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CNN NEWSROOM

Senator Barack Obama Announces Presidential Bid

Aired February 10, 2007 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Now in the news, Senator Barack Obama is expected to make a long-awaited announcement at this hour, and he'll declare that he is running for president. In just a moment, we will go live to Springfield, Illinois, where you see the crowds have already gathered.
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile, General David Petraeus took over today as the top U.S. commander in Iraq. He calls the mission exceedingly challenging, but not hopeless.

Three U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq's Diyala Province. They were searching a building for hidden weapons when there was an explosion.

NGUYEN: now has caused the governor of New York to declare Oswego County a disaster area. There are accumulations of, get this, up to 10 feet in parts of the county, which is located around Lake Ontario.

HOLMES: The medical examiner says it could take weeks to figure out what killed Anna Nicole Smith. The 39 year-old was found dead on Thursday. Despite speculation, officials say there's no immediate evidence of a drug overdose.

NGUYEN: Good morning. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. The news is unfolding live on this Saturday, the 10th day of February. Good morning everybody, I'm Betty Nguyen.

HOLMES: And I'm T.J. Holmes.

NGUYEN: Live this hour, hope springs from Springfield, Illinois, for a presidential candidate.

HOLMES: Also, mountains of snow. Up to 10 feet, cars buried, people stranded, a state of emergency declared.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, I'm sorry. Did I hit you? Did I hit you? Get the (BLEEP) out of here. What, what, you going to hit me? Are you going to hit me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You hit me and I'll (BLEEP).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get the (BLEEP) out of here. All right, I'm sick of (BLEEP). Go ahead, hit me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NGUYEN: Oh, and that's just the beginning. A reporter gets more than a story, and you won't believe what happens next. You're in the NEWSROOM.

HOLMES: This is the day. This is the hour and any moment we are going to see the moment. After months of edging toward a race for president, Senator Barack Obama is starting a speech in Springfield, Illinois. This is a live picture you're seeing of it there. The crowds have gathered. He's about to be introduced I believe by his fellow senator from Illinois, Senator Dick Durbin, who's on the stand there.

But our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley is there. Well Candy, is the anticipation just high? What's it like there and how soon are we going to see the senator?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (on phone): Well, you should see him right after the Senator Durbin, the senior senator from Illinois introduces him.

This crowd, I have to tell you, has been waiting for about an hour and a half and he has passed the area around the Old Capitol Building here in Springfield, as well as the streets around it.

So, they have brought in quite a number of people. This, of course, is the senator's home state. This is the state capital. But for oh, I'd say, about eight, nine degrees temperature, they have waited very patiently in this crowd. They threw out Obama hats for a while, and the crowd went crazy as they were doing that. So, it's still a very excited crowd, although I judge probably a little frozen.

HOLMES: And you also talked to us a little bit earlier about not just folks from Illinois. Folks are coming in if from all over the place to get a look at Senator Obama.

CROWLEY: Absolutely. We talked to some people from Missouri. We talked to some people from Kansas. Now this is obviously is where Abraham Lincoln made his famous house divided speech, so this is a tourist town, as well, but everybody we talked to are here for Barack Obama.

HOLMES: What is he hoping to get out of today's -- what does he want people to see, the country to see? How important is it that this -- everything about this event is carefully orchestrated?

CROWLEY: It's really important, because this is really the first time you unveil yourself to the country. What Barack Obama wants to try to do is show himself as a fresh face, which he is, but a fresh face with the confidence and the experience to run for president.

So, he's talked a lot about the next generation, the post baby boomer world. He obviously is the only post baby boomer to be running in this race at this point. I don't know if you can see...

HOLMES: We did see. CROWLEY: ... at this point, T.J. Can you see him coming in?

HOLMES: We can see. He's been introduced and we see him stepping on that stage. Wow. We see that greeting he's getting. There he is. Senator Barack Obama, this is the day. After much anticipation, a whirlwind really of excitement and tour that pretty much he's been on that has catapulted to him, like we've been saying and people using the term, rock star status in politics like maybe it hasn't been seen before or hasn't been seen in a while.

Here he is taking the stage, about to say what many have been waiting for him to say officially, that he is, in fact, going to be an official candidate for president after setting up his exploratory committee and using the Internet actually to let people know he was setting up that exploratory committee, still to raise the funds and get everything in place to allow him to do everything by the book and by the law, and to legally raise funds, put resources in place -- said he would make this announcement on the 10th.

Here we are, Saturday the 10th in his home state, Springfield, Illinois. And like Candy was saying there, a lot of symbolism, a lot of history at this place he's decided to make the announcement.

NGUYEN: And as you can see, he's really basking in the moment, shaking hands, taking his time.

Today is his day. There's been a lot of speculation, a lot of hype over whether or not he, indeed, is going to announce a run. You've been thinking about him. We've been talking about it for a long time. And today is the culmination of all of that.

And Springfield, where he is making this, has a lot of significance. It's a place where Lincoln gave his house divided speech, a place that has a lot of history, very important to Barack Obama. And the thing, too, that we really want to note, T.J., is look at all of the people who have turned out to be there during today's announcement. History is being made today, and Barack Obama is doing it his way. He's taking his time and enjoying every bit of it.

HOLMES: And this has been the case everywhere he has gone. It really has been a phenomenon in U.S. politics to watch his rise really after he made that really electrifying speech at the Democratic National Convention. And really everybody at that point was on the Obama bandwagon, if you will.

But here he is taking the stage with his family. You see his wife there, who we heard from a little while ago in an interview on "60 Minutes." But like you said, he is really sucking this up and taking this in and he's been able to do this everywhere he has been on this campaign trail, even though it's been so far a short campaign trail so far.

Everybody is just getting going. But he's in the game, he's in the race, and he has been commanding crowds like you wouldn't believe everywhere he goes. Everybody wants to get a peek of Senator Barack Obama. Looks like he's stepping to the mike. We will step back and listen to the senator.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: Oh, look at all of you. Look at all of you! Goodness. Oh, thank you so much, thank you so much.

Giving all praise and honor to God for bringing us together here today. Thank you so much. I am so grateful to see all of you. You guys are still chillin back there? Let me -- let me begin by saying thanks to all of you who have traveled from far and wide to brave the cold today. I know it's a little chilly, but I'm fired up.

We all made this journey for a reason. It's humbling to see a crowd like this, but in my heart, I know you didn't just come here for me. You -- no.

CROWD: You!

OBAMA: You came here because you believe in what this country can be. In the face of war, you believe there can be peace. In the face of despair, you believe there can be hope. In the face of a politics that shut you out, has told you to settle, that's divided us for too long, you believe that we can be one people, reaching out for what's possible, building that more perfect union.

That's the journey we're on today. But let me tell you how I came to be here. As most of you know, I'm not a native of this great state.

CROWD: That's all right.

OBAMA: I moved to Illinois over two decades ago. I was a young man then, just a year out of college. I knew no one in Chicago when I arrived, was without money or family connections.

But a group of churches had offered me a job as a community organizer for grand sum of $13,000 a year. And I accepted the job sight unseen, motivated then by a single, simple, powerful idea -- that I might play a small part in building a better America.

My work took me to some of Chicago's poorest neighborhoods. I joined with pastors and lay people to deal with communities that had been ravaged by plant closings. I saw that the problems people faced weren't simply local in nature, that the decisions to close a steel mill was made by distant executives -- that the lack of textbooks and computers in the school could be traced to skewed priorities of politicians a thousand miles away. And that when a child turns to violence, I came to realize that there's a hole in that boy's heart that no government alone can fill.

It was in these neighborhoods that I received the best education that I ever had and where I learned the meaning of my Christian faith. After three years of this work, I went to law school because I wanted to understand how the law should work for those in need. I became a civil rights lawyer and taught constitutional law.

And after a time, I came to understand that our cherished rights of liberty and equality depend on the active participation of an awakened electorate. It was with these ideas in mind I arrived in this capital city as a state senator. It was here in Springfield where I saw all that is America converge -- farmers and teachers, business men and laborers, all of them with a story to tell, all of them seeking a seat at the table, all of them clamoring to be heard.

I made lasting friendships here, friends that I see in the audience here today. It was here where we learned to disagree without being disagreeable. That it's possible to compromise so long as you know those principles that can never be compromised. And that so long as we're willing to listen to each other, we can assume the best in people instead of the worst.

It's why we're able to reform a death penalty system that was broken. That's why we were able to give health insurance to children in need. That's why we made the tax system right here in Springfield more fair and just for working families. And that's why we passed ethics reform that the cynics said could never, ever be passed.

It was here in Springfield where north, south, east, and west come together, that I was reminded of the essential decency of the American people, where I came to believe that through this decency we could build a more hopeful America.

And that is why in the shadow of the Old State Capitol, where Lincoln once called on a house divided to stand together, where common hopes and common dreams still live, I stand before you today to announce my candidacy for president of the United States of America.

CROWD: (APPLAUSE) Obama! Obama! Obama!

OBAMA: Now, listen. I -- I thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Look, I -- I recognize that there is a certain presumptuousness in this, a certain audacity to this announcement. I know that I haven't spent a lot of time learning the ways of Washington. But I've been there long enough to know that the ways of Washington must change.

The genius of our founders is that they designed a system of government that can be changed. And we should take heart because we've changed this country before. In the face of tyranny, a band of patriots brought an empire to its knees. In the face of secession, we unified a nation and set the captives free. In the face of depression, we put people back to work and lifted millions out of poverty. We welcomed immigrants to our shores. We opened railroads to the west. We landed a man on the moon, and we heard a king's call to let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

We've done this before. Each and every time a new generation has risen up and done what's needed to be done. Today, we are called once more, and it is time for our generation to answer that call. For that is our unyielding faith, that in the face of impossible odds, people who love their country can change it. That's what Abraham Lincoln understood. He had his doubts, he had his defeats, he had his skeptics, he had his setbacks, but through his will and his words, he moved a nation and helped free a people. It's because of the millions who rallied to his cause that we're no longer divided, north and south, slave and free. It's because men and women of every race, from every walk of life, continue to march for freedom long after Lincoln was laid to rest.

That today we have the chance to face the challenges of this millennium together, as one people, as Americans. All of us know what those challenges are today, a war with no end, a dependence on oil that threatens our future, schools where too many children aren't learning and families struggling paycheck to paycheck despite working as hard as they can.

We know the challenges. We've heard them. We've talked about them for years. What stopped us from meeting these challenges is not the absence of sound policies and sensible plans. What stopped us is the failure of leadership, the smallness -- the smallness of our politics.

The ease with which we're distracted by the petty and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our preference for scoring cheap political points instead of rolling up our sleeves and building a working consensus to tackle the big problems of America.

For the past six years, we've been told that our mounting debts don't matter. We've been told that the anxiety Americans feel about rising health care costs and stagnant wages are an illusion. We've been told that climate change is a hoax. We've been told that tough talk and an ill-conceived war can replace diplomacy and strategy and foresight, and when all else fails, when Katrina happens or the death toll in Iraq mounts, we've been told that our crises are somebody else's fault.

We're distracted from our real failures and told the blame the other party or gay people or immigrants. And as people have looked away in disillusionment and frustration, we know what's filled the void: the cynics, the lobbyists, the special interests who have turned our government into a game only they can afford to play.

They write the checks and you get stuck with the bill. They get the access while you get to write a letter. They think they own this government. But we're here today to take it back. The time for that kind of politics is over. It is through. It's time to turn the page right here and right now. Now, look.

CROWD: Obama!

OBAMA: Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Look, look, we have made some process already. I was proud to help lead the fight in Congress that led to the most sweeping ethics reforms since Watergate.

But Washington has a long way to go and it won't be easy. That's why we'll have to set priorities. We'll have to make hard choices. And although government will play a crucial role in bringing about the changes that we need, more money and programs alone will not get us to where we need to go.

Each of us, in our own lives, will have to accept responsibility for instilling an ethic of achievement in our children, for adapting to a more competitive economy, for strengthening our communities and sharing some measure of sacrifice.

So, let us begin. Let us begin this hard work together. Let us transform this nation. Let us be the generation that reshapes our economy to compete in the digital age. Let's set high standards for our schools and give them the resources they need to succeed. Let's recruit a new army of teachers and give them better pay and more support in exchange for more accountability.

Let's make college more affordable and let's invest in scientific research. And let's lay down broadband lines through the heart of inner cities and rural towns all across America. We can do that.

And as our economy changes, let's be the nation that ensures our nation's workers are sharing in our prosperity. Let's protect the hard-earned benefits their companies have promised. Let's make it possible for hard-working Americans to save for retirement. Let's allow our unions and their organizers to lift up this country's middle class again. We can do that.

Let's be the generation that ends poverty in America. Every single person willing to work should be able to get job training that leads to a job and earn a living wage that can pay the bills and afford childcare so their kids can have a safe place to go when they work. We can do this.

And let's be the generation that finally, after all these years, tackles our health care crisis. We can control costs by focusing on prevention, by providing better treatment to the chronically ill and using technology to cut the bureaucracy.

Let's be the generation that says right here, right now, we will have universal health care in America by the end of the next president's first term. We can do that. Let's be the generation that finally frees America from the tyranny of war. We can harness homegrown alternative fuels like ethanol and spur the production of more fuel efficient cars. We can set up a system for capping green house gases. We can turn this crisis of global warming into a moment of opportunity for innovation and job creation and an incentive for business that will serve as a model for the world.

Let's be the generation that makes future generations proud of what we did here. Most of all, let's be the generation that never forgets what happened on that September day and confront the terrorists with everything we've got. Politics doesn't have to divide us on this anymore. We can work together to keep our country safe. I've worked with the Republican Senator Dick Lugar to pass a law that will secure and destroy some of the world's deadliest weapons. We can work together to track down terrorists with a stronger military. We can tighten the net around their finances. We can improve our intelligence capabilities and finally get homeland security right.

But let's also understand that ultimate victory against our enemies will only come by rebuilding our alliances and exporting those ideals that bring hope and opportunity to millions of people around the globe. We can do those things.

But all of this cannot come to pass until we bring an end to this war in Iraq. Most of you know -- most of you know that I opposed this war from the start. I thought it was a tragic mistake. Today, we grieve for the families who have lost loved ones, the hearts that have been broken, and the young lives that could have been.

America, it is time to start bringing our troops home. It's time -- it's time to admit that no amount of American lives can resolve the political disagreement that lies at the heart of someone else's civil war. That's why I have a plan that will bring your combat troops home by March of 2008.

Let the Iraqis know -- letting the Iraqis know that we will not be there forever is our last best hope to pressure the Sunni and Shia to come to the table and find peace.

And there's one other thing that it's not too late to get right about this war, and that is the homecoming of the men and women, our veterans, who have sacrificed the most. Let us honor their courage by providing the care they need and rebuilding the military they love. Let us be the generation that begins that work.

I know there are those who don't believe we can do all these things. I understand the skepticism. After all, every four years candidates from both parties make similar promises. I expect this year will be no different. All of us running for president will travel around the country offering 10-point plans and making grand speeches. All of us will trumpet those qualities we believe make us uniquely qualified to lead this country.

But too many times after the election is over and the confetti is swept away, all those promises fade from memory and the lobbyists and special interests move in, and people turn away, disappointed as before, left to struggle on their own. That's why this campaign can't only be about me. It must be about us. It must be about what we can do together. This campaign must be the occasion, the vehicle of your hopes, of your dreams. It will take your time, your energy, and your advice to push us forward when we're doing right and let us know when we're not.

This campaign has to be about reclaiming the meaning of citizenship, restoring our sense of common purpose, and realizing that few obstacles can withstand the power of millions of voices calling for change. By ourselves, this change will not happen. Divided, we are bound to fail.

But the life of a tall, gangly, self-made Springfield lawyer tells us that a different future is possible. He tells us that there is power in words. He tells us that there's power in conviction, that beneath all the differences of race and region, faith and station, we are one people. He tells us that there is power in hope.

As Lincoln organized the forces arrayed against slavery, he was heard to say this -- of strange discordant and even hostile elements, we gathered from the four winds and formed and fought to battle through. That is our purpose here today.

That is why I'm in this race, not just to hold an office, but to gather with you to transform a nation. I want to win that next battle for justice and opportunity. I want to win that next battle for better schools and better jobs and better health care for all. I want us to take up the unfinished business of perfecting our union and building a better America.

And if you will join with me in this improbable quest, if you feel destiny calling and see as I see the future of endless possibility stretching out before us -- if you sense, as I sense, that the time is now to shake off our slumber and slough off our fears and make good on the debt we owe past and future generations, then I am ready to take up the cause and march with you and work with you today, together.

We can finish the work that needs to be done and usher in a new birth of freedom on this earth. Thank you very much, everybody. Let's get to work. I love you, thank you.

CROWD: (SINGING)

HOLMES: There you have it. Let's get to work, his final words to crowd there, and he has some work ahead of him. He and plenty of other presidential candidates right now. But Barack Obama again making it officially official if you will after setting up his exploratory committee and after much speculation and much talk and much chatter, he pretty much did what a lot of people expected him to do.

But he made it official here to a crowd in Springfield, Illinois, that, yes, he is, in fact, a candidate for president, and this is the first time we're seeing him. Betty really, touched on a lot of those hot-button issues, those presidential issues if you will and trying to look presidential.

NGUYEN: Well he touched on a lot of issues, but he did want to mention Katrina. He also mentioned the death toll in Iraq. But when talking about his platform and what he's going to be running on, he mentioned a lot of things, including some interesting ones like laying down broadband lines through the heart of inner cities and rural towns across America and then also saying that we need to strengthen the unions and organizers to lift up this country's middle class.

He talked a lot about the health care crisis and the need for universal health care. He also talked about alternative fuels, global warming, and of course terrorism and how the U.S. needs to fight that and defend this country.

But he said all of this, though, cannot come to pass unless we bring an end to the war in Iraq, something that he stated very clearly and very firmly. He said that, "As you know, I opposed this war from the start and thought it was a tragic mistake." So he's got a lot on his mind, a lot of plans ahead. As we just heard him mention, laying out the root of them as he stood there today at this backdrop of the same place where Lincoln gave his "house divided" speech and said if this country can come together and unify to get this work done and he says that he is willing to carry that load, walk the walk, take up the march, as he plans and will do run for president of the United States.

HOLMES: So, today it becomes actually official. You're looking at there Senator Barack Obama now a presidential candidate. And it's hard to imagine after we've been watching him over this really past several months for sure, but even in those past couple years as he's been in the U.S. Senate, only bee there for a couple years now, but it's hard to imagine his political star rising any higher. But can it rise all the way to the White House?

We're going to talk to NPR political editor Ken Rudin now about this to discuss that possibility of Senator Obama being the next president. Sir, you've been listening in to that speech. It's certainly important for a guy that a lot of people are getting to know a little better, but still a lot of people don't know that well in the country. This was his big stage. He needed to look presidential, sound presidential. Was he presidential?

VOICE OF KEN RUDIN, NPR POLITICAL EDITOR: It was a moving speech. It was clearly a moving speech. He had a big crowd. He said he touched on all the right notes. I've been covering these announcements since Lincoln and this was a pretty touching, moving speech that exactly what a lot of Democrats wanted to hear.

HOLMES: You're kind of hitting on this point, too, but nobody's ever taken away points from Senator Obama for a lack of style. But did he have the style and the substance it sounds like you're saying today.

RUDIN: Well, I mean, a lot of people will point to the fact that he's only been in Washington two years, but if you want somebody, as he says, I've been in Washington long enough to know that things are wrong. Do you want to be -- I mean Joe Biden has been in the Senate for 34 years. Do you need to be in the Senate for 34 years or Chris Dodd, 26 years, to make something happen? The point is that the war is clearly unpopular. We saw that on November 7th, 2006, the American people said the war is wrong. And as he says, the war has to be stopped, has to be changed before all these other things can happen. Now, if you look at polls, he has a daunting challenge in front of him. One of them is the name of Hillary Rodham Clinton, but again, there's 11 months to the Iowa caucuses. There will be a lot of debates between now and then. There will be a lot of time to raise funds, to talk to the voters around the country. Howard Dean was leading in the Iowa caucuses one week before the Iowa caucuses. We're talking about polls a year in advance. A lot can change.

HOLMES: Is he certainly in it to win it? Is there any talk out there that maybe he's, I don't know, in it to maybe get a VP spot, boost that profile and maybe run somewhere down the line? Is there any doubt in your mind that he's certainly in it to win it right now? RUDIN: Well, of course, everybody runs for president hoping to win and of course if they don't go as far as they can, it wouldn't be the worst thing to be on the national ticket. We saw that with John Edwards in 2004. But I mean this guy has a lot to say. He talked about some people might see this as audacity. He acknowledged the fact that it's improbable, but, you know, there are a lot of people really hungry for things. When Hillary Clinton gave a speech the other day before the Democrats, she talked about right-wing Republicans and the right-wing Republican conspiracy and President Bush. If memory serves, I don't think Barack Obama mentioned President Bush at all. He really talked about reaching across party lines. He mentioned about working with Dick Lugar, the Republican senator from Indiana. There's an optimism and a hope that comes out of Obama and you saw it in the crowd, a lot of black and white faces.

HOLMES: Is it enough for him to sell that message without a record? We know he was a state senator. Then he got on the national stage, but still, only two years' experience in national politics. But his ability to connect with people, this speech he gave today as we've been talking about. He can connect to people, inspire people even. Is that enough to put him over the top or will the fact that he only has a couple years in national politics come back and bite him?

RUDIN: Well, that's a good point but, you know, George W. Bush was governor of Texas for six years. That's the only time he held elected office and, of course, he won in 2000 with a conservative, you know, compassionate conservative message, a message of hope. And the Republicans rallied behind him. The problem back then, of course was, the comparison was that George W. Bush was a clear front runner in a Republican field. You can't say that about Barack Obama right now, at least at this point. Hillary Clinton has the money, has the endorsements, has the poll numbers. But as I said and people will say over and over again, there's plenty of time to go.

NGUYEN: Want to bring in now, if you would please stand by, we want to bring in CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley to give us some perspective of what we just heard from Senator Obama. The first thing that he said, first and foremost, Candy, and we know that he was reaching out to a lot of different Americans in all walks of life, but he stood there and the first words out of his mouth were, first I want to give praise to God and honor God. Is he reaching out not only because that's what he truly believes but reaching out to the Christian coalition as well?

CROWLEY: Well, certainly reaching out to -- if you go back to his convention speech, reaching out in a way that says, you know, God doesn't just belong to the Republicans. You know, this is a nationwide, American value. And that's something that -- a tone that he struck in his convention speech and certainly one that he struck here. I thought what was interesting, obviously you've been talking about it, was his saying look, I know I haven't spent a lot of time in Washington but I've been there enough to know we've got to change the ways of Washington, but also the appeal to the next generation, the idea our generation, that is the post baby boom generation, our time has come. It reminded me a lot of Bill Clinton in 1992 when the torch was passed from one generation to the other. And he talked about the baby boomer generation. So, this is Barack Obama trying to move it forward and talking about one of his best attributes that a lot of people see in this not inexperience but a fresh face on the national scene. Betty?

NGUYEN: I think he pointed out something that really struck me in listening to the speeches is he really moved on that point saying -- and I mentioned it a little bit earlier, laying down these broadband lines in the heart of inner cities and rural towns across America. He moved from there on to alternative fuels and global warming. He was really laying the full picture in this speech, trying to cover all the areas.

CROWLEY: Right. Absolutely. Again, we talked about it a little earlier. This is his introduction to U.S. voters. I mean, this will be the biggest audience that he's had not here but across the country via TV and cable news. So, this is the time for him to get out not really specific policies. You didn't hear much of that, but certainly his priorities and trying to touch on what he believes are voters' priorities.

NGUYEN: And one of those priorities is that this war in Iraq must end. He says, Candy, that he opposed it from the start, he thought it was a tragic mistake and he wants to bring our combat troops home by March of 2008, really laying that on the line. It's not the first time that we've heard that but standing strong on that today.

CROWLEY: No. It's also not the first time, but it's one of his strongest points as he challenges at this point Hillary Clinton, by far the frontrunner. But the base of the party and those are the people who tend to vote in primaries, and they tend to be left of center. At this point, it is a very anti-war crowd. So, his having been against the war from the start, albeit he didn't have to vote on it, but he was against the war from the start, does contrast with Senator Clinton, who voted for the war. So, this is the point I suspect he will be hitting, that he has hit in most of the speeches I've heard him give, because he has been against the war from the beginning and that resonates very well in the base of his party.

NGUYEN: While no details were given to any of these plans, Candy, this is a race and critics will be picking apart each candidate. What do you think are some of the highlights of today and some of the areas that you think the critics are really going to focus in on?

CROWLEY: Betty, I'm not sure I totally understood the question. We're still, Obama's still in the crowd and it's pretty noisy here. But, you know, the points he made, is that what you asked me, in the speech?

NGUYEN: Yeah, especially when it comes to the fact that there's a lot of talk about he doesn't have a whole lot of experience and this is a race, after all and so the critics are going to have their spin on it. When we look at today's speech, what are some of the areas that we're going to see a lot of focus on? CROWLEY: I think we'll see a lot of focus on his explanation for why his sort of experience is the kind of experience that can lead to the White House and I think the focus will be on his call to the next generation and using Lincoln as the backdrop to that, not just symbolically in front of this Springfield capitol where Lincoln gave his "house divided" speech, but also the whole last part of Obama's speech was about Lincoln and about the call to bring the country together.

NGUYEN: CNN's Candy Crowley. Did you have a question, T.J.?

HOLMES: No. We still have Ken Rudin NPR political editor on the line with us and one more to you, Ken, before we let you go. We can't deny and it's in the room, this is a black man running for president. Senator Biden got in trouble a couple weeks back when he made some comments about Obama being the first -- I can't remember the quote, but you know it the first clean, mainstream type of candidate.

RUDIN: Clean and articulate.

HOLMES: Clean and articulate. No matter what, yes, there have been other candidates, black candidates who have run before -- Sharpton, Jackson to name a couple, but this guy here is different. Obama is different. Explain how he is a different black candidate from the others.

RUDIN: Well, of course, I mean, you know, he reaches out to black and white voters. He's a product of black and white parents and I think it showed in his speech. Jesse Jackson, for having plowed the way in 1984, 1988, really appealed mostly to black candidates, to black voters. Obama had the style. Candy talked about Bill Clinton in 1992, this reminds me more of Bobby Kennedy in '68 with an unpopular war and a nation divided. And you know, talk about two Americas. Barack Obama from the beginning and going back to the 2004 speech has always talked about bringing the country together and, you know, you don't have to mention race. You look at him and we see he's an African-American candidate, but he is African and he is American, and that combination, black and white parents, I think could appeal to far more amount of voters than certainly the Jackson campaigns in the '80s.

HOLMES: All right, well, NPR political editor Ken Rudin, we appreciate your time and also senior CNN correspondent Candy Crowley who has been on the line with us and sticking with us during the entire Obama event. Thank you as well. We will move on here and talk about can a black man run the White House? What Barack Obama thinks about that question. We'll hear his answer. That's next in the NEWSROOM.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, I'm sorry. Did I hit you? Did I hit you? Get the [ bleep ]! Out of here. What, you going to hit me?

You hit me and I'll [ bleep].

Get the [ bleep ] out of here, all right? I'm sick of your [ bleep ]. Go ahead, hit me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NGUYEN: Kind of shocking, isn't it? This reporter's beat leads to a beat down. Wait until you see what happens next.

HOLMES: And it's getting deep and getting deeper in upstate New York, up to 10 feet of snow piling up. That's ahead in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: All right. It is upstate New York, we know, but this is a bit much. Up to 10 feet of snow in just a week and more is on the way? CNN's Reggie Aqui joins us now from the snow-walloped town of Oswego, and boy, is it coming down now, Reggie.

REGGIE AQUI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. Remember earlier today I was telling you the blue skies that opened up and people were ready to have this all done with? Yeah, I spoke a little too soon. It's coming down pretty hard right now. This is what has really been happening all week. It's stopping been stopping and starting. Once it starts, it can come down very quickly. We're talking about three to five inches in an hour. So, unfortunately for these folks, they just dug out of all this. They just got their shops all clean and ready for customers now here it comes again.

This is stuff people here -- in this part of New York, snow is no stranger. It's not a big deal to get a few feet of snow per week, but this has been completely different than what we they are used to in previous winters. We're talking anywhere between seven and 10 feet of snow in just a week's time. That means that school has been cancelled all week long. It also means that this county, Oswego where I am right now, that they declared a state of emergency. And what that basically means is they've allowed a lot more resources from the state to come here so they've been able to plow the roads 24 hours a day and they've done a great job.

Over the past couple days, they've really kept up to keep those roads clean. Because of that, we've seen really very few incidents of accidents. We have no major injuries to report, no deaths in Oswego County. So, these folks are handling all of this very well (AUDIO GAP) going to end soon. They're getting a little bored of all this and certainly they're kind of stuck in their homes for a few days because of this, a lot of people not going to work and that sort of thing. But as far as survival, they've been doing a great job, although some back breaking work. These folks behind me told me (AUDIO GAP) I don't think I'm going to take them up on that offer, but maybe I'll pitch in.

NGUYEN: It's a good thing that they're handling it so well. Unfortunately, we didn't hear the last part of that because your mike's not handling the snow that well. But Reggie, we'll be talking with you throughout the day. The cold weather, I mean, 10 feet of snow. Can you imagine? We know, again, it's upstate New York, it is winter, but come on already.

HOLMES: It's kind of gorgeous, though. It was nice. But they don't --

NGUYEN: If no one gets hurt.

HOLMES: If nobody gets hurt. Bonnie.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It looks pretty, but if you've shoveling is not so much fun. It's really interesting to watch from a meteorological standpoint that we actually did see the wind direction change a little and the snow picked up. And that's exactly what's happening. Look at this. Winds earlier were more directly, south southwest. Now they're teetering a little bit more to the west so they're coming in more just kind of parallel right across the lake. As that occurs, when that happens, we get more lake-effect snow, so that's why we're seeing snow right now in Oswego and more snow is in the forecast for that area.

In fact, you can see as the winds kind of whip across Lake Ontario, we'll be looking for snow for Rochester, Watertown, down through Syracuse and there's the band that we just saw live. You can see it here on our radar picture. So, more snow in the forecast straight through tomorrow and possibly Monday morning. Let's look beyond that. We are now talking about the threat of snow for some other cities down to the south, cities that haven't seen snow yet this season, at least not measurable snow. I'm talking about Washington, DC and Baltimore. If you're ready for snow, you may have it on Tuesday, maybe even Monday night. And the threat for wintry weather, that's in the forecast for parts of Kentucky as early as Monday night. The first element is in place, the cold air. Look how cold it is across Lexington, Kentucky, 19 degrees right now in Washington, DC, the temperatures chilly as well, a mere 28 degrees. That's the first part of a winter storm.

The second part here, the storm that's working its way across the southern plains hasn't really gotten going just yet, but by tomorrow, we are expecting that to happen. So, as the storm pushes off further to the east, eventually by Monday night, they intensify somewhere along the Carolina coastline and then work its way to the north. A lot of this is still kind of coming together, but the important thing to note is that we do have snow in the forecast for cities like Washington, DC on Tuesday. In fact, there it is, 27 degrees and snow for DC. We'll have more on the storm as it gets going. Right now, a lot of these things are just kind of getting started at this point. But interesting to note the weather's changing for sure.

NGUYEN: No doubt about that. Let's hope at some point it changes for the better. Thank you, Bonnie.

SCHNEIDER: Right.

HOLMES: Thank you, Bonnie. And of course we've been talking about presidential politics. Well, the presidential race is on for Barack Obama, but will his race be a factor? Hear what the candidate himself has to say about that. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I stand before you today to announce my candidacy for president of the United States of America!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: Well, can a black man win the White House? And is Barack Obama putting his life in danger by running? Senator Obama and his wife, Michelle, tackle those issues in a CBS "60 Minutes" interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Do you think the country is ready for a black president?

OBAMA: Yes.

QUESTION: You don't think it's going to hold you back?

OBAMA: No. You know, the -- I think if I don't win this race, it will be because of other factors. It's going to be because I have not shown to the American people a vision for where the country needs that to go that they can embrace.

QUESTION: Has that been a factor -- I mean, have you talked about that? Is that something that you think about?

MICHELLE OBAMA: I don't lose sleep over it because the realities are that, you know, as a black man, you know, Barack can get shot going to the gas station. You know, you can't -- you know, you can't make decisions based on fear and the possibility of what might happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: And Obama hits the campaign trail after this morning's announcement. He heads to Iowa and New Hampshire.

NGUYEN: Not to be outdone, the woman who's expected to be Obama's main rival for the Democratic presidential nomination is making some appearances of her own today. Senator Hillary Clinton is in New Hampshire, the site of next year's first primary. Clinton appeared in Berlin this morning and she's scheduled to make a stop in Concord a little later today.

HOLMES: Now some Republican presidential hopefuls on the campaign trail as well. Two of them were scheduled to speak in Michigan state Republican convention in Grand Rapids today. They are former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas. They face some pretty tough competition and a lot of competition. Michigan's GOP chairman says the front runner in his state is Senator John McCain.

NGUYEN: There's also a state Republican convention in California today, and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is there as well. He's speaking. Although Giuliani hasn't formally declared he's running for president, he has filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission.

HOLMES: Fredricka, it's good to see you.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's been one heck of a morning. We've been watching. You've all have done a great job. We're just going to try and continue the momentum because we all know Barack Obama is in, but what does his candidacy now do to the overall race? How is it perhaps brought the presidential race to all-new heights at least on the Democratic side? And how might he be reshaping what he has to say today, how might that reshape the focus of the other candidates. We'll be joined by two political strategists to tackle that.

And in our legal segment at 2:00 Eastern today, we're going to talk about Anna Nicole Smith, her death and now how this has opened up a whole 'nother, you know, realm to the whole legal battle that she was facing even before her death. What does it mean in the whole paternity battle and what was her marital status prior to her death and how that may impact the legal proceedings that still lie ahead. All that and more.

NGUYEN: That and the legal battle with her dead husband's estate. I mean, there are so many facets to this story.

WHITFIELD: Right.

HOLMES: If you can answer some of those, I will tune in.

WHITFIELD: You should be tuning in because we are going to answer all those things.

HOLMES: We're there.

NGUYEN: Thanks, Fred.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, I'm sorry. Did I hit you? [ bleep ].

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NGUYEN: You have to see this story. A reporter just doing his job gets a surprise attack to say the least. All coming at you right here in the newsroom.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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