Friday, May 09, 2008

Obama says his rural problem is overstated; Clinton backs Farm Bill; N.Y. Post decries 'hillbillies'

Sen. Barack Obama told The Oregonian "that his problems in reaching out to rural and blue-collar workers have been overstated," Jeff Mapes and Harry Esteve report. "He said many of those voters prefer Clinton, but he predicted they would stick with the Democrats in the fall." Obama told the Portland paper, "Where we have been having problems is with voters over 65. ... I am the younger candidate, and they may be putting a higher premium on experience, so we're going to have to do more effective outreach to seniors." (Read more)

Obama, however, did not have anything to say about the Farm Bill, now in final form and awaiting House and Senate votes and a presidential veto. Sen. Hillary Clinton issued a press release saying that she would vote for the bill. "“Saying no to the farm bill would be saying no to rural America," she said.

In a column headlined "Desperate hillbillies threaten to break up party," Charles Hurt of the New York Post writes, "First it was Bill Clinton dismissing Barack Obama as just another black candidate winning South Carolina. Now comes Hillary Rodham Clinton, splashing moonshine onto those smoldering embers by telling West Virginia voters that 'hardworking Americans, white Americans' support her, not Obama." (Read more)

Hurt was writing about Clinton's comments in an interview with USA Today: "I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on. . . . Sen. Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me." (Read more)

The comment riled columnist Bob Herbert of The New York Times, who writes that Clinton's real message was "He can’t win! Don’t you understand? He’s black! He’s black! The Clintons have been trying to embed that gruesomely destructive message in the brains of white voters and superdelegates for the longest time." Ben Smith of Politico notes, "The blunt talk on appealing to whites surfaces the day after the last round of primaries in which there's a substantial number of black voters." Herbert writes that the "Southern strategy" of Richard Nixon won't work any more because racial attitudes have moderated: "The idea that most white people — or most working-class white people — are unwilling to give an African-American candidate a fair hearing in a presidential election is a slur against whites." (Read more)

Jennifer Agiesta and Jon Cohen write in The Washington Post about Tuesday's exit polls: "Among white active churchgoers in both states, a majority said Wright was very important to their vote, and in each state about nine in 10 of those for whom the issue was very important voted for Clinton" (Read more)

In West Virginia and Oregon, Clinton started new TV ads that don't mention Obama. "The West Virginia spot focuses on trade deals and special interests, while the Oregon one criticizes the Bush administration’s conduct of the Iraq war," writes John Broder of The New York Times. In Beaverton, Ore., Clinton contrasted her health-care plan with Obama's, but did not mention him by name. Broder writes, "It was nothing Mr. Obama had not heard before and was relatively gentle, at least in comparison with her pointed attacks on the stump and on the airwaves in the most recent primaries, in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Indiana, where she taunted her rival about his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., and Mr. Obama’s remarks about 'bitter' small-town voters." (Read more)

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