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ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Andrea Seabrook.

Barack Obama is trying to defuse the latest wave of attacks against him. The flash point: remarks Obama made this week about how working-class voters in Pennsylvania are bitter about economic issues. Both his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, and the presumptive Republican nominee, John McCain, have laid into Obama, calling him elitist and out of touch with the working class.

That voting block is critical in the upcoming Democratic presidential primaries in Pennsylvania and Indiana.

NPR's Allison Keyes reports.

ALLISON KEYES: The trouble started yesterday when The Huffington Post Web site posted Obama's comments from a San Francisco fundraiser earlier this week. The Illinois senator was talking about the difficulty his campaign faces wooing working-class voters of those states. Obama explained that such voters fell through the economic cracks during the Bush and Clinton administrations and that they're angry because of job losses dating back 25 years.

Here's a bit of the badly distorted audio recording of his remarks:

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois; Presidential Candidate): It's not surprising that they're bitter. They cling to guns or…

KEYES: It's not surprising then, Obama said, they get bitter. They cling to guns or religion or an antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

Clinton's camp lashed out at Obama, declaring that Pennsylvanians don't need a president who looks down on them. She continued her pointed criticism in Indianapolis on this morning.

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York; Presidential Candidate): I was taken aback by the demeaning remarks Sen. Obama made about people in small-town America. Senator Obama's remarks are elitist and they're out of touch. They are not reflective of the values and beliefs of Americans. Certainly not the Americans that I know.

KEYES: The camp of Republican John McCain campaign also leaped to attack Obama's remarks, suggesting that the Harvard-educated attorney showed a breathtaking elitism and condescension toward hard-working Americans.

But Obama is rejecting his opponents' charges that he is out of touch. Obama told a town hall meeting in Indiana today that there's a typical sort of political flare-up because:

Sen. OBAMA: I said something everybody knows is true, which is that there are a whole bunch of folks in small towns in Pennsylvania, in towns right here in Indiana, in my hometown in Illinois, who are bitter. They are angry. They feel like they've been left behind.

KEYES: But Obama he did concede that he could have phrased his thoughts better. Pundits are already speculating about the fallout from this dust-up — at a time when Obama is hoping to solidify his quest for the Democratic nomination with respectable showings in Pennsylvania and Indiana.

Allison Keyes, NPR News, Washington.

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