Clinton baits but Obama isn’t biting

If Hillary Rodham Clinton is baiting her Democratic presidential rival with increasingly pointed criticisms, Barack Obama isn’t biting. At least not yet.

Savoring his Mississippi primary victory Tuesday, Obama brushed off the aggressive tactics of Clinton and her supporters, said he’d support her in the fall if she happens to win and predicted a united Democratic party in the general election.

“We’ve been very measured in terms of how we talk about Senator Clinton,” he said on CNN, while adding pointedly, “I’m not sure that we’ve been getting that same approach from the Clinton campaign.”

Earlier in the day, his campaign denounced comments by Geraldine Ferraro, a Clinton fundraiser and 1984 vice presidential candidate, that Obama only got this far because he’s black. Clinton said she disagreed with the comment but didn’t remove Ferraro from her unpaid position. Obama had described Ferraro’s comments as “patently absurd.”

“Obviously I think I would be the better nominee,” Obama said. “But I have been careful to say that I think Senator Clinton is a capable person and that should she win the nomination, obviously I would support her.”

Asked whether he would consider her as a running mate, he said only that “she’d be on anybody’s short list.”

The Illinois senator padded his overall delegate lead with his win Tuesday, the last contest before the April 22 primary in Pennsylvania. The tangled race has focused new attention on Florida and Michigan, which held early contests in defiance of party rules and had their delegates ruled ineligible to be counted.

Obama was noncommittal about the push for another round of voting in those states and what form might be acceptable to him, saying only that a fair way should be found to make the delegates count.

“I think all of us are interested in making sure that they are seated in some way that doesn’t advantage one candidate or another too much,” he said.

But he said the idea of a quick contest with purely mailed-in ballots, as has been floated, would need to be carefully vetted. “We’d have to figure whether this was fraud-proof,” he said on MSNBC.

Asked how he would appeal to Pennsylvania voters who regard Bill Clinton’s years in office as good ones for their economy, Obama said he would give President Clinton his due — but would note that job losses overseas and flat wages go back to his administration.

“Many of those trends started even before George Bush took office,” he said.