"I think if you look African-American in this society, you're treated as an African-American," he told the CBS News program "60 Minutes". "It's interesting though, that now I feel very comfortable and confident in terms of who I am and where I stake my ground. But I notice that I've become a focal point for a racial debate."
In another interview with the Associated Press, he said, "I think that early on it may spark some curiosity or a sense of novelty, but I think very quickly people will be judging me on the merits, [asking] do I have a message that resonates with people's concerns about health care and education, jobs and terrorism? And if they do, then I think race won't be a major factor."
Obama also responded to one other criticism -- that his soaring rhetoric has yet to be backed up with significant substance. He said that was the fault of the press.
"The problem is not that the information is not out there," Obama said. "The problem is, is that's not what you guys have been reporting on. You've been reporting on how I look in a swimsuit."
Even Obama's cigarette habit is under media scrutiny; he told reporters today he'd been chewing Nicorette all weekend. But -- with a newly aggressive media, determined Democratic opponents, and a conservative media machinery willing to make the most outrageous and false claims -- kicking the habit is unlikely to be the toughest challenge Obama faces on the campaign trail.