With just two weeks until the Iowa caucuses, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama holds a slim lead in the Iowa polls. But now that he's the front-runner and a prime target, can he hold on?
"I think we wouldn't be doing well if people weren't confident that I could lead this country," Obama said in an exclusive live interview with "Good Morning America" from New Hampshire.
Obama responded to new allegations that he plays politics as usual, even though he presents himself as the candidate of change. "People are absolutely convinced that now is a time for big change in how business is done in Washington because I think we've been communicating that change during the campaign."
Obama often criticizes New York Sen. Hillary Clinton for not taking a stand on issues, but today he faces a similar charge. The New York Times this morning reported that during his time in the Illinois State Senate, Obama sidestepped some issues by voting "present" on many pending bills rather than yes or no. According to Obama, "about 130" out of 4,000 votes during his time in the Illinois Senate were present.
"This was a standard practice in Illinois," Obama said. "Often times I would strategically vote present because we were negotiating a bill or because there was some element in the bill that was unconstitutional or had problems that needed to be tweaked."
Obama said the questions are just a product of being close to the end of the game of the Democratic campaign.
"I understand we're in the last two weeks in the campaign, people are going to be calling over everything from my kindergarten records," he said, a reference to the Clinton campaign raising concerns about Obama's presidential early life presidential ambitions.
Ready to Lead?
The latest ABCNews/Washington Post poll shows 45 percent of Iowa caucus-goers think Clinton has the experience to lead, whereas just 9 percent think Obama does. The findings echo former President Clinton's controversial remarks last week, comparing supporting Obama to "rolling the dice."
On "GMA" Obama responded to the former president's comments, calling them "ironic" and pointing out that Bill Clinton had answered questions about his experience during his presidential run in 1991 and 1992.
"He argued, rightly at the time, that the question was, 'Did you have the experience rooted in the real lives of people that could bring about real change?' And I believe I have that experience and increasingly the people around Iowa, New Hampshire, and around the country agree," said Barack.
Obama emphasized that his experience included dealing with controversial issues like welfare and death penalty reform.
"The fact is that I've been in office longer than the two other candidates, and that I've served in the U.S. Senate," he said.
Could Race Slow Obama?
The vast majority of Americans say they'd have no problem voting for a black candidate, and race does not appear to have dented Obama's support.
"I don't actually think race has played a significant role in this campaign," he said. "I have no doubt that there are people out there who might not be comfortable voting for me because of my race. But I think there are some people who are excited about the prospects of being able to help heal some of our past racial divisions."
Obama argued that overall, "People are going to vote for me because they think I can deliver health-care reform, they think I can bring well-paying jobs back to America, they think I can help repair our standing in the world and make us safer. Those are the criteria by which people judge me. And so far, so good."
ABC News' Sunlen Miller contributed to this report.