Sunday, April 13, 2008

Analysis: Is this the opening that Sen. Clinton has needed?

MISHAWAKA, Ind. - A political tempest over Barack Obama's comments about bitter voters in small towns has given rival Hillary Rodham Clinton a new opening to court working class Democrats 10 days before Pennsylvanians hold a primary that she must win to keep her presidential campaign alive.

Obama tried to quell the furor Saturday, explaining his remarks while also conceding he had chosen his words poorly.

"If I worded things in a way that made people offended, I deeply regret that," Obama said in an interview with the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal.

But the Clinton campaign fueled the controversy in every place and every way it could, hoping charges that Obama is elitist and arrogant will resonate with the swing voters the candidates are vying for not only in Pennsylvania, but in upcoming primaries in Indiana and North Carolina as well.

Political insiders differed on whether Obama's comments, which came to light Friday, would become a full-blown political disaster that could prompt party leaders to try to steer the nomination to Clinton even though Obama has more pledged delegates. Clinton supporters were eagerly hoping so.

They handed out "I'm not bitter" stickers in North Carolina, and held a conference call of Pennsylvania mayors to denounce the Illinois senator. In Indiana, Clinton did the work herself, telling plant workers in Indianapolis that Obama's comments were "elitist and out of touch."

At issue are comments he made privately at a fundraiser in San Francisco last Sunday. He was trying to explain his troubles winning over some working-class voters, saying they have become frustrated with economic conditions:

"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."

The comments, posted Friday on The Huffington Post Web site, set off a blast of criticism from Clinton, Republican nominee-in-waiting John McCain and other GOP officials, and drew attention to a potential Obama weakness — the image some have that the Harvard-trained lawyer is arrogant and aloof.

His campaign scrambled to defuse possible damage.

There has been a small "political flare-up because I said something that 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," Obama said Saturday morning at a town hall-style meeting at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. "They are angry. They feel like they have been left behind. They feel like nobody is paying attention to what they're going through.

"So I said, well you know, when you're bitter you turn to what you can count on. So people, they vote about guns, or they take comfort from their faith and their family and their community. And they get mad about illegal immigrants who are coming over to this country."
After acknowledging his previous remarks in California could have been better phrased, he added:

"The truth is that these traditions that are passed on from generation to generation, those are important. That's what sustains us. But what is absolutely true is that people don't feel like they are being listened to."

Clinton attacked Obama's remarks much more harshly Saturday than she had the night before, calling them "demeaning." Her aides feel Obama has given them a big opening, pulling the spotlight away from troublesome stories such as former President Clinton's recent revisiting of his wife's misstatements about an airport landing in Bosnia 10 years ago.

Obama is trying to focus attention narrowly on his remarks, arguing there's no question that some working-class families are anxious and bitter. The Clinton campaign is parsing every word, focusing on what Obama said about religion, guns, immigration and trade.

Clinton hit all those themes in lengthy comments to manufacturing workers in Indianapolis.
"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," she said.

"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," Clinton added.

"People don't need a president who looks down on them," she said. "They need a president who stands up for them."

McCain's campaign piled on Obama, releasing a statement that also accused him of elitism.

One of Clinton's staunchest supporters, Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., acknowledged there was some truth in Obama's remarks. But he said Republicans would use them against him anyway.

At a campaign rally in Wilson, N.C., former state Democratic Party chairman and current Clinton adviser Tom Hendrickson said rural voters don't need "liberal elites" telling them what to believe.

Bill Clinton was the featured speaker of the rally but avoided commenting on Obama's remarks. When asked about it afterward, he said simply, "I agree with what Hillary said."
___
Jim Kuhnhenn reported from Muncie, Ind. Associated Press writer Mike Baker in Wilson, N.C., contributed to this report.

COMPASSION FORUM (CNN) 7:00 our time Sunday. Clinton, Obama, McCain (invited). The presidential candidate forum on faith, values and current issues at Messiah College.

(Study and review a little bit more tonight)

29 comments:

tomj said...

Well I'm not a huge fan of Hillary Clinton, but I think this is the boost she need in order to help bring her back into the race. It seems to me that Barack Obama has been "accidently" insulting people through his whole primary campaign. Isn't it the job of his campaign staff to make sure that what he says and his speeches couldn't offend people? In a way I see this as a flaw in his staff and can see people not voting for him for seeing this the same whay

joannaz said...

This "bitter" comment is the opening that Senator Clinton needed to slow down the rate at which Senator Obama is closing the gap in Pennsylvania. Sen. Clinton was always going to win Pennsylvania, but now she may do so with a greater margin. This comment may help her in states like Indiana as well, but this story is only going to last as long as the news networks want it to. In a week, Clinton or Obama or McCain will slip up and it will be a new story that the news pundits will be making into headline news. The comment may help Clinton a little more in Pennsylvania, but in the long run, this comment won't have much of an impact.

Vlad said...

Appearing as a liberal elitist is what causes the Democrats to lose the presidential race. Obama's statement is exactly what Clinton needs and because she needs to win Pennsylvania and the other states, she is bleeding this dry. This may be a tie breaker in Indiana. It's funny that Clinton and Obama say he's above the people when Obama's worth $1.3 million; McCain, $40.4 million; and Clinton, well..... $$$$$$$$ million. (Source: CNN Money) Also here is an article about elitism, Daily Kos (Corey, shield your eyes!).

aly mac said...

Yes, I believe this is the opening that Senator Clinton needed to slow down Obama's gain. The comments Obama made I believe will alienate him from the working class in Pennsylvania and could potentially hurt him in the long run. If he doesn't change people's view of him as an "elitist", this could be disastrous for him running in Indiana. However, if the news doesn't play this story up a lot, this whole issue could disappear quickly. But, I do feel his comment will have some negative effect on him.

MorganJ said...

I think that Clinton needed to excel in previous states and have a steady campaign strategy more than she needed this opening. While I believe this will help Hilary in Pennsylvania, I do not believe it will be enough to win the Democratic nomination—which is the ultimate goal.

I agree with Joanna that this story will be over as soon as the media says so.

Also, I have a feeling that the Obama campaign will turn this negative into a positive (like what they have been doing in this entire race). They'll advocate that Obama is not perfect, and bitter over how our country is being run... and is not so much bitterness as it is frustration to see a change.

I don't know, I just think that this race between Obama and Clinton is being dragged out WAY too long, so much so, that it is hurting the Democratic Party.

RyanO said...

I think that it will help Clinton in her short term goals, however I don't think that it will affect him in the long run, considering how great of a speaker he is. He often takes controversial positions in his speeches for the audience he is speaking to, and he was bound to cross the line sooner or later (not that I think he crossed the line).

KellyH said...

The controversy of the week isn't enough for Senator Clinton to fully break through and secure the nomination. It will be enough to possibly enlarge the amount she wins Pennsylvania by, but it isn't a very large opening. Although Clinton will continue to bring this up as long as possible, probably gaining her quite a few votes, in a week or so the media will turn back to her and a slip-up on her part; McCain and Obama will attack her, and she will be on the defensive again. Unfortunately, it's a cat-and-mouse game that probably won't end until the convention.

JamieW said...

I will be 100% honest,
I wish that the nominee would be selected soon. I am sick of hearing the back and forth nonsense in the media. Anything could sway votes, but both of them have a knack of staying in the race. Clinton should just drop out and then everything would be solved.

cmorgan said...

Clinton is desperate. She is grasping at everything she can get her hands upon to stay in this race. The people may not have enjoyed the "bitter" phrase that Barack Obama announced at his California speech, but there is truth to his words. In the end this might give Sen. Clinton a larger advantage in Pennsylvania, but in the long run it won't matter. She should just admit defeat and let the democratic party start to prepare for the upcoming election. Her decision to persist in this failing campaign is just wasting the precious time that the Democrats need to have a chance against McCain who has been campaigning across the country. So in conclusion, no I do not believe this is the opening that Sen. Clinton needed because there are no openings left for her. She's done.

mente said...

No. I don't think that Obama's comment will have any lasting effect, which means that it is not the opening Clinton has needed. It's the same situation as every other time either candidate has said something that could "offensive" to some group of people: the opposing candidate will exploit it every chance they get until people get bored and are in need to something new to get angry about, and in the process few voters are swayed away from one candidate to the other. And those who are swayed are flaky voters who really won't decide who they're going to vote for until they're in the booth looking at the ballot.

jamieg said...

Sad as it is, pretty much anything either of the democratic candidates say could that could be potentially offensive will definitely help the other candidate at this point, when everybody's paying attention to everything they say and looking for some reason to vote a certain way (that is, if they haven't already decided).
Senator Obama was really just stupid for being careless and saying something that could be taken in an insulting way. At least he's sticking by what he said and just agreeing that the way it was phrased was harsh.
The fact that Clinton has picked this up so strongly shows just how desperate she is to sway the voters in any way possible, but hopefully it won't change anything too much.
And I have to agree with the other Jamie. I wish Clinton would just drop out already and let it go. It's agreed upon enough among the public that Obama has a better chance agains McCain than she does (with some republicans going out to vote for her just to try and make Obama lose primaries). If she would suck it up and drop out, and Obama could be the Democratic Candiate, he could be spending his time working on campaigning for the presidency like McCain has been. As it is, when one of the Democrats is finally chosen he or she will be way behind in campaigning.

Erica t said...

Like many other students, I definitely agree that this whole thing will blow over in no time and it will have little to no effect on anybody in the long run. Clinton is most definitely grasping at straws for anything to attack Obama on. I, too am sick of this back-and-forth nonsense between them and I wish Obama would just be nominated already. I mean... I'm leaving this comment entirely unbiasedly? Heh.
Anyway, Hillary's petty claims and criticisms are no match for Barack's strong and persuading speaking skills. Fin.

katiekso said...

I think that Obama's comments will give Hilary Clinton a valuable opening but not a big enough one. Many candidates in the past have been in bigger scandals then this and it didn't necessarily mean the end of their campaign. I think this won't harm Obama as much as the Clinton campaign may hope. Clinton herself has been caught lying on several situations now and she hasn't had a huge drop in the polls. Clinton is definitely playing this up as much as possible. However, I feel it isn’t the opening she needs.

amandak said...

I think that this will have a negative impact on Obama's campaign in Pennsylvania and Indiana, but I don't think it will be big enough to make a difference in the long run. I think that Senator Clinton's reaction also exemplies an aspect of her that people don't like. In my admittedly biased opinion I think that her desperation to cling onto this little faux pas shows that she is willing to do anything to win this nomination, even if she does so at the cost of the Democratic party.

arletap said...

Unfortunately for her, Sen. Clinton will not be any closer to victory thanks to Sen. Obama's "bitter" comment. It's guarenteed that as a public official, meanings may be miscontrued and the intent of a sentence amy be lost. Media is fickle -- victims become martyrs and vice versa. As she continues to bring attention to it, Sen. Clinton must be careful since, like everyone's said, the back-and-forth is disliked by all.

ericag said...

I totallly agree with Jamie W. I think any thing any the canidates say is going to sway someones vote. I do wish that someone will just win already. I also think that Cliton can do any worse than she has done in the past so I think the numbers are going to go up no matter what

Angelina said...

I must agree with Jamie West. I'm getting sick and tired of hearing who's ahead and who is behind. And I'm sick of all the drama about each canidate. And lastly, good for Clinton if this is the opening she has needed.

shannond said...

Senator Obama's wife is unAmerican, he is a muslim, and he is an elitist. Senator Obama, along with everybody else in the entire world, cannot possibly effectively express what he truely means 100% of the time. This is not the first slip up he has made, yet he still has very loyal supporters. I think Obama supporters will vote Obama and Clinton supporters will vote Clinton. Even if Clinton wins Pennsylvania, it is doubtful she will win over 143 delegates out of 158 total to place her above Obama. CNN.com even says that Obama is "gaining on Clinton" in Pennsylvania. So all in all, a politician worded a statement incorrectly and people are taking it the wrong way. I can't say that Hillary won't benefit off of it but I for one would not change my vote because of that comment.

Erica C said...

Sen. Clinton needs every opportunity to gain votes that she can get. Obama's comment is definitely going affect her campaign positively, but how much can it really hurt him? He's already battled through criticism about Rev. Wright and plagiarism and was still gaining voters in PA. How much could this one slip-up really hurt him? Probably not much.

Johnny B said...

Senator Clinton does need something to gain momentum against Senator Obama. Because PA is getting closer and closer, this may be the best opportunity that she will get. I personally do not believe that what Obama said is that bad. Yet I would agree that this can be made into an opening for Clinton.

I was never really into politics before this election, so it seems every day something else happens to show how important it is to get ahead and make the opponent fail. With that said, Clinton will probably try to use this to her advantage as much as she can. And although I don't want to admit it, this probably IS the opening she needs.

Tom B. said...

I think Clinton should take every chance she can get to get some votes. While the domocrats are duking it out im just sitting bak and watching my boy Johnny Mac make himself look good to the public.So yes,this is great for Clinton and the republican party that she is doing better.

Adam L said...

I don't think Obama was wrong to say that the working class is bitter. Many are and it doesn't demean them. Yes If Hillary has any shot of being the candidate, this is her opening. I still feel that Obama has less negative connotations than Hillary. I feel she will run with the negative campaign strategy. When she was in the lead she didn't need to, but now that she is in need she will pull out all the stops.

rebeccas said...

I think it's an opening, but I do not think it will have a huge effect. I'm not a big fan of religion or guns so I'm not the best gauge of how offensive the remark is. I think Clinton will milk it for all it's worth, though. And, of course, the remark will put off some people who might otherwise vote for Obama. But how many insanely religious gun-loving democrats/liberals are there? I don't see the remark causing much trouble until the general election.

(side note on the Compassion forum: My father and I watched it and I got to hear him complain about how ridiculous it was for about two hours after we stopped watching it. Thank you CNN.)

CassieH said...

Yes. I think it will help Hillary for the time being. But, eventually it will turn into old forgetten news

newkirk said...

I think that the statement that Obama made will help Hillary with PA. But i do agree with Gallo that no matter what a candidate says it can be changed to be against or for another cadidate. From what I hear Hillary isn't doing so hott anyways, so this statement is going to help her. Enough to win the nomination i'm doubting it but you never know what could happen.

Alex D said...

Do think that in a few weeks will all of this will blow over? Of course, however Pen. was beginning to become a close race and Indiana is also close, and in a few weeks it may have blown over but it is also the election. I think that this is the opening Clinton has been waiting for. This has become a big deal around the country, just imagine how much publicity it has been gathering in Penn. and Ind! For the average voter, like my parents picking up the paper, this could be the push to have them maybe lean a little more towards Hillary, and the primary is coming up. (disclaimer: I would never allow my parents to vote for either Obama or HIllary) I think that it will blow over, but it will have a large effect on the up coming races, and that makes a huge impact since Hillary needs to do well in the upcoming states.

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Jbyko10 said...

So, I do not believe that this is going to boost Clinton. However, I do believe Hillary Clinton is more powerful than what we have seen so far. So maybe this will jump start that power. I feel that Clinton is just sitting back waiting for the right time to attack and maybe this is it.

MorganJ said...

So I was watching CSPAN last night and there was this mayor on, Lou Barletta (R-Penn.). He was talking about illegal immigration and how it's a problem that needs to be fixed. He had people calling in asking some prettying interesting questions. One that sparked my interest was about the health care plans of the running Democratic presidential candidates and if their "universal" health care plan covers illegal immigrants... I didn't really get a clean cut answer. If anyone knows the answer could you please let me know.

The more I watched, the more I liked this guy and his ideas about illegal immigrants. I found out that he's running for Congress in the next election. And after reading more about him, I found out that in his district of Penn. he won both the Republican and Democratic nominations...Mr. Bretzmann, has that ever happened before, where a member of one political party has won both parties nominations???

Anyways, I thought it was pretty interesting because I feel that illegal immigration is a problem in our country, and I would like to see something done about it. I hope to see Barletta in the next Congress and to watch his advocation of his plans to eliminate ILLEGAL immigration and to make the process of becoming LEGAL more efficient.