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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2705

Clinton Winning as Mistakes Became Gaffes in Pennsylvania

By Philip Fernando in Los Angeles for Asian Tribune

Los Angeles, 18 April, (Asiantribune.com): Barrack Obama’s snafu about Pennsylvanian small-towners disparaging about their plight and resorting to guns and religion resonated all week and judging by the latest polls, Hillary Clinton would win that state by a slender margin. Polls predict a five point spread between Obama and Clinton. This was the breather that Clinton needed, said one observer. The entire weekend campaign news cycle was dominated by the fallout from an inaudible tape of Obama speech leaked to the website the ‘Huffington Post’, on which Obama can be heard lamenting to a closed San Francisco fundraiser the plight of rural Americans. Obama tried his best to repair the damage quickly. "I didn't say it as well as I could have," Obama told a crowd in Muncie, Indiana, Saturday. Later that same day he told a North Carolina newspaper: "Obviously, if I worded things in a way that made people offended, I deeply regret that."

Obama and Clinton used the speech to take digs at each other and the debate by ABC TV on Tuesday night was quite confrontational. Obama refused to repudiate his words, seeking instead to clarify them. "People end up — they don't vote on economic issues because they don't expect anybody's going to help them," Obama said. "So people end up, you know, voting on issues like guns, and are they going to have the right to bear arms. They vote on issues like gay marriage. And they take refuge in their faith and their community and their families and things they can count on. But they don't believe they can count on Washington." The job loss in Pennsylvania is bleak and how much damage his speech may have caused Obama is hard to predict. We will have to wait until the votes are counted on April 22nd. (Tuesday).

The debate also turned to what the country was facing and Obama took the opportunity to pin point some of the glaring deficiencies in trade pacts during the past two decades. He said "You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them, They fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. 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."

However, the timing was bad and Clinton used it to her advantage. Polls have shown that in nearly every state save for Wisconsin, Clinton has won the white working-class vote, moderate swing voters sometimes called Reagan Democrats; her advantage in that demographic helped Clinton win Ohio by 10.5 percentage points. Obama would have liked to have used the word “frustrated” instead of “bitter” in describing what the people felt. According Donna Brazile, an undecided Super Delegate who ran Al Gore's presidential campaign in 2000 said that "Clearly Obama's comments were 'unartful,' but not inaccurate. People are dissatisfied with the economy and he used that to his advantage. Polls show most voters are dissatisfied with the current direction of the country. And politicians have always played on their fears—and used issues like crime, welfare, gay rights and abortion—to draw distinctions without addressing the deep issues that voters care about."

Up until the "bitter" speech made by Obama, he was gaining ground on Clinton, closing her lead from 12 to about 5 percent. It remains to be seen whether the reaction to the statements will actually affect the polls or simply serve as fodder for the TV commentators who went to town on that. More crucially, the debate may stop the general movement of super delegates towards Obama, at least for now.

The comments could potentially help Clinton not only in Pennsylvania, but also with winning over undecided super delegates who might otherwise be reluctant to go against the popular will of the voters. Both Clinton and G.O.P. presumptive nominee John McCain were quick to pounce on Obama. They both used the term "elitist", to describe the comments of Obama. The drumbeat was picked up by many TV channels throughout the week. Pennsylvanians don't need a President who looks down on them, they need a President who stands up for them, who fights for them, who works hard for your futures, your jobs, your families,” the commentators said.

Giving a negative connotation to words like guns and religion may not be exactly what Obama needed at this stage Senator Evan Bayh told reporters that it was a gaffe by Obama. Bayh had been campaigning for Clinton in Indiana, which also holds its primary on May 6. Last month Obama came under fire for comments made by his former pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright from the pulpit over the years, including calling on his parish to "God damn America," and labeling the country the "U.S. of KKK A." Obama responded with an eloquent speech on race and the furor died down. Obama is going to have to find a way to meet the needs of the working-class white voters, in a more meaningful manner, his fans believe. .

Mistakes made by candidates over the stretch of a campaigning run came for review by the media. "Mistakes become 'gaffes' when they play to an underlying stereotype," said Michael Munger, a political science professor at Duke University in North Carolina, which is scheduled to hold its primary May 6. He was quoted as saying "If Bill Clinton had said this thing about some white people being bitter and using guns, it would have been fine, since he grew up a poor white guy. But the Obama stereotype is a wealthy Ivy League elitist. He's a little too well-spoken; his suits are a little too expensive. From him, the comment comes off as condescending."

Some observers believed that Obama’s comments were twisted and taken out of context. Jamal Simmons, a Democratic consultant and Obama supporter asked the question in an article, "Hillary Clinton calls Barrack Obama elitist? Really? Hillary Clinton was a corporate lawyer who sat on the Wal-Mart board before becoming First Lady and is now worth over $100 million. The debate went on and on. His defenders said that Obama is the child of a single mother raised in part by his grandparents who went to school on a scholarship and was a community organizer making $12,000 a year before becoming a law professor, lawyer and state senator. Politics can magnify even smallest of faults, said one observer.

- Asian Tribune -

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