As he battles for the Democratic nomination, Senator Barack Obama is trying to strengthen his support among Jewish voters and in doing so, is navigating one of the more treacherous paths of Democratic politics.
The challenge of meeting the concerns of the Jewish electorate, a cornerstone of the Democratic base, was evident Tuesday when Mr. Obama was asked at the Democratic debate in Cleveland about Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader who has endorsed him.
Mr. Obama called Mr. Farrakhan an anti-Semite and denounced his support, but was pressed to go further by his rival, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, an experienced hand at Democratic politics who herself has been on the defensive with Jewish voters after an encounter in 2000 with Suha Arafat, the wife of the Palestinian leader.
Mr. Obama has also faced criticism over remarks he made about the suffering of Palestinians ”” remarks he says were incorrectly reported ”” and about who is advising him on foreign affairs. And he has had to beat back false tales, spread in viral e-mail messages, that he is a Muslim who attended a madrassa in Indonesia as a boy and was sworn into office on the Koran. In fact, he is a Christian who was sworn in on a Bible.