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Obama Addresses His Faith

Presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama is greeted enthusiastically at a conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in St. Louis.
Presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama is greeted enthusiastically at a conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in St. Louis. (By Jae C. Hong -- Associated Press)

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"Historically, I have been a strong believer in a woman's right to choose, with her doctor, her pastor, her family," he said Saturday. "And I've been consistent in saying you have to have a health exception on any significant restrictions or bans on abortions, including late-term abortions.

"It can be defined by physical health. It can be defined by serious clinical mental health diseases," he continued. But "it's not just a matter of feeling blue."

Such statements may run the risk of alienating Obama's liberal activist supporters. And Republicans have tried to counter all of Obama's moves to the center, framing them as proof that he is a typical politician without an ideological core, not the new breed of politician he says he is. The Republican National Committee accused him Saturday of flip-flopping on long-held beliefs regarding abortion.

But such moves could also broaden his appeal in battleground states and in Republican regions trending Democratic.

In his speech here, he tried to dispel the notion that he comes from Muslim roots, pointedly mentioning that his father, a Kenyan who left his family and returned to Africa when Obama was a small child, was an atheist.

Obama acknowledged how hard it has been for the campaign to dispel false rumors that he is Muslim or that he is not an American, as well as a sense among some voters that he lacks patriotism.

"In fairness to the American people, I am relatively new on the political scene, compared to a John McCain or a Hillary Clinton. My profile is not typical of a presidential nominee, not only because I'm African American, but I'm relatively young as a candidate," he said. "So it's not surprising that people are still getting to be familiar with what I've done, who I am, what I stand for. I do think it's been fed pretty systematically by e-mails that have been sent out. There's a concerted strategy to raise questions about me and to spread lies about my background, and in the Internet age, that's pretty effective.

"What's remarkable is that despite all that, things that have been going on since we announced -- I'm the nominee and have a pretty good shot at winning," he added.


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