Asked to name a mistake, Sen. Barack Obama cited his position toward one of the most polarizing figures in recent Florida politics: Terri Schiavo.
During the first televised debate with his Democratic rivals for president, Obama said he regretted not fighting Republican-led efforts in March 2005 to reconnect the brain-damaged woman's feeding tube.
"A lot of us, including me, left the Senate with a bill that allowed Congress to intrude where it shouldn't have,'' he said on MSNBC. "I think I should have stayed in the Senate and fought more for making sure that families make those decisions, and not bureaucrats and politicians.''
The former constitutional law professor went on vacation for the congressional Easter recess and did not return to the Capitol, where a mostly empty Senate approved a House measure allowing Schiavo's parents to go back to court.
Most voters opposed government intervention in the case. Obama has publicly expressed misgivings before, but never in such a high-profile setting.