by Ray Fleming

BARACK Obama's press conference yesterday morning at Cape Canaveral, Florida, may have lacked political lift-off but was nonetheless fascinating to watch (live on Fox News). Senator Obama had obviously wanted to talk about the US economy and what he would do to repair the damage inflicted on it during President Bush's terms of office. He briefly outlined some of his ideas and then invited questions. He got them - but not about the economy. Most of the journalists present wanted to get his reaction to the negative personal campaign being run against him by the McCain camp.

The TV commercial putting him in the same “personality” category as Paris Hilton and Britney Spears (about which I wrote yesterday in Looking Around) was frequently brought up and eventually Obama let rip about it, questioning whether this was really the kind of thing the Amercan people wanted to be distracted by when housing, employment and food and fuel costs are their every day concerns. He dismissed the McCain tactics as “yesterday's politics - we've seen this movie before”.

In an interesting passage in which he showed some hesitancy, he said he recognised that as a presidential contender he did not “come from central casting” but insisted that was no reason to imply that to vote for him was a “risky choice”. Instead the decision should depend on a serious debate about the policies on the economy, energy, health care, education that he wanted to bring forward to help the American people live better lives.

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