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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Bill Clinton's Message to Rural America

Jack Tapper, ABC

As Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., avoids any real campaigning in West Virginia, the former president of the United States is out there ginning up resentments.

Bill Clinton has the right to say whatever he wants, of course. But he's a smart man. Brilliant, even.

He can do the math. He must know that it's quite improbable that his wife, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., will be the Democratic presidential nominee.

So what purpose does it serve for him to barnstorm a state like West Virginia and tell rural voters that Obama and his elitist political/media cabal allies are mocking Appalachia?

He's using the kind of language Democrats typically use against Republicans -- as in, stuff you say when you don't want voters to vote for the other guy under any circumstance.

This is tough stuff to walk back from.

Per ABC News' Sarah Amos, this is what the 42nd president of the United States said Friday in Ripley, W.Va.:

"Hillary is in this race because of people like you and places like this and no matter what they say," Clinton said. "And no matter how much fun they make of your support of her and the fact that working people all over America have stuck with her, she thinks you're as smart as they are. She thinks you've got as much right to have your say as anybody else. And, you know, they make a lot of fun of me because I like to campaign in places like this, they say I have been exiled to rural America, as if that was a problem. I don't know about you, but I'd rather be here than listening to that stuff I have to hear on television, I'd rather be with you. There is a simple reason: You need a president a lot more than those people telling you not to vote for her."

In Madison, W.Va.:

"It is very interesting, from the very beginning of this race there has been a sharp divide in the vote -- the people who need a president, who need to turn the economy around, who need to restore the middle class, who need to give poor people a chance to work their way into the middle class, who need to give our children a better future, who need to restore our standing in the world and the war in Iraq, but do it in a way that rebuilds our military and stands up for America's security and standing around the world -- they have been for her from the get-go."

And on and on... Ginning up the resentments and the class divide (and maybe other divisions). ... His message to these voters: Obama and the media are laughing at you and think you're stupid!!!

Obama has a clear problem with white working class voters. This kind of rhetoric exacerbates it. Clinton knows that -- he's trying to drive up turnout to maximize his wife's popular vote argument to superdelegates. He has every right to do so -- the race is not over, no nominee exists yet.

But this is what keeps Howard Dean and Nancy Pelosi up at night.

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