Speaking today in Indianapolis, IN Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton continued to pummel Barack Obama for his comment about working class Pennsylvania voters’ economic frustration. Obama said, “It’s not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
Clinton, ever the political opportunist, painted herself as religious, gun loving gal. “You know, Americans who believe in the Second Amendment believe it’s a matter of Constitutional rights. Americans who believe in God believe it is a matter of personal faith. Americans who believe in protecting good American jobs believe it is a matter of the American Dream. When my dad grew up it was in a working class family in Scranton. I grew up in a church-going family, a family that believed in the importance of living out and expressing our faith.”
Clinton slammed Obama’s characterization of rural Pennsylvanians clinging to guns or religion. “The people of faith I know don’t “cling to” religion because they’re bitter. People embrace faith not because they are materially poor, but because they are spiritually rich. Our faith is the faith of our parents and our grandparents. It is a fundamental expression of who we are and what we believe. I also disagree with Senator Obama’s assertion that people in this country “cling to guns” and have certain attitudes about immigration or trade simply out of frustration. People of all walks of life hunt – and they enjoy doing so because it’s an important part of their life, not because they are bitter.”
Boy, I think it is pretty easy to see why Clinton is going to win Pennsylvania. She may be a duplicitous political shape shifter, but she understands that Democrats and Republicans in PA love to hunt. Pennsylvania is a Democratic state, but it is one where religion is important. Obama’s comments were offensive and stupid. It is easy to forget sometimes that Barack Obama is a political novice on the national stage. Sometimes he seems to forget about the spotlight on him. These types of comments were what allowed Hillary Clinton build a big lead last year.
I am glad to see that Obama backed off of his comments today, but if he wants respect, he needs to come to the rural part of the state and apologize to voters. Obama doesn’t seem to understand why his message hasn’t resonated with voters outside of the Philadelphia area, the reason why is that for 25 years national candidate have been coming to the state and speaking their flowery prose and offering promises, but after the election we are forgotten again. The people in most of the state want more than promises about change. They want to know how you are going bring jobs here.
Obama’s biggest problem is that he is supposed to be the candidate who can unify the country. He can’t afford to engage in rhetoric that will divide the nation between blue and white collar workers. I am no Hillary Clinton fan, but when she’s right, she’s right.
This is the kind of self inflicted would that could destroy Obama’s momentum in the state. He was trending in the right direction here, but if he doesn’t do something fast, Clinton could reopen her big lead. Beyond April 22 if Obama goes on to be the nominee, he will need Pennsylvania in the fall. Demographically, this is a state that McCain could do well in. The last thing Obama needs is to tick off, PA’s older blue collar Democrats.