WASHINGTON-- Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) tells the "Today Show" on Thursday he should have said "angry and frustrated instead of bitter" at that San Francisco fund-raiser that got him labeled an elitist.
And he said he should have said "rely" instead of "cling" to Gods and guns.
Michelle Obama says the still have to introduce themselves to people.
Obama has been running for president since February, 2007.
Transcript of the interview......
Now to a "Today" exclusive, an interview with Senator Barack Obama and his wife Michelle, their first together in more than a year. A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows Obama's campaign has taken a hit because of his association with his controversial long-time pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright.
Well, this week the senator publicly split with Wright, but was it too little, too late? I caught up with the Obamas in Indiana, and I started by asking the senator if he should have spoken out sooner.
BARACK OBAMA: I think the sequence of events was the right one, because this is somebody who had married Michelle and I, who had baptized our children. When those first snippets came out, I thought it was important to give him the benefit of the doubt, because if I had wanted to be politically expedient, I would have distanced myself and denounced him right away. Right? That would have been the easy thing to do
VIEIRA: But he was also truly damaging your campaign, and there's an election coming up in a few days.
OBAMA: Oh, I think that damage had been done a while back.
MICHELLE OBAMA: We hear time and time again that voters are tired of this. They don't want to hear about this division. They want to know, what are we going to do to move beyond these issues? And what made me so proud of Barack in this situation is that he is trying to move us as a nation beyond these conversations that divide us --
VIEIRA: Michelle, do you feel that the Reverend Wright betrayed your husband?
MS. OBAMA: You know, I think that Barack has spoken so clearly and eloquently about this.
MS. VIEIRA: But do you personally feel that the Reverend betrayed your husband?
MICHELLE OBAMA: I believe that we've got -- you know what I think, Meredith? We've got to move forward.
MS. VIEIRA: So when you hear somebody call your husband an elitist, or they called you unpatriotic at one point, when you hear them say about you, "Well, he doesn't have fire in his belly; he has a rugula in his belly," how do you respond to that?
SEN. OBAMA: Well, look, we wouldn't be sitting here if that was the perception of the majority of the American people. It's only when you become the front-runner that suddenly people are looking for potential chinks in the armor. Now --
MS. VIEIRA: But are you responsible for some of the things that you've said?
SEN. OBAMA: Oh, absolutely. There's no doubt about it. I mean, I think that the -- well, there's one particular thing, which was the comments I made in San Francisco at the end of a long day that were very poorly phrased. I should have said angry and frustrated instead of bitter.
MS. VIEIRA: Instead of bitter.
SEN. OBAMA: I should have said people rely on their religious faith during these times of trouble --
MS. VIEIRA: Instead of "cling to."
SEN. OBAMA: -- as opposed to "cling to." I mean, the irony is that I think it is fair to say that both Michelle and I grew up in much less privileged circumstances than either of my two other potential opponents.
MS. VIEIRA: But they're not the ones being called elitist. Why do you think that is?
SEN. OBAMA: (Inaudible.) Well, and I think, look, let's be honest. You know, here I am, an African-American named Barack Obama who's running for president. I mean, that's a leap for folks.
MS. OBAMA: Part of, you know, what we've been doing is we have to introduce ourselves to people. People have to know all sides of us.
MS. VIEIRA: But part of the problem could be the connection -- I just want to -- this is a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. It shows that more voters, 46 percent, don't identify with your background and values compared with 45 percent who said they did. But a month ago, 50 percent said they identified with your values versus 39 percent who said they didn't. So more people are saying they don't identify with your values. What has happened? What's --
SEN. OBAMA: Well, I think it's pretty clear what's happened. I mean, we've had, what, two months now or a month and a half in which you've had the Reverend Wright controversy. You've had the issue of my comments in San Francisco that have been magnified pretty heavily. I mean, that's been a pretty full dose.
MS. VIEIRA: But politics is tough business, as you've found out.
SEN. OBAMA: Right.
MS. VIEIRA: And when you talk about the big states, you've also been able to put a lot of money into them and have not been as successful as I'm sure you would have hoped to be. There are people who might look at your recent record and are beginning to question, "Geez, why doesn't he close the deal"?
SEN. OBAMA: Let me dispel this whole big-state argument, which we hear constantly from the media. I won my home state of Illinois, as Senator Clinton did; she won New York. I also won Georgia, a big state. I won Missouri, a big state. I won Wisconsin, a swing state. I won Virginia, a big state. But what we've also done is we've expanded the map.
MS. VIEIRA: If, at the end of the day, you have more pledged delegates but the super-delegates decide Hillary Clinton is doing better when she goes up against McCain in these polls than you are doing, or however they make that decision, can you live with that?
SEN. OBAMA: We always knew this was an improbable journey when we started off. And, you know, I think, because of our success, people have forgotten that. People discount what we've accomplished and then focus on, "Well, you've lost a couple of states.
" But the truth is that we always knew this was hard. And the reason is because we're trying to do something new.
MS. VIEIRA: Are there moments when you look back and go, "Gee, I wish I could turn the clock back?"
MS. OBAMA: I was always the one, when he was talking about entering politics, who'd say, "Please, no; do something else. There's just such an easier way to make a living." So, yeah, there's still a level of cynicism that's there. But the truth is that, you know, I just know how special he is. And I don't want to sound like the cheering wife.
SEN. OBAMA: That's okay. You can cheer.
MS. OBAMA: It's okay. I know. The fundamental changes that he has made in just 15 months in the way people see themselves, the way people see their futures, the way young people are looking at their possibilities, the way we're talking about politics, even though we slip sometimes and we still get pulled down into the old ways of playing the political game -- changes have happened. And it makes every challenge, every frustration, worth it.
MS. VIEIRA: So you never sit there and get upset about these --
MS. OBAMA: Never. I never get upset, Meredith.
MS. VIEIRA: (Laughs.) No, I just -- I'm trying to --
SEN. OBAMA: She gets a little upset.
MS. VIEIRA: -- -- take off the political hat.
MS. OBAMA: I'm cool and calm.
SEN. OBAMA: She just -- she stops reading the newspapers during certain stands of time.
MS. OBAMA: I take the paper and I ball it up and I throw it in the corner.
MS. OBAMA: You know, of course there are frustrations. You know, this is --
SEN. OBAMA: She gets protective of me --
MS. OBAMA: I do.
SEN. OBAMA: -- which is --
MS. OBAMA: I love my husband. You know, you don't want anybody talking poorly about the people that you love. And quite frankly, I think he's handled this stuff. I mean, this -- you know, I'm so proud of how he has maintained his dignity, his cool, his honor.
SEN. OBAMA: So --
MS. OBAMA: I know you're trying to cut me off when I'm, you know, talking nicely about you.
SEN. OBAMA: Yeah, it gets embarrassing.
MS. OBAMA: Yeah.
SEN. OBAMA: But --
MS. OBAMA: But I am proud of him.
SEN. OBAMA: I know. I appreciate that. I do. And I actually -- I'm proud of our campaign.