So, how about that Obama, eh?

Times Staff Writer

President Bush, in public settings, regularly refuses to discuss the 2008 presidential campaign. But would the same hold true for Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, the president of Tanzania, when asked at a joint news conference Sunday what Barack Obama's political progress said about America?

Before the African leader could respond, Bush, who is on a five-nation trip to the continent, suggested that Kikwete might want to temper his remarks.

The reporter who raised the issue, Bush noted, knew not to ask him because he wouldn't answer.

"I don't think I can venture into that territory, either," Kikwete said in the sweltering garden of the official State House on the shores of the Indian Ocean.

But he continued: "Of course, people talk with excitement of Obama," who seeks to be the first African American nominated for the presidency by a major American party.

Then, edging away diplomatically, Kikwete said: "For us, the most important thing is, let him be as good [a] friend of Africa as President Bush has been."

Obama, whose father was born in neighboring Kenya and who has relatives there, may indeed be prompting excitement in Africa, but an unscientific sampling of opinion on a Dar es Salaam street at dusk found no unanimity of support for him.

One person said he'd never heard of the Democratic senator from Illinois.

Another, Hangimkitbo Kulwa Kulwa, 26, said: "Mr. Obama is a good person. We like him, of course."

But as in the United States, there was support, too, for the leading Republican candidate, Arizona Sen. John McCain.

"My thinking is Mr. McCain . . . for helping the African continent," said Cheddy Ntulwe, 31. "He's good on security."

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james.gerstenzang@latimes.com

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