Virtual Voices

Bittergate's effects

Campaign 2008

According to the New York Times today, Pennsylvania Democrats are getting antsy over the long-term effects of Obama's remarks seeming to disparage small-town voters. They're starting to wonder if Obama will be able to overcome charges of elitism, and they're worried the fighting will hurt the Democratic nominee. Other pundits counter that the impact will be minimal.

In a private San Francisco fundraiser, Obama said unemployment and economic stagnation make small-town voters bitter:

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 anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

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In The New Republic, John B. Judis says Obama's remarks will hurt him in the upcoming primaries and the general election. Judis calculates that Obama needs 45 to 48 percent of the white working class vote to win in November and that McCain has some advantages with this group: his war-hero status and moderate politics. Obama could sway them "on every day economic issues," Judis says. But "Obama's heart doesn't appear to be in it."

In a Real Clear Politics analysis, Jay Cost says superdelegates are reticent to endorse Obama because of his difficulty with the voting group he may have offended: "We've seen enough data to know which socioeconomic groups [Obama's] he's having trouble with: rural/small town whites who do not make a lot of money.

Republicans will try to use Obama's remarks to their advantage, and Obama's fully aware of it. In a speech to the Associated Press, McCain already said the Great Depression never shook the faith and patriotism of small-town Americans:

Nor did they turn to their religious faith and cultural traditions out of resentment and a feeling of powerlessness to affect the course of government or pursue prosperity. On the contrary, their faith had given generations of their families purpose and meaning, as it does today.

But the polls themselves indicate the impact may be less than people think. One poll shows Obama gaining a small advantage since his remarks hit the news. Other polls show little movement either way. SurveyUSA found that while a majority of regular church attenders and gun owners disagreed with his remarks, the majority (53% of regular church attenders and 55% of gun owners) didn't find his remarks offensive.

Daily Kos dismisses the story as overhyped, and Andrew Sullivan says it's ironic: "I'm beginning to suspect that the only segment left in America that genuinely feels that elitism is a problem for Obama are ... the elites."

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