Ridiculing it as "a silly question," Democrat Barack Obama pledged Wednesday he would resist any overtures to run for president or vice president before the end of his six-year term as a U.S. senator.
"I was elected yesterday," Obama said. "I have never set foot in the U.S. Senate. I've never worked in Washington. And the notion that somehow I'm immediately going to start running for higher office just doesn't make sense.
"So look, I can unequivocally say I will not be running for national office in four years, and my entire focus is making sure that I'm the best possible senator on behalf of the people of Illinois."
One day after the state senator from Hyde Park rewrote history by winning the most lopsided U.S. Senate contest ever in Illinois, Obama was doing his best to lower expectations -- about his roles as the nation's only black U.S. senator and a rising Democratic star.
"Look, I'm a state senator who hasn't even been sworn in yet," Obama said." My understanding is that I will be ranked 99th in seniority. ... I'm going to be spending the first several months of my career in the U.S. Senate looking for the washroom and trying to figure out how the phones work."
Obama trounced Republican Alan Keyes Tuesday, 70 percent to 27 percent with 98 percent of the precincts counted.
That 43 percentage-point lead bests the previous record for a U.S. Senate race in Illinois. That was when Republican William B. McKinley beat Democrat Peter A. Waller by 40 percentage points in 1920.
Testy exchange with reporter
But despite that historic victory, Obama was cranky at times when he met with reporters at his campaign headquarters Wednesday. He brushed aside a question from Sun-Times Washington Bureau Chief Lynn Sweet when she interrupted his answer several times asking for more specifics.
"Lynn, you're dictating the answers as well as the questions," Obama said. "Let me move on to the next question."
After the news conference, Obama complained to Sweet "this is like the fifth time you've done this," before walking her into a hallway for a private discussion. Obama's aides said he was just tired after the long hours of the 21-month campaign.
The U.S. senator-elect readily shared his thoughts on President Bush's victory, the challenges facing Democrats nationally and his own plans to establish "a top-flight constituent service office" and travel the state to thank and listen to Democrats and Republicans alike to devise "concrete ways" to improve jobs, education and health care in Illinois.
"And that's my complete and total focus during this new adventure that I'm walking into," he said.
But he seemed less comfortable discussing his own role as a rising national star.
"It's important for me to show the voters of Illinois the degree to which I am concerned with the people of Illinois, because I think that the hype that's surrounded my campaign during this last phase needs to be corrected," he said. "People need to recognize that the
job I've applied for and that they have hired me for is to be the best U.S. senator possible for the state of Illinois." (Continues here at Chicago Sun Times)