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Clinton Hammers Obama Over 'Bitter' Comments During Scranton Walking Tour

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), campaigns door to door with Scranton Mayor Christopher Doherty, far left, in Scranton, Pa., April 13, 2008. (Associated Press)

By Perry Bacon Jr.
SCRANTON, Pa. -- For the third straight day, Sen. Hillary Clinton hammered Sen. Barack Obama over his comments about the frustrations of Americans who live in small towns, this time saying he reinforced negative stereotypes people have about Democrats.

"Since this whole discussion started over Senator Obama's remarks, Democrats have reached out to me to say that we can't afford for people to believe that the Democratic Party is elitist and out of touch," Clinton told reporters in a news conference in Scranton, Pa. She added, "His comments were elitist and divisive and the Democratic Party has been unfortunately viewed by many people over the last decade as being elitist and out of touch. We have waged elections over that."

She said Obama needed to address this comments further, adding "what people are looking for is an explanation, what does he really believe."

Obama yesterday suggested that he had been inartful in describing people who live in small towns in American as people who "cling" to religion, guns and sentiments that are opposed to immigration and free trade because they are "bitter" over economic conditions. And he expressed regret over the remark, which he made last week to supporters at a San Francisco fundraiser.

But Clinton would not let up. Her campaign arranged for her go door-to-door and greet people here, where Clinton has now stopped three times over the last month to stump, never forgetting to remind voters here father grew up here.

The walking tour lasted about 30 minutes, as she greeted people who were standing outside of their houses, many waving Clinton signs. And while it may have been a symbolic effort at appealing to small town voters, her words were more direct. Speaking to reporters, she accused Obama, who has defined his candidacy as one that would unify the country, as "creating false distinctions between people."

Clinton seemed frustrated when a reporter turned the issue towards her, asking when she had last attended church or fired a gun.

"That is not a relevant question for this debate," Clinton said. "We can answer that some other time. I went to church on Easter ... but that is not what this is about. This is about how people look at the Democratic Party and the Democratic leadership. We have been working very hard to make it clear we have millions of Democrats who are churchgoing or gun-owning and we are tired of having Republicans or having our own Democrats give any ammunition to the Republicans."

Pressed on whether she had seen "bitterness" on the campaign trail about illegal immigration or free trade, she continued to tear into Obama.

"You don't have to psychoanalyze or patronize people to conclude we have problems," Clinton said. "Of course we have problems, after seven years of George Bush how could we not? ... It's also unfortunate that since of the beginning of his campaign, Senator Obama has consistently denigrated and criticized the Clinton administration, the last successful two-term Democratic president. I frankly think people in Pennsylvania believe they were a lot better off when Bill Clinton was president than they are now."

Clinton's campaign has launched a widespread effort on this issue. At a rally former president Clinton held in rural North Carolina yesterday, aides handed out "We're not bitter" stickers to voters. In an interview with the liberal blog Talking Points Memo yesterday, senior Clinton adviser Geoffrey Garin said "the people who are most likely to be offended by this are also the most likely to be swing voters in general elections."

"These comments, and the larger issue of the Obama campaign's inability to connect with these working class voters, is not a little thing," Garin said. "It's a big thing. And it's a big thing that is likely to end up making a big difference in November."

He added, "Working class people in all parts of America are frustrated, but they are not small-minded in the way that Senator Obama's comments conveyed."

Appearing on CNN's Late Edition, Sen. Bob Casey (D-Penn.), who has campaigned around the state with Obama, said Obama has "expressed regret" about his remarks, but said of people in the state, "They're not going to judge him by one statement."

By Web Politics Editor  |  April 13, 2008; 3:34 PM ET
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