Sunday, April 13, 2008

Obama can be Eloquent but Phraseologically Careless

In just 10 days from now, Pennsylvania voters will mark their "X's" or "O's" for Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. In the latest polls Obama is closing the gap with Clinton in that state. She now leads with just a 6% margin. That trend is not good news for Hillary, but Obama's choice of words yesterday was.

At a private fundraiser in San Francisco he was speaking about hard hit working class voters in Pennsylvania and said,
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.

Clinton, needing all the ammunition she can get, attacked like Operation Iraqi Freedom, blasting Obama with
The people of faith I know don't 'cling to' religion because they're bitter. ... I also disagree with Sen. Obama's assertion that people in this country 'cling to guns' and have certain attitudes about immigration or trade simply out of frustration. People of all walks of life hunt — and they enjoy doing so because it's an important part of their life, not because they are bitter.

Clinton is hoping her words will hit a nerve with not just the Pennsylvania electorate, but also those in Indiana and North Carolina - the next two primaries.

For his part, Obama admitted that he "didn't say it as well as I should have". He may have nore explaining to do. His words were careless, and dangerous for him, especially just before the upcoming nomination-determining primary of Pennsylvania - at least that's how important that vote is purported to be.

The comment does cast some additional doubt over him. On the one hand, after the Rev. Wright controversy, he claimed that his church and faith were important to him, yet he uses words like "cling" in reference to religion. That word evokes a sense of desperation, and it can, and is used in a way that is dismissive of its subject.

Today, April 13th, all the major U.S. news networks have made this story their top headline. Some question whether or not it will negate his gains in Penn. Hillary is hoping so, and will likely continue to use it often over the next 10 days till the April 22 vote.

If Obama's comments hurts in the immediate days ahead, there are a couple of things on his side - a well worded apology or explanation of some sort, which he has attempted already, and time. In politics time may not heal all wounds but give the candidate a chance to buffer the sting with hopeful messages that will become the focus.

In politics and in life, whether it is real or not, people do cling to hope.

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