4.12.2008

Obama's "bitter" comments treated as the race-changing moment Clinton has been waiting for

Could this really be it?

The controversy over Barack Obama's comments about Pennsylvania's "bitter" voters has acquired huge proportions and the media appears eager to hype it up further by portraying this as the race-changing moment that the Clinton campaign has been waiting for. From a political standpoint, it has become impossible to dismiss this controversy since it has become the dominant story that will inform the race over the next week. And while it is an absurd reach to claim that this will be the trigger of a superdelegate flight away from Obama, the Clinton campaign, knowing it will only have so many more opportunities to change the fundamentals of the race, is going for broke. And how far they are willing to go will likely determine how much of a political fallout Obama suffers.

There is no question that this would not have been this big a story if the Democratic primaries had been over. While Republicans would have been all over Obama's comments and while they might have brought them back successfully in the fall campaign, this has become a front-page story everywhere first and foremost because it fits admirably in the narrative of the Democratic race. Over the next two months, Hillary needs to not only win a string of elections convincingly but also bank on an Obama meltdown, one she was hoping would ensue (but didn't) from Wright. And the two most essential questions have long been: Can Obama win blue-collar voters? Can Clinton use his weakness in that group to peel superdelegates away from him and convince them that she is the most (only?) electable candidate in the fall?

Hillary knows that, this late in the game, she has to use anything she can to make her case and weaken her rival. She is now discussing the controversy at length in her stump speech (read full transcript here) :"Now, like some of you may have been, I was taken aback by the demeaning remarks Senator Obama made about people in small town America. Senator Obama's remarks are elitist and they are out of touch." Top Clinton aide Geoffrey Garin said today in a conference call that Obama's comments were "fair game" to use in an ad and that they would prove "damaging" in the general election. He also declared that the Clinton campaign would push the issue with superdelegates.

The Clinton campaign has deployed an army of surrogates to make the case that this is just further proof that Obama will be a very weak general election candidate. All day yesterday the Clinton machine pounded Obama over this. Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, for instance, was among the harshest of Obama's critics: "They’re going to say that we’re weak on national security, 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?”

This all-out assault contrasts with their attitude of wait-and-see they had relied on in the first 2 weeks of the Wright controversy, probably because the "bitter" comments are not necessarily powerful enough by themselves to drive days of coverage (especially since there is no video, while a deluge of clips fed the Wright frenzy).

Naturally, what is so dangerous for Obama is that he has two rivals that are looking to damage him over this. Republicans are looking to use this controversy to start painting Obama as a liberal elitist, an attack they used so successfully against Michael Dukakis and John Kerry. As far as I know, Obama does not speak French, nor does he have French relatives -- so no "first French president" attack to be found here.

So will any superdelegates take the bite and move away from Obama on this? Hillary Clinton must be hoping that the media's hysteria is fed further if a few uncommitted supers now express reluctance to back Obama, and at least that Obama's momentum among superdelegates freezes. This seems to be asking for a lot out of a few sentences which, as condescending as they might sound, appear to be generating this much noise mostly because they broke on a Friday night of a slow news months with the political media having had little to dissect for a while.

There is a clear danger for Obama: If superdelegates sense that Republicans are already getting so much traction out of this and that they might come under pressure, that could lead them to reconsider in a way little of what Clinton says could. The NRCC is already using Obama's comments to put pressure on... Democratic congressmen (all superdelegates). Here is the statement they released against Rep. Altmire (PA-04):

Americans don’t want liberal politicians like Barack Obama who believe Washington is a substitute for faith, personal responsibility and belief that the Constitution guarantees our freedoms. It’s time for Congressman Altmire to make a choice. He can choose to stand up for the dignity of Pennsylvanians and their deeply held beliefs by rejecting the elitist rhetoric of Barack Obama, or he can continue to flirt with the Obama campaign in the hopes of getting his picture in the paper.

The NRCC is basically asking Altmire to cast his superdelegate vote for Clinton; the threat is that Obama's comments will be used as evidence that these congressmen are out-of-touch liberals if they stick with the Illinois Senator. Once again, this is certainly blown out of all proportions and there is very little that any congressional Democrat should fear from this. But in a volatile political environment in which many Democrats are paranoid that Republican smear attacks could doom them (see 2002, 2004), will any of them take the bite?

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31 Comments:

  • I think its a big bunch of bologna, what he said was true, he could of used different words so it could not be used as sound bites. But it will pass and it will not give Clinton any advantage what so ever

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 12 April, 2008 19:15  

  • What's new? Barack didn't appeal to the same folks Hillary is courting and vice-versa. Obama already lost the support of this demographic and can't win without it. I think this helps him with non-religious non-gun nut Hillary supporters. Face it. The country is full of thumpers with guns. There not voting for Barack because deep down in their perverted pyschotic religious fanaticism, the gun obsession is all about protecting themselves from a paranoia about black people.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 12 April, 2008 19:38  

  • Obama does not speak French, nor does he have French relatives -- so no "first French president" attack to be found here.

    Just so you know, Hillary Clinton is of French-Canadian descent on her mother's side (http://www.blacklistednews.com/view.asp?ID=6009)

    Yeah, I hate the French too ; )

    By Blogger Jason, At 12 April, 2008 20:40  

  • I can't wait for the primaries to be over. This kind of stuff, however silly, is gut-wrenching.

    By OpenID st-ranger, At 12 April, 2008 21:44  

  • Agreed the essence of the reported comments are valid, he could have phrased it better but then it wasn`t a public address.

    Clinton is still trying the kitchen sink approach and playing to run down Obama. She is doing nothing to present her as a better candidate, merely that Obama is a bad candidate. Not exactly inspiring.

    The GOP already has plenty of material on Clinton from the 90's never mind the new stuff she has given them in this campaign (Bosnia, tax returns, foundation receipts etc)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 12 April, 2008 22:26  

  • And this is why is bad that the primaries are still going on, If they were over he would fight the comments, attack some republicans and it will all blow over, but now he has to watch his back not only form the republican attack machine but form another member in his party!!
    I hope and pray Hillary can see that using this will against Obama will be a Nuclear Option, She cant win and she will destroy Obama and any chance the dems had of taking the WH.

    By Blogger Javier, At 12 April, 2008 23:55  

  • As an obamaniac, I'm really worried about this. Th comments don't disturbed me,or make me angry and I'm sure that Mccain has made some awful comments about Hispanics or black at a private fund raiser somewhere.What worries me is the effect of the comments in the GE, this could really hurt Obama, as Taniel puts it could this really be it?

    By Anonymous Carlos, At 13 April, 2008 00:48  

  • I think the people freaking out about this are showing how out to lunch they are. The people who he is talking about will mostly agree with him.

    By Anonymous C.S.Strowbridge, At 13 April, 2008 01:10  

  • Sure guys. Nothing he says is ever wrong. Nothing he does even looks wrong. He is always right. It's all Clinton's fault who is throwing the kitchen sink at him.

    Get real for a moment. You are so in love with the guy you can not even realize when he has done or said something wrong. I don't believe this is a game changer (although I wish it will), but for you to brush this off so easily just doesn't make sense at all.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 13 April, 2008 01:16  

  • Yes, this is a tough blow to the campaign and to Barack, but hey there is no point in sitting around moaning and feeling sorry for ourselfs and being pessimistic, fortunately Hillary's chances are none and while this will hurt in the GE that is still months away and plenty of money to fight against any smear so we just have to march on..

    By Anonymous Ronald, At 13 April, 2008 03:37  

  • In four weeks, the press will have forgotten this and will be looking to feed on fresh meat. However, since the poll numbers bound to come out on Monday and Tuesday would be from people who were probably polled before the "bitter" (ha!) faux-pas, we will probably first see any motion for Clinton, if all, at the end of the week.

    It shows just how desperate the Clinton camp has become. Wow.

    And I read his comments. And I worked in a small Ohio town. And his comments were right on the money.

    By Blogger Mark, At 13 April, 2008 05:05  

  • The lovefest has really got to come down off that ectasy soon. Barack is not the sharpest pencil in the box. Fortunately, the republicans are retarded. For a tight race like this, it's really ludicrous to think that Barack is inevitable, or that Hillary's chances are none. Just because the spin is effective it doesn't make it true. I wonder if this phenomena is drug induced? Are there any polls on the prescription drug rates among Obamabots? I hope all you people don't get suicidal if Barack crashes and burns. Just remember how fast Eliot Spitzer evaporated. Putting someone on a pedestal makes them prone to falling off and shattering. Keep your feet on the ground and be patient.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 13 April, 2008 08:54  

  • This is probably Obama's greatest gaffe and there is proably too little time for him recover at least while the PA primary is concerned. Too bad I have an evening class Wensday night cause I will miss the debate...

    As damaging as this is, I'm not convinced that this is a game changnig moment that will work in Hillary's favor. Maybe if she wins PA by 20% or more then it will be evidence of the beginning of a Obama meltdown but otherwise I think this major damage can indeed be repaired. In the GE Obama is really going to have to work on getting working class whites to vote for him, which is why he definitly needs his superior fundraising in the GE, otherwise independent GOP groups will bury him.

    By Anonymous jaxx raxor, At 13 April, 2008 10:10  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger Jason, At 13 April, 2008 11:40  

  • The more I think about it, the more I don't understand how this is going to hurt Obama in the GE as much as everyone says it's going to. I am going to grant Hillary (like Edwards) is running a relatively more populist, "fighting for the grassroots," line so this "gaffe" is going to hurt Obama's chances of winning working-class voters from Hillary.

    But that's only the primary! There is no doubt (at least in my mind) that Obama is running a much more pro-grassroots campaign than McCain is. Even putting aside the fact that Democrats traditionally stand for the economically underprivileged, there are many other reasons why one would expect these "gun and religion-clinging" working class voters would prefer McCain over Obama in a GE matchup. After all, it is Obama who has inspired stadiums full of "Obamabots" to cheer about hope in a border-line religious way; it is Obama who has broken all fund-raising records in small donations; it is Obama who is talking about "universal" healthcare (mandates aside)...

    ...and it is McCain who has said that the government shouldn't do about the foreclosures, and it is McCain who has openly admitted he doesn't know too much about the economy

    By Blogger Jason, At 13 April, 2008 11:43  

  • Obama's biggest liability is his following. Their arrogance and elitist-like behavior is turning off too many Clinton supporters and McCain leaners. Barack himself is an alright guy. The legions of blind faith "obamabots" do more damage than any swipe at thumpers with guns. That swipe earns him more support with the largest religious group in America, the 18% NON-religious. (11/7 Harris poll.) People like Roland Martin are ruining his support by pushing a theocratic agenda.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 13 April, 2008 15:15  

  • If Hillary steals the nomination, her momentary victory will taste like ashes.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 13 April, 2008 15:41  

  • If Hillary steals the nomination? Now there's a sore loser on meds. I guess if Obama takes it unfairly that wouldn't be stealing? Bad sportsmanship seems to be the hallmark of the Obamabots. It's still up for grabs. Barack certainly has no legitimate claim to it. Get a grip on reality before it smacks you upside the head. We're picking a winner, not a messiah.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 13 April, 2008 18:00  

  • 15:41-I think the arson investigators in Terre Haute want to talk to you.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 13 April, 2008 18:06  

  • I'm glad Gallup came out with their poll to quiet down the looney Obamabots. One poll with Clinton leading and the nasty sore losers all pop up. You know,one factor among older blacks is that they know how destructive and irrational their youth is when they don't get what they want. They are wise to think twice about having a black leader in a position of losing. Things get burned. It's no coincidence that the poster alluded to ashes.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 13 April, 2008 19:10  

  • Hey Anon of 19:10, 18:06 and 18:00 - I think the original poster meant by "if Hillary steals the nomination" that if Obama is ahead in pledged delegates, popular vote and states won then if she got the nomination there would be legitimacy questions. Just like Bush in 2000 who lost the popular vote. If the shoe was on the other foot the Clinton's would complain.
    So cool do - do not behave like you suggest the Obamabots do.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 13 April, 2008 20:07  

  • anon19:10 that'a the most rascist rant I've ever seen on here.Yea, if dem ni--gers don't get ther way day burn the town down! Shame on you!!Can't tell if you're a hillabot or repub ya all sound and look alike haha

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 13 April, 2008 20:26  

  • Reality is what reality is. Is it racist to state the obvious now? How do you get ashes other than from fire?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 14 April, 2008 07:23  

  • The comment about Hillary winning was a clear threat by an Obamabot. The reference to ashes will only fuel rascist stereotypes and harm the black people. Who burns down their own neighborhoods in this country? Do we now have to elect the black guy or suffer riots by irrational young blacks? Threatening violent acts is not a good way to support your candidate. The mau-mau tactic will backfire miserably.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 14 April, 2008 07:36  

  • You don't hear old white people talking about "burning the party to the ground" if their guy loses, do you? Consider that rhetoric to be as off limits as lynching. We don't need racist black people hiding behind their claims of racism while spewing threats.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 14 April, 2008 07:56  

  • List of chores for Anon.7:23,7:36,7:56
    1. look up "metaphor"
    2. go wash sheets

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 14 April, 2008 10:58  

  • 10:58-Go explain to the 82% that god is a metaphor for the intellectually superior,or to blacks that a noose is just a metaphor for oppression. Good luck with that. Obamabots are too stupid to not say destructive things.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 14 April, 2008 11:36  

  • 11:36 apprently I'm so intellectually superior the point of that last post completely escapes me.Perhaps after my lobotomy it will all become clear.(and I'll want to vote for Hillary)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 14 April, 2008 14:51  

  • If the frontal lobes are that poorly constructed,it may require that. Although then you'll be a Huckaboob.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 14 April, 2008 17:04  

  • 14:51 to 17:04 LMAO!!!!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 14 April, 2008 19:36  

  • Join Lobotomites For Hillary! Go to... sh-t I forget.You know, where them snipers is.I think

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 14 April, 2008 19:46  

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