the case in campaign stops earlier in the day in Columbus, Obama sought to quell the notion he’d be interested in playing second fiddle to Clinton on a ticket featuring the two versus presumptive Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

“I’m not running for vice president,” Obama said amid roars from the mostly teen-to-twentysomething crowd inside the Lee E. Williams Athletic Center. “I’m running for president of the United States of America.”

Mentioned as a possible future aspirant for the presidency almost immediately after his 2004 election to the Senate, Obama said he chose this election cycle to run because of a “fierce urgency” because the nation stood “at a defining moment in history.”

With eight states left to allocate delegates, Obama leads Clinton in the overall delegate chase 1,578 to 1,468. He has more pledged delegates while Clinton leads among superdelegates, elected officials and party officials. Delegates from Michigan and Florida were disallowed because the state parties held primaries too early, with national party leaders mulling strategies to alleviate the situation, including a revote by mail.

Among Mississippi’s 40 delegates available are seven superdelegates, elected officials and party leaders. One is U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, who is supporting Obama and was among those who spoke before him Monday.

“He will fight for change. He knows our struggle because he lived our struggle,” Thompson said.

Three other superdelegates are uncommitted, while one will be chosen at the state party convention in June.

Former Mississippi Gov. Ray Mabus and the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery also addressed the assembly in support of Obama.

Polls in Mississippi are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. today.