The Guardian: Barack Obama has begun to edge away from his offer to pursue talks with Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after being hammered by Republicans as an "appeaser".
Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington
Barack Obama has begun to edge away from his offer to pursue talks with Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after being hammered by Republicans as an "appeaser".
Now on the cusp of securing the Democratic nomination, Obama yesterday continued to attack John McCain, his likely Republican opponent in November, over his hawkish foreign policy.
"He has spent his last week describing his foreign policy as who he won't talk to," Obama told a rally in Florida yesterday.
After Tuesday's primaries, in which Obama lost badly to Hillary Clinton in Kentucky but won well in Oregon, he is now just 65 delegates away from the Democratic nomination.
But with the November election in his sights, Obama backed away from his promise last year to meet Ahmadinejad without preconditions during his first year in the White House.
His campaign has stopped mentioning Ahmadinejad by name, and noting that there must be "preparations" for such an encounter.
"He wants to talk to the Iranian leadership," Bill Richardson, the New Mexico governor and Obama supporter told Fox television yesterday. "But he wants diplomatic preparation before doing that."
On Tuesday, Obama's foreign policy adviser, Susan Rice, told CNN that he did not necessarily mean he would meet Ahmadinejad when he offered to open talks with Iran. "He hasn't named who that leader will be," she said. "It may, in fact be that by the middle of next year, Ahmadinejad is long gone."
The emerging position is much more guarded than Obama's pledge during a YouTube debate last July to meet the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea without preconditions during his first year in the White House. It comes as Obama diverts his energies from the three remaining Democratic primary contests – in Puerto Rico, South Dakota and Montana- to building up the coalitions he needs to win key swing states.
Obama's three-day tour of Florida followed Tuesday's primaries.
Clinton thrashed Obama in Kentucky, taking 65% of the vote against Obama's 30%. But the senator for Illinois racked up a big win in Oregon, with 58% of the vote against 42% for Clinton.
Obama and Clinton did not campaign in Florida whose primary contest, along with Michigan's, was held in defiance of the Democratic national committee.
Day one of the Florida tour was aimed at winning over Obama's most reliable supporters – African-American voters as well as young people – and reaching out to constituencies he will need to take the state: Orlando's Puerto Rican community as well as Jewish and elderly voters.
Obama is scheduled to meet Cuban-American exiles on Friday, considered the most faithful Republican supporters.
He is now poised to embark on a rigorous campaign tour through battleground states to win over the white working-class voters who so far have backed Clinton.
His campaign is also rolling out a voter registration drive to increase the turnout among African-Americans who have voted overwhelmingly for Obama as well as secondary school students who are about to turn 18 and will be voting for the first time.