From CBS News' Maria Gavrilovic:
INDIANAPOLIS – An upbeat Barack Obama this morning said he wants to move forward from the "noise" that his campaign has endured over the last couple of weeks and concentrate on the May 6th primaries. "What we've been trying to do is to make sure that we refocus on what matters to people," Obama said. "You know, I think the American voters don't want a whole bunch of drama."
Obama defended recent questions by voters on his character and his values, saying that people have right to ask these questions. "Look, I think that it is very relevant for voters to figure out, is this somebody they can trust? Is this somebody who's going to fight for them? Is this somebody that cares about the same things they do?"
At recent town hall meetings in North Carolina and Indiana, Obama is often asked about his patriotism, whether he wears the flag pin and if he pledges allegiance to the flag. He attributes most of these questions to attack e-mails sent in states where he is facing an upcoming election. Today, though, Obama acknowledged that many voters may still not know him despite the fact that he has been campaigning for well over a year.
"When you're running for president, you make certain assumptions that people after 15 months really know who you are, and then you realize maybe there are still a whole bunch of folks who don't know who you are despite the fact that you're on TV every day," Obama said. "I think it's really important for me to make sure that we're out there as much as possible."
Taking a phrase from his Iowa campaign stump, Obama said he wants to meet voters so that they can "lift the hood and kick the tires" before they decide to vote for him.
He also took a shot at Hillary Clinton, who has advocated polling Congress on whether they support her gas tax holiday or not. "They don't want to be for something that is such an obvious election year gimmick," Obama said of his Congressional brethren. "They don't want to line up behind an idea that's more about trying to get a few votes than getting you meaningful relief."
Obama pointed out that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, have all opposed the idea. One senator, though, has endorsed the idea – John McCain, who Obama was more than happy to lump together with Clinton in his criticism of the gas tax holiday. "On this issue, Hillary Clinton and John McCain are reading from the same political playbook," Obama said. "This isn't a real solution. It's a political stunt."