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Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama often says he will be a candidate that will bring both parties together and Saturday he named a few of the Republicans he would reach out to if elected.
“There are some very capable Republicans who I have a great deal of respect for,” Obama said in an interview with The Associated Press. “The opportunities are there to create a more effective relationship between parties.”
Among the Republicans he would seek help from are Sens. Richard Lugar of Indiana, John Warner of Virginia and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Obama said.
“On foreign policy I’ve worked very closely with Dick Lugar,” Obama said. “I consider him one of my best friends in the Senate. He’s someone I would actively seek counsel and advice from when it came to foreign policy.”
“Senator Warner is another example of somebody with great wisdom, although I don’t always agree with him on every issue,” Obama said. “I would also seek out people like Tom Coburn, who is probably the most conservative member of the U.S. Senate. He has become a friend of mine.”
Part of Washington’s problem is that President Bush has created a partisan atmosphere, he said.
“The Bush-Cheney administration has perfected the perpetual campaign, what I call the 50-plus-one election strategy, where you just presume half the country is red and half the country is blue,” Obama said.
Later in Miami, Obama reiterated his call for Cuban-American families to be able to have more contact with their relatives in Cuba.
To rousing applause at the same Little Havana auditorium where Republican Ronald Reagan once campaigned, Obama said: “Just 90 miles from here there is a country where justice and freedom are out of reach. That’s why my policy toward Cuba will be guided by one word: Liberty.”
He said there are no better ambassadors for change on the communist island than the Cuban Americans who send money to relatives.
“It can help make their families less dependent on Fidel Castro. That’s the way to bring about real change in Cuba,” Obama said. “It’s time we had a president who realized that.”
Obama addressed a crowd of more than 1,000 four days after he published an opinion piece to The Miami Herald that said restrictions that limit how often Cuban Americans can travel to Cuba to visit family and how much money they can send relatives should be loosened.
The Cuban-exile vote is considered key to winning Florida, and top presidential candidates have generally followed the recommendations of the community’s most hard-line and vocal leaders, who support a full embargo against Castro’s government.
But many in the large Cuban American community want to be able to visit and help family and support the idea of looser restrictions.
Obama said he wouldn’t lift the current trade embargo, and said his offer to normalize relations in a post-Castro Cuba would be made after the country opened up to democratic change.
“Until there’s justice in Cuba, there’s no justice anywhere,” Obama said. “We will talk to our enemies as well as our friends and both to our enemies and to our friends, we will tell them the truth and tell them what we stand for.”
Obama was in Florida at the same time the Democratic National Committee voted to strip Florida of all its presidential delegates if the state party sticks to a plan for a Jan. 29 primary. He said, however, that Florida will still be large player in the general election and that he will seek to remain competitive here.
“The national party has a difficult task, which is to try to create some order out of chaos,” Obama said. “My job is really not to speculate on how to make it all work. I’m a candidate, I’m like a player on the field. I shouldn’t be setting up the rules.”
Associated Press Writer Laura Wides-Munoz contributed to this report from Miami.