Obama Criticized for 'Bitter' Blue-Collar Remarks

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At a private fundraiser in San Francisco, Sen. Barack Obama said Pennsylvania's small town voters are bitter about losing jobs and that to explain their frustrations, they "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them." Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. John McCain were quick to characterize the remarks as elitist.

Guests:

Sherry Linkon, co-director of The Center for Working Class Studies at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio

Ruy Teixeira, visiting fellow at Brookings Institute and a senior fellow at the Center for New American Progress and the Century Foundation

Reihan Salam, associate editor at The Atlantic

Reaction to Obama's 'Bitter' Comment Brews

Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on Sunday are attending a "compassion forum" in Pennsylvania. But compassion has been at a premium lately as the two spar over Obama's remarks about how working-class voters are "bitter."

What Obama said was that Pennsylvania's small town voters are bitter about losing jobs and that to explain their frustrations, they "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them."

Obama said Saturday that he deeply regretted if the way in which he worded his statement had offended people.

Much of the talk on the Sunday TV news shows focused on the comment.

"This could be the kind of political issue that Karl Rove and the Republicans use to beat us over the head with and that would be a tragic thing," said Clinton supporter and Indiana Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh on CNN's Late Edition.

Clinton is also giving Obama a verbal thrashing. At a campaign stop on Sunday in Scranton, Pa., Clinton told reporters that Obama's comment was "elitist and divisive."

"What people are looking for is an explanation: What does he really believe? How does he see the people here in this neighborhood, throughout Pennsylvania, Indiana, North Carolina, other places in our country?" Clinton said.

Still, Sunday's Scranton Times Tribune endorsed Obama, calling Clinton "a political lightning rod."

Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Bob Casey has also endorsed Obama, and he assured CNN's Late Edition on Sunday that voters in his state's primary a week from Tuesday will not judge Obama by one statement.

"I think they understand the point he was trying to make, and I think that in the end, they're going to vote for one or the other candidate based upon who they are, their record," Casey says. "I have great confidence as we go forward, Barack Obama's values, his heart, his commitment to his faith and his commitment to change is going be a significant factor in him being the nominee," Casey said.

And on the Internet, a video clip is now circulating of Obama talking about the same kind of blue-collar voters with interviewer Charlie Rose in November 2004.

Pollster and Franklin and Marshall College political scientist Terry Madonna says Obama has a lot more explaining to do before the April 22 Pennsylvania primary.

"Unless he figures out a way to explain it in manner that makes more sense, I think this is probably going to damage his campaign in this state," Madonna said.

Madonna said tonight's forum in Pennsylvania and a debate on Wednesday could be Obama's best chances to make further explanations.

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