Late Friday at a fundraiser in San Francisco, Barack Obama made the following comments that dominated the political world over the weekend:
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. 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.
Naturally, the McCain and Clinton campaigns pounced immediately, describing Obama as a condescending, out of touch elitist. For his part, Obama first defended his comments, then backpedaled a
bit, claiming that while they were accurate, they were also worded
inelegantly. Now he is on the defensive, apologizing outright for the
comments. Amongst the political commentary punditocracy, however, the Obama gaffe has taken on even greater meaning:
- Writing in the Politico, John Harris and Jim Vandehei all but engrave the tombstone for Obama's campaign, arguing that Obama's failure in the general election against incessant Republican shelling will be of epic proportions. Better to nominate the known quality of Clinton, they argue, rather than face electoral defeat for the third time in a row. Joe Klein is skeptical. (Update: To be clear, Harris and Vandehei are reporting on what Clinton is saying to superdelegates, not their own opinions).
- In the Atlantic, Marc Ambinder helpfully lays out the probable course of the media-driven scandal.
- Josh Marshall shares a video from 2004 where Obama makes essentially the same argument, but without the pressure of being on the campaign trail (the video was filmed not long after Obama won his Senate seat).
- Carrie Dann looks at the impact of Obama's comments in Indiana and concludes the negative effect is minimal.
- And regarding the "elitist" charge, political scientist Theda Skocpol snorts, considering where these charges are coming from.