Barack Obama lashes out at rivals
By Caren Bohan
STEELTON, Pennsylvania (Reuters) – Democrat Barack Obama accused his rivals for the U.S. presidency on Sunday of twisting his words for political gain when they branded him an elitist for saying embittered small-town voters were clinging to guns or religion.
“I am the first to admit that some of the words I chose, I chose badly,” Obama told steel workers in Pennsylvania. “They were subject to misinterpretation. They were subject to be twisted. And I regret that, I regret that deeply.”
But he added, “It sounds like there’s some politics being played.”
In comments at a private fundraiser that became public on Friday, Obama, an Illinois senator, said a week ago that economic problems led voters in small towns to become “bitter” and to “cling to guns or religion.”
His rival for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton, and the likely Republican nominee, John McCain, seized on the remarks to paint Obama as an elitist with a condescending view of middle-class voters.
The comments have the potential to threaten Obama’s chances in Pennsylvania, which votes on April 22 to help pick a Democratic candidate to run against McCain in November’s presidential election.
Before the remarks became public Obama, who would be the first black U.S. president, had been cutting into the large lead that Clinton once held in Pennsylvania opinion polls.
He leads her in pledged delegates won in state contests, but neither is likely to reach the 2,024 needed for nomination at the Democrats’ national convention in August without support of the nearly 800 superdelegates.
TURNING THE TABLES
Trying to turn the tables on both rivals, Obama said his words had been twisted to suggest he was demeaning people who were religious and gun owners.
“I am a man of deep faith,” he said, adding that he respected the right of people to own guns. “I have repeatedly talked about the tradition that people pass on from generation to generation, hunters and sportsman.”
He accused McCain, an Arizona senator, of lacking a plan to deal with the mortgage crisis and Clinton, a New York senator, of being too close to lobbyists, contending they were the ones who were out of touch.
He went a step further in criticizing Clinton, saying “shame on her,” and also mocked Clinton’s recounting of a duck-hunting trip she took in Arkansas many years ago.
“She’s talking like she’s Annie Oakley,” Obama said, referring to a heroine of the American Wild West. “I want to see that picture of her out there in the duck blind.”
The Clinton campaign responded by labeling Obama’s comments an “outburst” and accusing him of attacking Clinton’s character. “The shame is his,” said Phil Singer, deputy communications director for the Clinton campaign.
How much staying power the controversy has is difficult to gauge. In nearly two years of a topsy-turvy campaign, issues and incidents have come and gone it remained to be seen whether this one would play a role in the Pennsylvania vote.
A spot check in the small town of Mechanicsburg showed no big outcry from voters. “I’m not upset about it,” said Richard Morrison, 61, a lawyer who said he was leaning Democratic. “I heard what he was trying to say. It is an unfair way to broadly characterize a state. But there is a sense of bitterness out there.”
Reuters can put all the lipstick on this pig all they want, it is still a damn pig..