DES MOINES, Iowa -- Between stump stops with his family at July 4 festivities, capped off by watching the Iowa Cubs play here, White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) was asked about former President Bill Clinton's remark that "yesterday was pretty good."
That comment was designed to bolster Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) while serving to obliquely question Obama's relentless call for change.
"Well, my campaign," said Obama, "is not premised on running against the past. My campaign is based on what we can accomplish in the future."
Obama spoke at a press conference in the sun-drenched backyard of a supporter in Pella, a GOP stronghold, taking questions while a crowd waited on a shady front lawn to hear from him and his wife, Michelle. They were traveling with daughters Malia, who celebrated her ninth birthday Wednesday, and Sasha, who is 6.
During an interview with an Iowa Associated Press reporter just before, Obama had stronger language: "I admire Bill Clinton, I think he did a lot of fine things as president and he's a terrific political strategist. What we're more interested in is in looking forward, not looking backward. I think the American people feel the same way. They are looking for a way to break out of the harsh partisanship and the old arguments and solve problems.''
The Clintons were barnstorming across Iowa at the same time as the Obamas. Obama was asked about the overshadowing presence of the popular former president and he said he was not overly concerned. "I am sure that Bill Clinton is going to be campaigning for his wife and there is nothing wrong with that," downplaying Clinton's lead in national polls.
Later, he added, "What we are not worried about is the sort of the day-to-day horse race aspect in the middle of July when we have six months of campaigning to go,'' while pledging to compete "fiercely and aggressively all the way through.''
Clinton spokesman Phil Singer, asked to react, said in a statement, "We believe Americans are looking for the candidate with the strength and experience to bring change on Day 1. That candidate is Hillary Clinton."
Obama took a shot at that Day 1 boast recently, asserting in Chicago that only Bill Clinton could make that claim.
Getting applause at each stop on Wednesday when he mentioned his early opposition to the Iraq war, Obama declined to share his views on a Clinton plan to have Congress vote to deauthorize the war. "I haven't looked at the actual language of that proposal," he said.
Obama had planned to work the July 4 celebration in the town center in Pella, according to Iowa press secretary Tommy Vietor. At the same time Obama was going to stump, GOP presidential contender Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), also in town, was marching in a parade. While Obama is close to Brownback -- they have worked on legislation together -- and while Obama said earlier in the day that "Sam's a good man," Obama stayed away, spending time with his family and meeting with local elected officials.