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Last Updated: Friday, 28 March 2008, 15:36 GMT
In the company of Barack Obama
By Sima Kotecha
Newsbeat US reporter, New York

Barack Obama
Presidential hopeful Barack Obama delivers a speech in New York

When we asked Barack Obama's people if there was any chance of speaking to him, they bit back and said no. But reporters shouldn’t give up that easily.

The presidential hopeful was in New York to deliver what his campaign were calling 'a major speech on the economy'.

Not a totally thrilling subject matter. I wanted more of the juicy stuff. Another attack on his democratic rival, Hillary Clinton perhaps?

After all, it had just been days since she made that embarrassing blunder about her trip to Bosnia.

Or maybe another attempt at defining his views on race after those controversial comments made by his pastor came to light?

But instead, it was America's wobbly economy at the top of his agenda, and he was determined to stick to it.

Financial institutions

It is the number one issue among voters here and Obama was keen to address their insecurities about it.

For the first time, a major presidential candidate said flat out what no other candidate has said: "As most experts agree, our economy is in a recession".

And he reckons it's to do with the lack of regulation from financial institutions.

His supporters lapped it up but I wanted to know more about him on a personal level.

Having spoken to voters across the States, I was intrigued by this popular candidate who is currently leading the democratic race.

Shaking hands

As Obama began talking to the crowd, shaking their hands, giving them hugs I grabbed my chance.

In a black suit and red tie, Obama smiled as I put out my hand out to shake his. He held it for a while in a firm grip as I introduced myself: "I'm Sima Kotecha from the BBC's Radio 1."

He smiled. I thought it was the BBC part that caught his attention but I was wrong.

I’d love to talk to Gordon Brown - very exciting
Barack Obama
"Hello" he said, humourously mimicking my British accent. That happens here. "My niece studied in London and talks like you!".

I chucked a question at him about links with the UK if he becomes President.

"Yes, I’d love to talk to Gordon Brown. Very exciting," he added. He put his arm around me at this point for a couple of seconds before moving on

So what insights did I gain from this brief encounter? We rarely get the truth straight from a carefully managed politician’s lips after all.

He's charming, his eye contact was strong (has that rare knack of making you feel special) and he speaks easily; no signs of nerves towards journalists who might be able to trip him up with a question.

Tight security

Here come the buts: he's surrounded by tight security - I wasn't allowed to produce any recording gear and the moment I made a grab for my notebook a gangster looking security guard told me: "Please put your pen and paper away."

So American elections are tightly controlled, the candidates smooth and well rehearsed.

Barack Obama
Barack Obama is surrounded by tight security
Slicker than UK elections? For sure. And do I know the real Barack Obama? No - he still needs to show that can handle anything outside his protected PR zone.

Where is he on sensitive issues like abortion, religious diversity, and what does he really think of Hillary Clinton?

Things being what they are in the States it's unlikely that'll happen before one of them is firmly in the Oval Office of the White House.



SEE ALSO
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Wednesday, 26 March 2008, 00:13 GMT |  Americas
Q&A: US elections
Tuesday, 5 February 2008, 17:42 GMT |  The P Word


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