Barack Obama, trying to weather a political storm over controversial comments about bitter workers who "cling to guns or religion," hit back at Hillary Clinton this morning, saying she disrespected those voters by misrepresenting her positions on trade deals.
Clinton and her campaign battered Obama over the weekend, accusing him of demeaning blue-collar voters and their strongly-held beliefs and describing him as elitist and out of touch. He acknowledged that his remarks could have been better phrased, and explained that he meant to say that economically struggling voters feel left behind and angry and naturally turn to core beliefs.
Without naming Clinton, he declared that a candidate cannot support the North American Free Trade Agreement for nearly 20 years, then come to Pennsylvania and say they are dead set against, or say they are opposed to the proposed Colombia trade deal and have their chief strategist lobby on behalf of the pact (as Clinton's former chief strategist Mark Penn did before he was demoted).
"That's not respect. That's just more of the same old Washington politics," Obama told a forum on manufacturing in Pittsburgh sponsored by the Alliance For American Manufacturing. Clinton plans to address the same forum later this morning.
Obama said he would make sure any trade deals that cross his desk as president "put American workers first. They will put the American people first."
While warning that some jobs will not return, he said he would aggressively support the country's industrial economy. "The fight for a manufacturing future is the fight for America's future," the Illinois senator said.
Obama's biggest-name backer in Pennsylvania also tries to explain the controversial remarks in a new TV ad airing today in Pennsylvania, where Obama and Clinton face off in a showdown primary on April 22.
"In towns like yours and mine, families are struggling with bills they canít afford and jobs moving away," Senator Bob Casey says in the spot, dressed down and walking down a Scranton street. "It has to change Ė but it wonít until we change Washington. Thatís why I believe in Barack Obama. Iíve worked with him. Iíve seen him stand up to the lobbyists and special interestsÖ And like us, heís tired of the political games and division that stops anything from getting done. Barack Obama knows Pennsylvaniaís hurting. He can unite America and bring real change."
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.