Obama says he erred in comments on "bitter" voters
MUNCIE, Indiana |
MUNCIE, Indiana (Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, attacked by his rivals as an elitist for describing small-town voters as people who "cling to guns or religion," said on Saturday he erred in how he expressed the concerns of those voters.
Obama was accused by Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican John McCain of taking a condescending view of working-class voters after video surfaced of him speaking at a private fund-raiser last weekend where he sought to explain the concerns of some Pennsylvania voters.
Those voters were "bitter" about job losses and other economic woes and so "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," Obama, an Illinois senator, said.
After facing a barrage of criticism from New York Sen. Clinton and Arizona Sen. McCain, Obama told a campaign rally in Muncie, Indiana, his description was clumsy and did not convey his meaning.
"I didn't say it as well as I should have," said Obama, who is vying with Clinton for the Democratic nomination and the right to run in November against presumptive Republican nominee McCain.
Obama said he believed many voters were indeed bitter about the economy and he meant to say "when you're bitter you turn to what you can count on."
"So people -- they vote about guns, or they take comfort from their faith and their family and their community," he said. But he said he had not meant to imply that was a bad thing.
"The truth is that these traditions that are passed on from generation to generation, those are important. That's what sustains us," he said.
Obama, who is leading Clinton in the number of delegates who will determine the Democratic nominee, lags behind her in polls in Pennsylvania, which holds its nominating contest on April 22.
(Reporting by Caren Bohan, editing by Vicki Allen)
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