McCain, Clinton Bash Obama's "Small Town" Comments; Obama Campaign Responds

"Barack Obama apparently believes that for Americans less privileged than him, religion is an economic-based and not faith-based condition," Mark Salter, a senior campaign adviser for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., tells ABC News.

"It is hardly news that Senator Obama's 'new' approach to politics is based on the presumption that voters are easily fooled," Salter continues, "but the arrogance and elitism he shows here is truly astonishing, and very revealing about how he would govern this country."

Salter was reacting to Obama's comments about the "bitter"ness of small town Pennsylvanians who then cling to their guns, or religion.

In Philly, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, implies that Obama "looks down on" these small town Pennsylvanians.

"I saw in the media it's being reported that my opponent said that the people of Pennsylvania who faced hard times are bitter," Clinton said this afternoon. "Well, that's not my experience. As I travel around Pennsylvania, I meet people who are resilient, who are optimistic, who are positive, who are rolling up their sleeves. They are working hard everyday for a better future, for themselves and their children.

“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."

McCain adviser Steve Schmidt called Obama's thoughts on small town Pennsylvanians a "remarkable statement and extremely revealing...It shows an elitism and condescension towards hardworking Americans that is nothing short of breathtaking. It is hard to imagine someone running for president who is more out of touch with average Americans."

The Obama campaign sent out spokesman Tommy Vietor to respond, saying, "Senator Obama has said many times in this campaign that Americans are understandably upset with their leaders in Washington for saying anything to win elections while failing to stand up to the special interests and fight for an economic agenda that will bring jobs and opportunity back to struggling communities.  And if John McCain wants a debate about who's out of touch with the American people, we can start by talking about the tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans that he once said offended his conscience but now wants to make permanent."

I'm not sure that's going to be enough, Tommy.

It is a very difficult comment to explain -- for attendees at a San Francisco fundraiser, Obama described small town Pennsylvanians who "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."

The Huffington Post first reported the story; you can listen to the audio here.

The National Republican Congressional Committee has sent out an email attacking Rep. Chris Carney, D-Penn., who comes from Northeast Pennsylvania, who has not endorsed either Clinton or Obama.

“It’s time for Congressman Chris Carney to step up and denounce Barack Obama’s condescending attitude about families who live in small towns and who hold a viewpoint other than Obama’s,” said NRCC Spokesman Ken Spain.

What do you think?

- jpt

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