Obama seeks swing-state gains

With 100 days left in the race for the White House, Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama says he has succeeded in expanding the electoral map in his race against John McCain, principally in Southern and Southwestern states but also in Montana and North Dakota.

“It doesn't mean we're going to win all those states, but at least we're making it a contest and giving voters something to choose from,” he said aboard his campaign jet on the way back from an overseas trip.

“Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia are all states where we are competitive,” he said, adding he is going “toe to toe” with his rival in New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada.

Before leaving Europe on Saturday, Obama told reporters he might suffer a small drop in the polls after being out of the country for more than a week. In the AP interview and an appearance on NBC's “Meet The Press,” he indicated he intends to shift his focus quickly toward the economy and other domestic issues.

Depending on actions the current administration and Congress take, he told AP, a new economic stimulus package may be his first legislative request if he takes office as the 44th president in January. He has called previously for additional tax rebates and other measures to help revive the economy, and intends to convene a meeting on the subject today in Washington.

With little pause after visiting two war zones, the Middle East and Europe, Obama resumes campaigning this week in the swing states with stops in Missouri and Iowa, and a fundraising visit to Texas.

One month before the Democratic National Convention opens, he declined to say whether he has interviewed any potential running mates. “I'm not going to discuss it,” he said aboard his plane.

Whatever the short-term impact of his overseas trip, Obama told minority journalists at a Unity conference, the longer-term impact will be positive.

“In terms of me governing, being an effective president, that that trip was helpful, because I think I've established relationships and a certain bond of trust with key leaders around the world who have taken measure of my positions and how I operate, and I think can come away with some confidence that this is somebody I can deal with,” he said.