Barack Obama’s flip side revealed April 14, 2008Posted by koreanpower999 in 2008 Elections, Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, working class vote.
add a comment
POLITICO; by Carrie Budoff Brown; 4/13/08
Barack Obama’s remarks on small town America were an off-key note from a politician who has rocketed to the top by being brilliantly on-key.
At the same time, the comments were not a total departure: On the campaign trail, Obama can reveal moments of aloofness or tone deaf reactions that belie his image as the epitome of polished.
At 46, Obama carries a political persona that draws on many origins. He is the son of a single mother who grew up middle class in Hawaii and worked as a community organizer in the poorest neighborhoods of Chicago. But he is also the Harvard Law Review president who knows well — occasionally too well — that he is smart and successful.
Part of the appeal to many Democrats is an intellect that allows him to discuss difficult issues with sophistication and candor, as he did in Philadelphia with his speech on race. But his remarks at a private San Francisco fundraiser amplified the flip side of his personal manner, a sort of freestyle rhetorical approach sometimes better suited for a dorm room bull session.
Obama fielded almost identical questions from the donors in San Francisco as he does from voters across the country. Yet his answers in the more intimate — and in his view, off the record — gathering were a bit more revealing.
Asked what he would seek in a running mate, Obama said despite the conventional wisdom, he wouldn’t need somebody with military expertise because “foreign policy is the area where I am probably most confident that I know more and understand the world better than Sen. Clinton or Sen. McCain.”
And then there was the question from donors who asked what they could expect in Pennsylvania when they traveled there to campaign for him. They had to work to do, Obama responded, because voters in a lot of the communities feel beaten down by job losses and betrayed by their government.
“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,” Obama said.
The remarks, recorded at the Sunday fundraiser by a Huffington Post blogger and published Friday, opened a fresh round of scrutiny about Obama’s ability to connect with blue-collar workers.
“What I found to be most revealing was that these remarks were made several thousand miles from us, at a very expensive fundraising campaign event in a very upscale location where he did not think any of us were going to hear what he would say,” said Harrisburg Mayor Stephen R. Reed, a Clinton supporter. “It invites the question of what else does this candidate think about all the different people who make up our redder, diverse nation.”
David Axelrod, Obama’s chief strategist, pointed to the senator’s expressions of regret for the way he phrased his remarks.
“Did he choose his words poorly? Yes,” Axelrod said. “Does it reflect something larger? Absolutely not. Those who are trying to portray it that way are disingenuous.”
Indeed, he has won liberal states and conservative states, wealthy states and poor states. And he has been masterful at attracting millions of new voters and donors to the Democratic Party, and building fierce loyalty within his campaign operation and among his legions of supporters with a message of bridging racial, religious and cultural divides.
But for all of the pitch-perfect performances over the past 15 months, Obama can come across as detached at moments when he should identify, as scolding when he should allow incidents to roll off his back, as misunderstood when he says one thing but means another.
At a New Hampshire roundtable in December, Obama betrayed little emotion as one participant sobbed while describing her situation: She lost her job on her 65th birthday, struggles to afford her $2,900 monthly prescription drug costs, and lives in 30-year-old trailer where the thermostat is set at 64 degrees.
At the same event, he later mentioned how the success of his book had allowed him to buy a big house. He was making a point about inequities in the tax system, but the story felt misplaced in the midst of such dire tales.
Just before the Iowa caucus, Obama began telling voters about a phone conversation with his wife, who said this year was the right time to run for president because they are “still almost normal.” She meant that before her husband became a U.S. senator and received a $1.9 million book advance, they juggled school loans, grocery shopping and mortgage payments like other middle-class families.
“Michelle’s point was, in eight years from now, 10 years from now, we may still be nice people, but we may be in this orbit where we just don’t remember, we don’t hear people’s voices anymore,” Obama explained at the time.
Two women in the Sioux City audience were not impressed.
“That was a mistake,” said Lindsay Pelchat, 30. “That was a big mistake.”
“Don’t ever forget where you come from,” her friend, Paula Yasat, 53, piped in.
“Does that mean in the next election he’s already going to start losing sight of the middle class?” Pelchat asked.
The women approached Obama afterward to tell him they remained undecided.
“What do I need to do?” Obama asked, almost disbelieving. “You’re really making us work.”
At a February town hall meeting in Racine, Wis., Obama showed little patience for a rowdy crowd. When one young man asked for his views on Native American rights and “people getting screwed” by NAFTA, Obama took a sharp tone.
“I’m sorry, young man, you have a series of different questions and why don’t you ask your questions in a more polite fashion,” Obama said.
An aide later said that Obama, who was on his last stop before a trip home to Chicago, appeared irritated because was anxious to see his family.
Reacting in mid-February to Clinton’s charges that he was all talk, Obama offered a confident self-assessment, one that might sound arrogant to some. “It’s true I give a good speech. What can I do? Nothing wrong with that.”
Obama infuriated supporters of former Sen. John Edwards by continuing to use him as a punch line on the stump even after he left the race. And New York magazine reported last month that Obama blew the endorsement, in part, because he came across as “glib and aloof” during a phone conversation on the day that Edwards dropped out.
Cass R. Sunstein, a former colleague of Obama’s at the University of Chicago law school, said the characterizations by Obama opponents of him as elitist is “laughable,” and the charge of him as condescending “aren’t features of his personality.”
But he allowed that Obama, like anybody under a nearly 24-hour-a-day microscope, can slip up.
“He is a real person,” Sunstein said. “He is not programmed in the way that some political candidates have been in the past. The moment-by-moment scrutiny is surely less familiar for him than it has been for people who have been facing this kind of scrutiny for a longer time.”
Obama’s Great Mistake, The “San Francisco Democrat” April 13, 2008Posted by koreanpower999 in 2008 Elections, Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, Uncategorized, working class vote.
add a comment
Real Clear Politics; by David Paul Kuhn; April 13, 2008
It’s difficult to underestimate the enduring impact of Barack Obama’s “bitter” remark. The day after John Kerry blurted that he “actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it” Vice President Dick Cheney ripped into the Democratic nominee and GOP strategists were already envisioning a new ad featuring the gaffe, intent on undercutting Kerry’s character as a flip-flopper.
That week, four years ago, there were no banner headlines in major American newspapers declaring a turning point in the presidential race. Soon after the remark Kerry took a break from the campaign and skied at a resort in Idaho, a trip that added the air of elitism to Kerry’s already sundered grit.
The Bush campaign had effectively won the campaign. It was only mid March.
In time we will know the gravity of Obama’s recent comment that many Americans in the small towns across the Midwest “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment” because they are “bitter” over economic anxiety.
Obama’s opponents have pounced. Hillary Clinton told plant workers that the comments were “elitist and out of touch.” John McCain agreed. The Republican National Committee sent out more than
10 emails to political reporters in the 24 hours after the comments were made public, pushing the storyline that Obama is, you guessed it, an elitist. The Democratic National Committee’s press shop was silent.
Manufactured disgust, all too prevalent in our politics today, should not be mistaken for the legitimate disgust. Obama has caused some legitimate disgust. And he should heed that disgust, and heed it fast.
He is not, however. Instead Obama stays true to character, tepidly combative and totally cool. Obama has stood by the remark. He has said that he could have been more rhetorically tactful — a defense reminiscent of Kerry’s explanation.
Political attacks work when they reinforce real perceptions. They become narratives when built on enough anecdotes. And those attacks can become critical when they seem to confirm long-held partisan stereotypes. Obama has just provided what may prove to be the keystone in the arc of Republican attacks.
Obama expounded Saturday on his remark. “Everybody knows” that his comment “is true,” Obama stated. There are “a whole bunch of folks in small towns” who “feel like they have been left behind.”
That is true. But that’s not the issue now haunting his bid for the presidency.
Obama inferred that rural Americans stance on religion, guns, or immigration is an outcome of economic determinism. The line of thought: Middle American Joe struggles to make his bills, Democrats don’t offer economic answers, Republicans con Joe to care more about cultural issues than answers, and GOP dominants the White House for four decades.
What’s The Matter With Obama’s Words, Not Kansas
“They don’t vote on economic issues because they don’t expect anybody’s going to help them,” Obama said, in an attempt to contextualize his remark. “So people end up, you know, voting on issues like guns” or “gay marriage” or “take refuge in their faith.”
To many liberals this all makes perfect sense. Indeed Obama’s perspective is the prevailing viewpoint in Democratic circles. And this is what’s the matter with a party that has accepted “What’s the Matter with Kansas” as gospel.
No book has more influenced Democratic thought in recent years. The premise is that because Democrats stopped representing working and middle class voters’ economic concerns, “dropping the class language that once distinguished them sharply from Republicans they have left themselves vulnerable to wedge issues.”
Obama has merely reiterated the prevailing lesson Democrats have taken from Republicans victories in seven of the last ten presidential elections.
The crux of the argument is that American liberals should become more like European liberals in order to win back America. The book was a case for Democrats to get voters to think more in terms of money than culture. Frank argued Democrats should emulate the economic populism that failed to win any of William Jennings Bryan’s three bids for the presidency.
But that’s merely poor tactics. What is always so offensive to regular Americans is the presumption that if she is offered better tax policies she won’t care any longer about abortion. And the viewpoint holds from one issue to the next: offer rural white men rhetoric that reminds them that they are working class and he’ll accept that the Second Amendment only referred to militias.
Then there is the exhibited ignorance. Of course families who struggle financially care more about moral values, they are more likely to experience the breakdown of the family. In other words, cultural issues are not a substitute for economic concerns, as Obama argues, but inseparable from many concerned by their economic struggle.
All of this is exactly the sort of mistake Democrats have been making for decades. How many times can some leading liberals live up to the culturally elitist charge without considering that perhaps there is some electricity behind the charge?
What Dogmatic Liberals Miss, and Realist Liberals Get?
Liberals certainly, when compared to conservatives, concern themselves more with the economic anxieties of the working and middle class, like tax policy. But Republicans concern themselves more with their cultural anxieties, from “cultural pollution” to guns to abortion.
Many liberals get rural America so wrong because, as The Pew Research Center for People and the Press found, not only do “most Liberals live in a world apart from Disadvantaged Democrats and Conservative Democrats,” but also rural voters.
Pew’s 2005 typology study found that liberals are the least religious group, more than one-third are never married, they are the most urban, and the least likely to have a gun in the home or attend bible study or a prayer group. About all they have in common with rural voters is their race, more than eight in ten liberals are white.
Obama’s base among white voters is already disproportionately from liberals and those who have at least a college education.
On the campaign trail he has seemed like a member of the liberal elk before. Last year he responded to an Iowa farmers concerns about crop prices by asking if “anybody gone into Whole Foods lately and see what they charge for arugula?” There are no Whole Foods in Iowa. Recently Obama tried to bowl in Pennsylvania and looked like the sort of Democrat who thinks of Whole Foods when discussing crop prices. Now Obama talks about what drives rural voters’ cultural concerns and ends up looking like the kind of Democrat who bowls a 37 in seven frames. Soon there is a storyline. The silly is now serious.
It seems that every time Obama makes a mistake he brings it up again, offers context, laughs about it, and then defends by it. No matter, the bowling and arugula mistakes were still small time. But the bitter remark was a game changer.
What must be disheartening to some Democrats is that on other occasions Obama has shown pinpoint insight into the voters Democrats lost in recent decades. In his seminal race speech, written by Obama, he said that “most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch.”
No other major Democrat has uttered such words in recent memory. It was a beginning. That beginning is now deeply undercut.
To boot, Obama already had problems with small town voters. In the Appalachia region of Ohio Clinton won over 65 percent of the vote.
Obama has put out advertising in Pennsylvania to emphasize that his values are the same as regular folk’s values. But then this comes out, and it appears Obama misunderstands how regular Americans arrive at their values.
History Does Not Repeat, But Liberals Ensure it Rhymes
That Obama’s bitter remark occurred before a crowd of wealthy San Francisco Democrats made his gaffe all the more sophomoric. The progressive party never seems to look back enough.
It was not the first time Obama lived up to Jeane Kirkpatrick’s branding of “San Francisco Democrats.”
Reminiscent of Michael Dukakis and the pledge of allegiance, Obama stopped wearing a flag on his lapel because it “became a substitute for” what is “true patriotism.” Michele Obama’s aside about her newfound pride as an American, watching this race, didn’t help matters. Neither did the video of Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
The patriotism mistakes will matter. He is not doing much to refute Kirkpatrick’s other zinger from that same 1984 speech: that Democrats are supposedly the “blame America first” party.
But I’m not sure any of those mistakes, even Wright, will matter as much as the bitter remark. After all, it came from Obama.
At some point Democratic intellectuals need to come to the consensus that they did not get defeated in recent decades simply because Republicans “framed” issues better, or appealed better to voters emotions, or because Democrats have not found their inner Bryan. Every cycle there is an “it theory” popular within the Democratic chattering class.
Now there is some truth to each thesis. But not the great truth: Democrats lost their majority because they lost touch with that “silent majority.” Richard Nixon may have been paranoid but paranoids are not always dumb. Some of this “silent majority’s” concerns were not sexist, or racist, but wholly real and as Obama himself has said, based in authentic distress.
“So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time,” Obama said in his race speech.
Indeed, Obama was explaining that sometimes Democrats mistake the color of the issue for the issue. We are a nation defined by our original sin of slavery and therefore, slaves to that racial worldview. We so often see race where class exists.
Similarly, many liberals misperceive values politics. They so often see cultural stances for their worst manifestations while ignoring their best.
Guns become tools for murder rather than occasions for fathers and sons to hunt. Abortion is always about limiting a woman’s autonomy rather than differing views on life. Concerns over illegal immigration are based in xenophobia rather than, at least sometimes, a valid desire to expect future immigrants to abide by the same rules as those immigrants from the century before.
Now there was some truth to Obama’s argument. Recent Democratic administrations did not sufficiently stand up “for those who work hard and play by the rules.” NAFTA ended up making life much worse for so many of those hard workers, the bulk of which were the white working class men that Democrats needed to win back — Bruce Springsteen voters.
And of course people struggling economically care more about the competition born of labor-class immigration, just as the Irish were concerned about the competition from freed slaves following Reconstruction. It is why today many blacks are equally concerned about competition from Hispanic immigrants. Those who are struggling know the brutality of the bottom, as John Updike describes it, and therefore they will take almost any stance and most any step to keep one step ahead of that bottom.
But that does not mean that there are not valid law and order concerns over illegal immigration, or that it is not advantageous to emphasize English immersion for cultural cohesion and to empower immigrants to rise up the economic ladder.
Where Obama and many Democrats go wrong is describing cultural stances as outcomes of hard times, rather than principled, joyful, well-intentioned, or long treasured family traditions. Reality lingers in both theories. But Democrats too often mention the worst and forget the best, as Obama did. In Obama’s defense, he spoke of family traditions on Saturday. But context is always hard after the gaffe. Just ask McCain and Republicans about their struggle since early January to contextualize his 100-year remark on Iraq.
12 reasons ‘bitter’ is bad for Obama April 13, 2008Posted by koreanpower999 in 2008 Elections, Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, working class vote.
POLITICO; by Mike Allen; 04/12/08
A Clinton comeback was looking far-fetched. But operatives in both parties were buzzing about that possibility Saturday following the revelation that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) told wealthy San Franciscans that small-town Pennsylvanians and Midwesterners “cling to guns or religion” because they are “bitter” about their economic status.
Obama at first dug in on that contention Friday after audio of the private fundraiser was posted by The Huffington Post. Altering course, on Saturday in Muncie, Ind., he conceded that he “didn’t say it as well as I should have.” And he told the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal that “obviously, if I worded things in a way that made people offended, I deeply regret that. … The underlying truth of what I said remains, which is simply that people who have seen their way of life upended because of economic distress are frustrated and rightfully so.”
Here is what he said April 6, referring to people living in areas hit by job losses: “[I]t’s not surprising, then, that 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 Obama campaign contends that coverage of the San Francisco remarks is overheated and distorted. One aide said that “any logical analysis” would make it obvious that the brouhaha will not “change the pledged delegate count” — the key to the Democratic presidential nomination.
In fact, this is a potential turning point for Obama’s campaign — an episode that could be even more damaging than the attention to remarks by his minister, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, since this time the controversial words came out of his own mouth.
Here are a dozen reasons why:
1. It lets Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) off the mat at a time when even some of her top supporters had begun to despair about her prospects. Clinton hit back hard on the campaign trail Saturday. And her campaign held a conference call where former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, a Pittsburgh native, described Obama’s remarks as “condescending and disappointing” and “undercutting his message of hope.”
2. If you are going to say something that makes you sound like a clueless liberal, don’t say it in San Francisco. Obama’s views might have been received very differently if he had expressed them in public to Pennsylvania voters, saying he understood and could alleviate their frustrations.
3. Some people actually use guns to hunt — not to compensate for a salary that’s less than a U.S. senator’s.
4. Some people cling to religion not because they are bitter but because they believe it, and because faith in God gives them purpose and comfort.
5. Some hard-working Americans find it insulting when rich elites explain away things dear to their hearts as desperation. It would be like a white politician telling blacks they cling to charismatic churches to compensate for their plight. And it vindicates centrist Democrats who have been arguing for a decade that their party has allowed itself to look culturally out of touch with the American mainstream.
6. It provides a handy excuse for people who were looking for a reason not to vote for Obama but don’t want to think of themselves as bigoted. It hurts Obama especially with the former Reagan Democrats, the culturally conservative, blue-collar workers who could be a promising voter group for him. It also antagonizes people who were concerned about his minister but might have given him the benefit of the doubt after his eloquent speech on race.
7. It gives the Clinton campaign new arguments for trying to recruit superdelegates, the Democratic elected officials and other insiders who get a vote on the nomination. A moderate politician from a swing district, for example, might not want to have to explain support for a candidate who is being hammered as a liberal. And Clinton’s agents can claim that for all the talk of her being divisive, Obama has provided plenty of fodder to energize Republicans.
8. It helps Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) frame a potential race against Obama, even though both of them have found support among independents. Now Republicans have a simple, easily repeated line of attack to use against Obama as an out-of-touch snob, as they had with Sen. John F. Kerry after he blundered by commenting about military funding, “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.”
9. The comments play directly into an already-established narrative about his candidacy. Clinton supporters have been arguing that Obama has limited appeal beyond upscale Democrats — the so-called latte liberals. You can’t win red states if people there don’t like you. “Elites need to understand that middle-class Americans view values and culture as more important than mere trickery,” said Paul Begala, a Clinton backer. “Democrats have to respect their values and reflect their values, not condescend to them as if they were children who’ve been bamboozled.”
10. The timing is terrible. With the Pennsylvania primary nine days off, late-deciding voters are starting to tune in. Obama and Clinton are scheduled to appear separately on CNN on Sunday for a forum on, of all topics, faith and values. And ABC News is staging a Clinton-Obama debate in Philadelphia on Wednesday. So Clinton has the maximum opportunity to keep a spotlight on the issue. Besides sex, little drives the news and opinion industry more than race, religion, culture and class. So as far as chances the chattering-class will perpetuate the issue, Obama has hit the jackpot.
11. The story did not have its roots in right-wing or conservative circles. It was published — and aggressively promoted — by The Huffington Post, a liberally oriented organization that was Obama’s outlet of choice when he wanted to release a personal statement distancing himself from some comments by the Rev. Wright.
12. It undermines Democratic congressional candidates who had thought that Obama would make a stronger top for the ticket than Clinton. Already, Republican House candidates are challenging their Democratic opponents to renounce or embrace Obama’s remarks. Ken Spain, press secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said: “There is a myth being perpetuated by Democrats and even some in the media that an Obama candidacy would somehow be better for their chances down ballot. But we don’t believe that is the case.”
Obama, Now on the Defensive, Calls ‘Bitter’ Words Ill-Chosen April 13, 2008Posted by koreanpower999 in 2008 Elections, Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, working class vote.
1 comment so far
The New York Times; by Katharine Q. Seelye and Jeff Zeleny; April 13, 2008
Senator Barack Obama fought back Saturday against accusations from his rivals that he had displayed a profound misunderstanding of small-town values, in a flare-up that left him on the defensive before a series of primaries that could test his ability to win over white voters in economically distressed communities.
For a second day, Mr. Obama sought to explain his remarks at a recent San Francisco fund-raiser that small-town Pennsylvania voters, bitter over their economic circumstances, “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them” as a way to explain their frustrations.
Acknowledging Saturday that “I didn’t say it as well as I should have,” he explained his remarks by focusing on his characterization of those voters’ economic woes. He meant, he said, that voters in places that had been losing jobs for years expressed their anxiety at the polls by focusing on cultural and social issues like gun laws and immigration.
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton activated her entire campaign apparatus to portray Mr. Obama’s remarks as reflective of an elitist view of faith and community. His comments, she said, were “not reflective of the values and beliefs of Americans.”
Mrs. Clinton suggested that Mr. Obama saw religious commitment, hunting and concern about immigration as emotional responses to economic strain rather than as deeply embedded values.
“I grew up in a church-going family, a family that believed in the importance of living out and expressing our faith,” she said at a rally 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.”
Later in the day, in Valparaiso, Ind., she reminisced about her father teaching her how to shoot when she was a young girl.
Although she has been a strong supporter of gun control in the past, urging Congress to “buck the gun lobby” as first lady, Mrs. Clinton said, “Americans who believe in the Second Amendment believe it’s a constitutional right; Americans who believe in God believe it’s a matter of personal faith.”
Mr. Obama, of Illinois, had already been under pressure to show that he was capable of connecting with voters in industrial states who have been hit hard by years of economic upheaval and now feel especially vulnerable in the new downturn.
As a result, his remarks in San Francisco provided an opportunity not just for Mrs. Clinton, but for Senator John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican nominee. Republicans are seeking to win over Reagan Democrats, whose economic condition would seem to make them likely Democratic voters but whose social values align with a more conservative agenda.
It was not clear whether Mr. Obama’s remarks were resonating with voters. But they came at a critical time, as he heads toward a debate on Wednesday with Mrs. Clinton and the primary on April 22 in Pennsylvania. Mrs. Clinton, of New York, is hoping a strong victory there will keep aloft her prospects of winning the Democratic nomination. The two candidates are also both appearing Sunday night in Harrisburg, Pa., at a forum on values and faith.
While Mr. Obama cast his remarks as an expression of populist sympathy for a displaced working class, Mrs. Clinton and her surrogates suggested that they went to the heart of his political vulnerability: while his message of hope has energized young and affluent voters, he has yet to dispel concern about whether a young, African-American candidate can persuade white, working class Democrats that he represents their interests.
The comments presented the Clinton campaign with the kind of opportunity it had been hoping for, in which Mr. Obama would show a vulnerability that could be exploited.
Seizing on his remarks with zeal, Mrs. Clinton mentioned them throughout the day on Saturday. And the campaign deployed several public officials in Pennsylvania, Indiana and North Carolina to keep up the drumbeat.
The campaigns organized dueling conference calls for reporters on Saturday, both featuring Pennsylvania mayors who supported their side.
Mr. Obama made the remarks at a closed-door fund-raiser in San Francisco last Sunday — before a very different crowd from those he has been courting in Pennsylvania and Indiana — after he was asked why he was not doing better in Pennsylvania. Polls there show him narrowing the gap with Mrs. Clinton but still lagging behind.
“You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them,” Mr. Obama responded, according to a transcript of the fund-raiser published on Friday on The Huffington Post Web site.
“And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not,” Mr. Obama went on. “And 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 antitrade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
By Saturday morning, Mr. Obama was trying to contain the political damage after a series of late-night and early-morning strategy calls in which advisers decided he had to acknowledge that he made a mistake.
His aides made a flurry of calls to superdelegates to explain his remarks and to reassure them about his electability. And Mr. Obama told audiences Saturday that what he had said about people’s economic circumstances was true, if inartfully expressed, but that he was not trying to play down the importance of religion or gun rights.
“Lately there has been a little typical sort of political flare-up because I said something that everybody knows is true,” Mr. Obama said, “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.”
“So I said, well, you know when you’re bitter, you turn to what you can count on,” he added. “So people, they vote about guns, or they take comfort from their faith and their family and their community.”
Senator Evan Bayh, Democrat of Indiana, campaigning with Mrs. Clinton, told reporters that Mr. Obama’s remarks should serve as a warning to superdelegates that he would be a weak general election candidate.
Mr. Bayh and other Clinton supporters suggested that Republicans would use these remarks to help define Mr. Obama as a cultural elitist who was hostile to rural voters, much the way Republicans portrayed Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, the Democratic nominee in 2004.
“They’re going to say that we’re weak on national security,” Mr. Bayh said, “that we’re a bunch of high taxers and spenders, and out here in the middle of the country we don’t understand people’s values. The question is, have we given them some hook they can hang their hat on to make that argument?”
In fact, Republicans have moved to capitalize on Mr. Obama’s comments. The Republican National Congressional Committee, for example, has been calling on Democratic members of Congress to denounce the remarks.
Gov. Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania, who is Mrs. Clinton’s most prominent supporter in that state, said Mr. Obama should not have implied that rural voters were clinging to their guns as a way of dealing with their frustrations.
“People in rural Pennsylvania don’t turn to guns and religion as an escape,” Mr. Rendell said. “Hunting and sportsmanship are long-established traditions here, and people of faith founded the commonwealth and continue to live here. What the senator has done is essentially misread what is actually happening in Pennsylvania.”
But J. Richard Gray, the mayor of Lancaster and an Obama supporter, said this was not what Mr. Obama meant. Mr. Obama was trying to say, Mr. Gray argued, that Republicans take emotional issues like guns and religion and try to use them to divide people.
“I don’t think he’s demeaning religion or guns,” Mr. Gray said. “He’s saying the use of those issues as wedge issues plays on the bitterness that people have and diverts attention from the real economic issues, like the disparity between the wage earner and the rich.”
Mr. Gray also said Mr. Obama was right that voters were bitter, although he said he would have used the word angry. He pointed to a recent poll that found 81 percent of voters believed the country was on the wrong track. He said Mrs. Clinton sounded like “a Pollyanna” in saying that workers were optimistic.
“I don’t know who she’s been talking to,” Mr. Gray said.
Ed Mitchell, a Democratic consultant in Wilkes-Barre who supports Mr. Obama, said that while he did not agree with the comments, he still favored him. “I think he’s right that voters are frustrated, but I don’t think they seek refuge in anything so much as they want leadership and change,” Mr. Mitchell said. “That’s why I support him. I think he offers that best.”
David Saunders, a Democratic strategist and rural advocate, advised John Edwards’s presidential campaign but is now neutral. He said he believed that Mr. Obama’s comments would offend rural voters.
“It could mean he’s rendered himself unelectable,” Mr. Saunders said. “This is a perfect example of why Democrats lose elections.”
- Chicago Tribune; by Jim Tankersley; March 30, 2008
RALEIGH, N.C. — Hillary Clinton kicked off her North Carolina primary campaign last week at a technical school that bills itself “College for the Real World.” After some pleasantries and a stab at a basketball reference, she began to outline what she called “the problems that we face” as a nation.
“Our American workers work harder and are more productive than anyone,” she said. “And yet for too many, here in North Carolina and elsewhere, that hard work doesn’t seem to be paying off.”
That same morning, Barack Obama hit New York City for a speech on America’s housing crisis. He opened with a 300-word history of the Founding Fathers’ views on free markets.
“In the more than two centuries since then,” he said, “we have struggled to balance the same forces that confronted Hamilton and Jefferson—self-interest and community; markets and democracy; the concentration of wealth and power, and the necessity of transparency and opportunity for each and every citizen.”
The difference in those speeches helps explain Clinton’s success in fashioning herself as the “Working Class Hero” of the 2008 Democratic presidential race.
On several scales of “readability,” which measure the level of education needed to understand a piece of writing, a sample of Clinton’s speeches scored on average two grade levels below Obama’s.
Typically, he speaks the language of high school seniors or college freshmen. She speaks the language of high-school sophomores or juniors — the language of the least-educated, lowest-earning voters.
Clinton makes for an unlikely modern Rosie the Riveter: a suburban-born corporate lawyer, a former first lady who never worked an assembly line, never picketed her employer. But across the country, particularly in manufacturing hubs feeling the pains of globalization, blue-collar voters have kept her candidacy alive.
Voters, analysts and political strategists trace that support to lingering affection for Clinton’s husband and the economic boom of his presidency — but only in part.
They also say a range of strategies has won Clinton working-class backing: her focus on economic problems and solutions, the clarity of her speeches, and a personal story of trial and survival that, in its own way, hits home with many voters suffering financially this year.
“For blue-collar Democratic voters choosing a candidate, the first question is usually, ‘Does he or she understand my life?’ ” said Mark Kornblau, who advised former Sen. John Edwards in his unsuccessful presidential bid this year. He said Clinton has improved in that area over the course of the campaign. “I don’t think it’s natural, and I don’t think it comes from any real life experience … but she uses language that really describes what’s going on in people’s lives.”
Melissa Dunston and her husband bought a new house two years ago. She lost her job before they made the first payment. They started a trucking company. When fuel prices shot up last year, they lost that too.
Dunston identifies with Clinton’s public struggles. “To have been through everything she has, she really is ‘I have overcome,’ ” said Dunston, a public school teacher’s assistant.
Clinton’s campaign doesn’t have all the money it needs to keep pace with Obama, she added, “but they still make it. You think, ‘I can relate to that.’ “
It’s not unusual for wealthier Democrats to connect with the working class, as evidenced by Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. Obama has successfully courted working Democrats in this campaign, winning majorities of them in states with large African-American populations, along with largely white Wisconsin and fairly white Virginia, according to exit polls.
But the blue-collar vote delivered campaign-sustaining victories to Clinton in Ohio and Texas earlier this month. In both states, exit polls showed her beating Obama by 15 percentage points among voters who lacked a a college degree. She also won solid majorities among those who earn $50,000 a year or less.
Those voters figure to drive primary results in West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana and North Carolina, which vote May 6; and Pennsylvania, next on the calendar, where polls indicate Clinton leads handily. They’re also a key piece of the Clinton campaign’s electability-themed argument to “superdelegates,” the Democratic elites who are all but assured of deciding the party’s nominee.
The working class “is a critical vote when superdelegates look at who’s going to be a stronger candidate” against presumed Republican nominee John McCain, said Mark Penn, Clinton’s chief strategist. “These are voters who in the past have gone either way in the general election.”
Others say Clinton’s blue-collar strength doesn’t necessarily suggest trouble for Obama in November.
“It’s not like working-class voters are turning away from him in droves,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who hasn’t endorsed either candidate. “They have two good choices.”
The Obama campaign says many working-class voters are getting to know him and his “record of fighting for economic fairness,” including his experience as a community organizer on Chicago’s South Side. As working families learn more about Obama, spokesman Ben Labolt said, “they come to support him.”
Three in five Americans worry “a great deal” about the economy, a Gallup poll reported last week. A similar number of self-described working-class voters told the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press in February that their incomes are falling behind the cost of living.
Clinton and Obama have tried to tap those anxieties with plans to create jobs, help homeowners ward off foreclosure, rewrite free-trade pacts, expand health-care coverage, retrain workers and reduce families’ college tuition costs.
Analysts say the candidates’ delivery of those plans, more than the details, make the difference for the working class. Obama talks in broader themes of hope and change, they say. Clinton talks more specifically of problems and solutions.
For working-class voters in Ohio and Texas, “Hillary Clinton was acting like the fighter they wanted in the face of desperation,” said Drew Westen, an Emory University psychology professor, political strategist and author of “The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation.”
At Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, Clinton offered a long list of proposals to soothe financially ailing Americans.
“I was impressed,” said Lisa Rosen, who is undecided. “She seemed more real than I expected.”
Is Hillary Due for a Comeback? February 16, 2008Posted by koreanpower999 in 2008 Elections, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Latino vote, women's vote, working class vote.
add a comment
There has been some scoffing at Clinton pollster Mark Penn’s memo issued yesterday arguing that Hillary Clinton can still win more delegates than Barack Obama. The memo contains a certain amount of campaign boilerplate:
Hillary is the only candidate who can deliver the economic change voters want—the only candidate with a real plan and a record of fighting for health care, housing, job creation and protecting Social Security.
But, hey, he’s paid (and very well) to say things like this. And there’s independent polling data that seem to support his argument.
Start with Pennsylvania, which votes April 22. Quinnipiac today released a poll showing Clinton leading Obama there 52 to 36 percent. Whites back Clinton 58 to 31; blacks back Obama 71 to 10. Since Pennsylvania’s population is only 10 percent black, that accounts for Clinton’s big lead.
Then look at Ohio, which votes March 4. Here Quinnipiac shows Clinton ahead 55 to 34 percent. Whites back Clinton 64 to 28; blacks back Obama 64 to 17. Ohio’s population is 11 percent black. Quinnipiac’s Peter Brown (whom veterans of the campaign trail will remember as a first-rate reporter) explains why Clinton seems to be doing so well in Ohio (and, by implication, demographically similar Pennsylvania) after losing eight straight contests:
Ohio is as good a demographic fit for Sen. Clinton as she will find. It is blue-collar America, with a smaller percentage of both Democrats with college educations and African-Americans than in many other states where Sen. Obama has carried the day. If Clinton can’t win the primary there, it is very difficult to see how she stops Obama.
Quinnipiac’s result is similar to two other recent Ohio polls. Rasmussen has Clinton ahead 51 to 37 percent; SurveyUSA has her ahead 56 to 39 percent. The only Ohio poll taken in January, by the Columbus Dispatch, showed Clinton ahead of Obama 42 to 19 percent. Obama has apparently made gains since then. But so has Clinton.
In the other big state that votes March 4, Texas, it seems that there has been no public poll since last April(!). Texas’s population is 12 percent black and 32 percent Hispanic, so we can expect the Democratic primary electorate there to be about 20 percent black and perhaps 15 to 20 percent Hispanic.
One primary Penn did not stress in his memo was Wisconsin. The Clinton campaign line has been that the post-Super Tuesday February contests are all dismal ground for their candidates. But the Wisconsin polling data tell a different story. Scott Rasmussen shows Obama leading Clinton by only 47 to 43 percent. This is similar to Strategic Vision’s Wisconsin survey, which shows Obama ahead 45 to 41 percent. Wisconsin’s population is 6 percent black and 3 percent Hispanic.
How can Clinton be doing so much better here than she did in Maryland and Virginia? One reason is that there are smaller percentages of black voters in these states. Another, probably more important, reason is that the white Democratic primary voters are different. In Maryland and Virginia, they tended to be quite upscale and on the young side, especially in the big suburban counties outside Washington, D.C. In Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, they’re much more downscale. At a time when Clinton and Obama are essentially tied in national polls, it stands to reason that if Obama is ahead in states like Maryland and Virginia, Clinton will be ahead in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
Texas is another, interesting story. Texas doesn’t have party registration, and, historically, huge numbers of white voters participated in the state’s Democratic presidential primary—1.3 million in 1980, 1.8 million in 1988, 1.5 million in 1992. That number plunged downward to 786,000 in 2000 and 839,000 in 2004, even though the state’s population grew from 14 million in 1980 to 22 million in 2004. The obvious conclusion: An awful lot of white Texans began voting in the Republican primary again. This year’s Texas Democratic primary could turn out to be largely a battle of minorities, with blacks voting heavily for Obama and Latinos, as in most other states so far, heavily for Clinton. In this battle Obama will undoubtedly have an organizational advantage, both because his campaign— unlike hers— has done organizational work in the post-Super Tuesday states and because of the strength of pre-existing black turnout organizations. As for white Democratic primary voters, upscale Texans still tend to be heavily Republican, though a little less so than 15 or 20 years ago—very much contrary to the pattern in Northern Virginia and Montgomery County, Md. White downscale voters in southern states have generally gone for Clinton, but not by overwhelming margins. Of the four states we’ve looked at here, Texas appears the most problematic for Clinton, though she’s on far stronger ground there than in the already concluded post-Super Tuesday contests.