JOHNSTON, Iowa – Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama said Friday that if he fails to win the Iowa caucuses it will not be because he is African-American.

But in making his case, the Illinois Democrat may have overstated the level of rural support in his 2004 Democratic U.S. Senate primary win.

“I will get a fair hearing, and I think we are going to win this place,” he said during the taping of “Iowa Press,” a public affairs program broadcast statewide on Iowa Public Television.

Based on his experience in Illinois, Obama said he discounts suggestions that the nation is not ready to elect a black president.

“People said there’s no way folks Downstate are going to vote for you. And Downstate Illinois is pretty similar to Iowa, culturally and demographically,” he said.

“We ended up winning that primary by 20 (percentage) points. We won the white vote. We won the rural vote. We won the farmer vote. There wasn’t a vote we didn’t win against strong candidates.”

Obama said Friday that Iowa will “set the tone for a lot of what happens” in the nomination process.

He said it is not enough to run “old textbook campaigns of the past” and that he is trying to offer voters “change they can believe in.”

Asked if he can win Iowa, Obama had no hesitation.

“We are doing extraordinarily well,” he said. “We are clearly in a horse race with Sen. Clinton and Sen. Edwards, and we have a great organization on the ground.”

But he also said he could survive a loss in the first-in-the-nation caucus state, where candidates will face voters Jan. 3. He and the other Democratic candidates are scheduled to appear Saturday evening in Des Moines at an important party dinner where 9,000 party activists are expected.

“We can do well and not necessarily win, and still continue on to the other states,” Obama said. “But we intend to do very well in this state.”

Obama also said Democrats should nominate him because he can appeal across party lines.

“Surveys show that I am able to appeal to Republicans and independents,” he said. “We can win, I think, in suburban areas. We can win in states like Virginia.”

(c) 2007, Chicago Tribune.

Visit the Chicago Tribune on the Internet at

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-11-09-07 2030EST

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.