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Stressing the need "for Americans to come together" even when they disagree about particular issues, Barack Obama responded on Thursday to the outcry over his decision to give Pastor Rick Warren the honor of delivering the invocation at Obama's upcoming inauguration ceremony.

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I long for a candidate who would ''focus like a laser beam'' on the economy. That's what voters are doing as they see their paychecks shrink from inflation, their jobs threatened and their middle-class dreams diminished.

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A mini-kerfuffle has erupted over the fact that John McCain did not wait his turn in the Saddleback Church's "cone of silence," the soundproofed space backstage at the California church where he was to have waited while Barack Obama answered the Rev. Rick Warren's questions during Saturday's Q&A session. According to Warren, McCain was in a Secret Service motorcade, not at the church, during most of his rival's turn on the hot seat.

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