DOVER, N.H. — Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama says Al Gore would play a key role in his administration if he wants one, but he won't say whether he'd ask him to be his running mate.
After listening to Obama address a crowded community center Wednesday, a voter asked him to consider naming Gore as his running mate before the nomination is decided "as a way to take the wind out of Hillary's sails."
The voter even proposed a campaign slogan: "Obama and Gore: Experience and Youth. Obama and Gore: Wisdom and Truth."
Not so fast, came Obama's reply.
The Illinois senator said Gore would be involved in his administration in a "very senior capacity, if he's willing" but joked: "I will also be honest with you: having won the Nobel Peace Prize and an Oscar, being vice president again would probably be a step down for him."
Gore won the prize this month for working to raise awareness about global warming.
Answering the broader question - why him instead of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton - Obama repeated his argument that he is uniquely qualified to end the gridlock in Washington.
"I think people feel like I listen, and I've got some common sense and I don't have a lot of baggage," he said.
Obama also said opening government to public scrutiny will be at the heart of his administration, and he criticized the Bush administration as too secretive.
"I'm not just going to have one of these press conferences every six months where I call on my three favorite reporters. We're going to have regular press conferences to explain to the American people here's what we're trying to do and to be held accountable," said Obama, though like Clinton, he rarely holds news conferences on the campaign trail.
Another question came from a woman more concerned with Obama's fate in the general election if he is nominated. She asked how he would he avoid being "Swift Boated," referring to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads about John Kerry's Vietnam War record that helped sink the Massachusetts senator's presidential hopes in 2004.
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Obama said he expects to face similar attacks if he becomes the nominee.
"I have no doubt there will be some of that - trying to make me into this foreign, odd, clearly black person and to scare people," he said. "When people try to Swift Boat you, you have to respond forcefully, you have to respond immediately and you have to respond truthfully. ... We are prepared for whatever they will throw at us."
In his answer, Obama also responded to Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, who said Wednesday that he'd made a slip of the tongue a day earlier when he said Obama, instead of Osama bin Laden, had urged terrorists to unite in Iraq.
"I think when Romney starts saying this stuff sometimes it may be honest mistakes, sometimes not. You don't know," Obama said.
He took a lighter tone when another questioner asked him to describe the differences between himself and bin Laden.
"Mitt Romney's been very confused about this," Obama said. "I have a lot of trouble growing a beard. I don't have a lot of facial hair, that's a good place to start. He lives in a cave."
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