Hillary Clinton won't quit hammering Barack Obama over his controversial comments about "bitterness" among rural voters, though Obama's campaign aides contend the issue is fading.
Clinton strategist Howard Wolfson said this morning that Obama's remarks were "condescending" toward working-class voters in many areas, including Pennsylvania, which holds a key primary next Tuesday. Wolfson told reporters on a conference call: "It is something that we will continue to talk about.... This is an important issue" that many Pennsylvanians are concerned about.
Phil Singer, another Clinton strategist, added: "Senator Obama seems to be somewhat detached" from the realities of life in Pennsylvania. Singer said Obama's comments struck many as "elitist"—a theme the Clinton campaign has been emphasizing for the past few days. Wolfson said Obama's remarks have "struck a nerve with many people" partly because Obama seemed to "talk down to voters about their values and beliefs." Obama ignited a firestorm when he told a fundraiser in San Francisco that Pennsylvania voters are suffering from economic hardship and added: "It's not surprising that 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." He has since said he regretted his choice of words.
But Obama's senior advisers say the furor over the "bitterness" controversy is fading as voters, despite all the chatter on cable news networks, start to lose interest in the story. A top Obama strategist told U.S. News that the big "x factor" in the Pennsylvania primary—mainly overlooked by the media so far—will be the turnout of new voters, who have been registering in large numbers and are thought to be dominated by Obama supporters. Internal Obama polls, he said, show the candidate is within striking distance of winning Pennsylvania.
—Kenneth T. Walsh