From NBC/NJ's Athena Jones and NBC's Mark Murray
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Clinton campaign had more to say Saturday about Obama's comments regarding "bitter" Pennsylvanians, who "cling to guns or religion" and harbor anti-immigrant or anti-trade sentiments.
The New York senator spent several minutes at a factory this morning making a point-by-point rebuttal of a sentence that has become the center of a political firestorm. Clinton surrogate Sen. Evan Bayh said Obama's comments were something superdelegates and voters should think about as they decide whom to support.
"I was taken aback by the demeaning remarks Senator Obama made about people in small town America. Senator Obama's remarks are elitist and they are out of touch," Clinton told the factory workers. "They are not reflective of the values and beliefs of Americans. Certainly not the Americans that I know -- not the Americans I grew up with, not the Americans I lived with in Arkansas or represent in New York. You know, Americans who believe in the 2nd Amendment believe it's a matter of Constitutional rights."
She also pushed back when it came to Americans' faith and economic views. "Americans who believe in God believe it is a matter of personal faith," she said. "Americans who believe in protecting good American jobs believe it is a matter of the American Dream... The people of faith I know don't 'cling to' religion because they're bitter. People embrace faith not because they are materially poor, but because they are spiritually rich. Our faith is the faith of our parents and grandparents. It's a fundamental expression of who we are and what we believe."
"If we are striving to bring people together -- and I believe we should be -- I don't think it helps to divide our country into one America that is enlightened and one that is not," she continued. "We know there is an unacceptable economic divide in America today, but that is certainly not the way to bridge it. The way to do that is to roll up our sleeves and get to work and make sure we provide, once again, economic opportunity and shared prosperity for all Americans. People don't need a president who looks down on them; they need a president who stands up for them. And that is exactly what I will do as your president. Because I believe if you want to be the president of all Americans, you need to respect all Americans and that starts with respecting our hard working Americans."
Obama spokesman Hari Sevugan replied with this statement: "We won't be lectured on being out of touch by Senator Clinton, who believes lobbyists represent real people and is awash in their money and who can't tell a straight story about her lengthy record of supporting trade deals like NAFTA and China that have devastated communities in Pennsylvania and Indiana. She won't change the broken Washington system that all too often leaves American workers behind, but Barack Obama will."
Clinton was joined at today's event by Bayh, who spoke with reporters briefly after the speech. He said he didn't believe Obama was an elitist, but that his remarks could be misinterpreted that way and that Republicans would use them against him. "I think it's a real potential political problem and it's something for superdelegates and voters to think about," he said. "The far right wing has a very good track record of using things like this relentlessly against our candidates, whether it's Al Gore or John Kerry and I'm afraid this is the kind of fodder they might use to really uh, to uh to harm him with."
Clinton campaign was expected to continue pushing what they see as a big story in hopes of keeping Obama at bay in Pennsylvania, where recent polls have shown him closing the gap with her, and to raise doubts in voters minds here in Indiana and other states. A conference call with Pennsylvania mayors and former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack is planned this afternoon "to respond to the comments Senator Obama made about hardworking Pennsylvanians."