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Star-Telegram Q&A with Barack Obama

Star-Telegram Austin Bureau Chief Jay Root was granted an exclusive telephone interview with presidential hopeful Barack Obama on Saturday afternoon. Obama was speaking from the campaign trail in Ohio.

Why is the Texas Democratic Party ailing?

I think the patient may be starting to get out of bed, because we've been seeing just enormous excitement as we've traveled across Texas, and I think people are very energized by the prospect of bringing the Bush era to a close and bringing the country together to push back on these special interests and lobbyists in Washington and actually starting to solve problems like healthcare and education and brining the war in Iraq to an honorable close. That's part of the reason why I think we are doing well. We are tapping into that real hunger for change in Texas.

Are you concerned about reports of lax security at your recent Dallas rally?

No. I think the Secret Service are the best in the business, and the detail that I have is outstanding. I can't say enough about them and how much I appreciate the work that they've done.

Do you worry about being targeted by violence on the campaign trail?

I don't think that's something I can worry about. It's true of anybody who runs for president.

Do your children worry about your safety?

What I get from them is, "Daddy when are you coming home?" You know, "We can hang out together." You know that's what Michelle, I think, and they think about this campaign. They're excited about it, but it puts a strain on our family life. I've been pretty good about making most of the dance recitals and the parent-teacher conferences, but that just down time with kids on a weekend where you're taking a walk or loafing around or going out and playing in the snow, those are things I'm missing right now, and that's one of the biggest sacrifices of this campaign

Some critics have questioned your patriotism. Is that fair game?

It typically is based on this scurrilous e-mail that's been going around, which is completely false. So to the extent that it's a vicious, false rumor that's deliberately being spread over the Internet, no, that's not fair game. But nobody said politics was fair. It is important for us to dispel it ... I am not a Muslim and never have been. I've been going to the same church for the last 20 years. I was sworn in on my family Bible. And I have been pledging allegiance since I was 3. And in fact you can see it on C-SPAN sometimes. When I've opened up the Senate and am presiding over the Senate, I lead the Senate in the Pledge of Allegiance, so these are just the kinds of, I think, dirty tricks that you see crop up periodically.

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