Despite a landslide victory in last night's South Carolina primary, Sen. Barack Obama found himself Sunday morning fending off Clinton camp barbs, calling their comparison of him to Jesse Jackson an outdated "frame of reference" for discussing race and politics.
"I think people want change," he said in an interview on ABC News' "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." "I think they want to get beyond some of the racial politics that, you know, has been so dominant in the past. ... I think that the results yesterday spoke for themselves, that people wanted to move beyond some of these old arguments, and they want to look forward to figure out how we pull the country together and move forward."
Much of the interview focused on issues raised repeatedly in recent days and weeks, including Obama's praise of Ronald Reagan and relationship with Tony Rezko.
Democrats in South Carolina voted in record numbers Saturday, with an unprecedented showing by African Americans. Obama won 55 percent of the vote, more than twice the 27 percent won by Sen. Hillary Clinton, and earned the support of 78 percent of black voters compared to Clinton's 19 percent.
Though each of the leading candidates claims not be playing racial politics, turnout in South Carolina demonstrated just how racially stratified the campaign in that state was. Former President Bill Clinton, who Obama has often criticized for playing too vocal a role in his wife's campaign, jabbed the Illinois senator by comparing his victories to those of Jesse Jackson.
Obama responded by staying on the message that earned him wins in Iowa and South Carolina -- change is good.
"Jesse Jackson ran historic races in 1984 and 1988, and there's no doubt that that set a precedent for African Americans running for the highest office in the land," Obama said. "I think people want change. I think they want to get beyond some of the racial politics that, you know, has been so dominant in the past."
But the old issues dogged Obama down in the interview, and had him again clarifying a statement he made in Reno, Nev., earlier this month in which he praised Ronald Reagan, and apologizing again for his relationship with Chicago developer Tony Rezko.
Obama explained he did not agree with many of Reagan's policies but admired the former Republican president for changing decades of political discourse and streamlining the government.
"Ronald Reagan came in during the 1980s, at a time when I think Democrats still dominated Congress, when the view was that we were going to solve our problems oftentimes by expanding government programs -- and he challenged many of those ideas," Obama said. "Keep in mind that back in the 1980s I was working as a community organizer on the streets of Chicago and seeing the consequences of some of the bad ideas that Ronald Reagan had promoted. But the broader point that I was making, George, and I don't think this is something that is subject to dispute, is that Ronald Reagan transformed American politics and set the agenda for a long time."
On his relationship with Rezko, who Hillary Clinton called a "slumlord" in last week's South Carolina debate, Obama called Rezko a "friend and supporter" and offered regrets about purchasing property from him.