Barack Obama back in Chicago after world trip

7/27/2008 CHICAGO

This is the senator's first appearance after his trip overseas.

The whole point of this trip was to bolster Barack Obama's foreign credentials and to make him look presidential. And while he certainly succeeded in wooing European crowds, for the time being at least, it seems being away from the national stage here at home, actually hurt him in some places.

Barack Obama is back home in Chicago. He arrived at Midway Airport on a flight from London where the he met with British officials on the last leg of his weeklong tour to the Middle East and Europe. Talks with British officials spanned a wide range of issues and included this candid moment with conservative leader David Cameron, when neither man knew the microphones where already on.

Cameron asks, "have you had any time off?" and Obama answered, "no, taking a week off in August."

But taking time off may not be such a good idea. While Obama was away on a trip that was meant to make him look presidential, senator John McCain has been hammering away at him on the campaign trail and over the airwaves.

A TV ad says: "...He voted against funding for our troops. And now he made time to go to the gym, but cancelled a visit with wounded troops. Seems the Pentagon wouldn't allow him to bring cameras."

McCain's strategy may be working. Polls show the Arizona senator gaining a bit in some key states. Obama was asked about that before leaving London.

"I wouldn't be surprised that in some polls that you say a little bit of dip as a consequence. We have been out of the country for a week," Obama said.

Obama's speech today will be delivered before a gathering of nearly 7,000 minority journalists from around the country. John McCain was also asked to speak before the conference, being held here at McCormick Place, but he declined the invitation.

ABC7 spoke to some of those journalists who will attend Obama's speech. They told us what they would like to hear from the candidate.

"It's just a learning opportunity. I would have liked to have seen John McCain as well. Unfortunately he's not here. At any case, there is an opportunity to hear and listen. I'm on the opinion news side of the business. We want to see what their agenda is, what he learned from Europe, and explore his issues. Certainly he has moved to the center quite a bit," said David Plazas.

"I'm hoping to hear about his visits overseas. After the reception that he got in Germany. I'm interested in hearing his take on that," said Banessh Shelton.

Update from Unity address

In his first public appearance since returning to the United States, Barack Obama says Afghanistan's weak government and rampant drug trafficking are hampering efforts to fight al-Qaida terrorists who often take refuge in neighboring Pakistan.

But conditions in Iraq are improving, the Democratic presidential hopeful told hundreds of minority journalists Sunday after returning from Europe and the Middle East.

American troops have helped stabilize Iraq and consolidate political progress among that country's factions.

But Obama says that in Afghanistan, more American troops are needed to stabilize the area and that Pakistan must do more to deny terrorists a safe haven.

We'll have more on Obama's address tonight on ABC7 News at 5 PM.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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