Nevada Voters Grill Obama

(CBS)
From CBS News' Maria Gavrilovic:

CARSON CITY, NEV. -- After days of lackluster Q & A sessions at Nevada campaign stops, Barack Obama finally got a run for his money at a late night event in Carson City last night where over 2,000 people showed up to hear him speak. Voters pressed him on issues including his experience, race, and faith.

On experience, Obama spouted a laundry list of credentials and said people should not buy into the notion that he "just popped out makin' a nice speech somewhere."

He said that his recent political success is proof that voters trust his level of experience.

"Think about what I've done just this year. I started from scratch and have been competing against the top political operation in the country that was built over twenty years by the former president of the United States of America," Obama said, "I don't know if anyone has noticed, but we are playing them even right now."

Obama also said he is not just "winging it out there," and that he is surrounded by strong advisors. He noted that several members of the Clinton Administration have opted to support him.

"I've got Bill Clinton's former national security advisor [Anthony Lake] on my team. I've got his former secretary of the navy [Richard Danzig] on my team, I've got members of the former joint chiefs of staff on my team," Obama said.

"You know, but its not that they dislike the Clintons, it's that they recognize that this is an opportunity, a unique opportunity to break out of some of the arguments of the past and to move forward."

A local woman told Obama that she wants to vote for a Democrat who is electable so she wonders what role race will play in his presidential bid. "We have never elected a black man in our country," she said. "I noticed that," Obama joked.

He went on to say that he believes the American people will look beyond the issue of race but acknowledges there may be some who will not vote for him because of it.

"I don't want to sound naïve. Will there be some folks who probably don't vote for me because I am black? Of course. Just like there may be somebody who won't vote for Hillary because she's a woman or wouldn't vote for John Edwards because they don't like his accent."

Obama also said that running for president is not like playing "bean bag." He told the voter that Republican operatives and others are will to do some "pretty tough stuff."

The pastor of the oldest church in Nevada, who was also in the audience, asked Obama to discuss the issue of his faith. "I'd like you to just say something about what your faith means to you, how it influences your politics," he asked.

Obama spoke of his secular upbringing and said that he became interested in religion when he moved to Chicago to work as a community organizer. He noted that religion is "very serious" for him and that it is the basis of his values. However, Obama said that he does not want religion to justify his political positions.

"I do not believe that I have a monopoly on morality just because of my religious faith," Obama said.

He later added, "My attitude is that separation of church and state is good not only for the state, but it's also good for the church."

Another voter asked him who he would choose as his running mate if nominated. "I can't tell you. It's a secret," he joked. "But, no, you know what, I don't want to be presumptuous just because we've only had two contests so far, and we're pretty far away from winning the nomination."