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Obama Responds to "Race Card" Debate

From CBS News' Michelle Levi:

(ORLANDO, FLA.)- "This notion that somehow I was playing the race card is ridiculous," Barack Obama told NPR today, responding to questions about his assertion this week that the McCain campaign is promoting suspicion by saying Obama "doesn't look like all the presidents on the dollar bills."

McCain campaign manager Rick Davis criticized Obama yesterday writing in a memo that "Barack Obama has played the race card, and he played it from the bottom of the deck." Thus began a debate about the role of race in this election, which has followed Obama to Florida today.

"What I said in front of a 98 percent conservative, rural, white audience in Missouri is nothing that I haven't said before, which is, I don't come out of central casting when it comes to what presidential candidates typically look like," Obama told NPR this afternoon.

"And it doesn't just have to do with race. It has to do with my name. It has to do with my biography and my background," continued Obama. He also complained that the McCain campaign has "amplified this" debate over Wednesday's comments and "that has been troublesome."

However, this morning, Obama's chief strategist David Axelrod acknowledged that his boss was referring, at least in part, to his race with his comments in Missouri.

"He's not from central casting when it comes to candidates for president," Axelrod said on ABC's "Good Morning America."

"He's new to Washington. Yes, he's African American."

The issue of Obama's race was injected into today's narrative when three young African American men heckled the Illinois senator by holding up a sign that said "What About the Black America, Obama?" during a St. Petersburg, Fla., town hall meeting intended to launch a new "emergency" economic plan.

Tomorrow, Obama will address the predominantly African American National Urban League in Orlando, Fla., where John McCain was readily greeted this morning as this week's "race card" debate raged on.