by Mike Dorning
The controversy over Barack Obama’s comments about “bitter” feelings among the people of small-town America shows no sign of subsiding and provoked plenty of chatter among the political consultant and pundits on Sunday morning chat shows.
Democratic political consultant James Carville channeled Ricky Ricardo on NBC’s “Meet the Press” today.
“He’s going to have to do some more explaining about this,” declared Carville, a Clinton ally
“It’s big,” conservative columnist George Will said on ABC’s “This Week,” arguing that it crystallizes doubts about Obama. “Is he condescending? Is he out of touch?”
Democratic consultant Bob Shrum, a strategist for John Kerry’s 2004 campaign, said on “Meet the Press” that the comments are likely to figure prominently in the next Democratic presidential debate, scheduled for Wednesday in Philadelphia.
“I think this will be settled by the debate Wednesday night,” Shrum said. “I think this will be a big issue in the debate. The way he handles it I think will establish whether he can create resonance with these folks he is talking about.”
Appearing on Meet the Press, Republican strategists Mike Murphy and Mary Matalin previewed lines of attack that the comments may fuel in the general election, arguing they allow Republicans to focus attention on divisions within the Democratic party between cultural liberals and socially conservative white working-class voters.
“The damage here is that what he said accurately reflects the current Democratic party,” Matalin said. “It’s more affluent. It’ more liberal, that’s the way it’s moving. He was saying this to San Francisco Democrats, rich San Francisco Democrats.”
“This is a general election nightmare,” she sadded.
Murphy said Obama’s comments were “beautiful” for the Republican party because they provide “a shot of steroids” to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign that he argued would weaken Obama. At the same time, he said, they set up a general election argument against Obama, whom he believes will nonetheless be the Democratic nominee.
“Now it becomes the defining point that hurts Barack among the very votes he’s going to need in the general election to beat John McCain,” Murphy said. “This thing is going to stick because it’s part of the way the Democrat(ic) party today is disconnected I think from swing voters who are going to decide this election.”
Still, Shrum argued that efforts by Clinton and McCain to use the comments to portray Obama as elitist could backfire.
“The underlying question here is whether McCain and Clinton can tag him with the term elitist, which is what they want. I mean this is a guy who just finished paying his student loan, who was raised by a single mother and his grandparents, who doesn’t know what it’s like to have $100 million,” Shrum said.
Bill and Hillary Clinton recently released tax returns showing that they had earned $109 million since they left the White House.
“So I think Sen. Clinton has to be a little bit careful in pushing this, because frankly she hasn’t lived in the real world for 25 years,” Shrum added. “She’s been living in a bubble. At a certain point, it will come back on her. But at the moment it’s a blessing.”