Sen. Barack Obama is campaigning in Pennsylvania and the heartland
this weekend, and looking to connect with Midwestern values voters. But
is this the message that reflects small town America?

At the fund-raiser in San Francisco last Sunday, Mr.
Obama outlined challenges facing his presidential candidacy in the
coming primaries in Pennsylvania and Indiana, particularly persuading
white working-class voters who, he said, fell through the cracks during
the Bush and Clinton administrations.

“So it’s not surprising then that 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,” Mr. Obama said, according to a transcript on the
Huffington Post Web site, which on Friday published the comments.

Yep, that’s a challenge to his candidacy alright. It came off to a lot of people as demeaning.

The remarks touched off a torrent of criticism from Mrs.
Clinton, Mr. McCain and Republican activists and party officials, all
accusing Mr. Obama of elitism and belittling the working class. Mr.
Obama forcefully rejected those charges…

Charges that Obama is out of touch with the working class. And here’s how he forcefully countered:

“No, I’m in touch,” Mr. Obama said. “I know exactly
what’s going on. I know what’s going on in Pennsylvania, I know what’s
going on in Indiana, I know what’s going on in Illinois. People are fed
up, they’re angry, they’re frustrated, they’re bitter and they want to
see a change in Washington. That’s why I’m running for president of the
United States of America.”

There’s a disconnect in that statement. He says we’re bitter, angry and frustrated. That’s the response to people who didn’t like his criticism of Americans about religion, immigration, trade…?

“It shows an elitism and condescension toward
hard-working Americans that is nothing short of breathtaking,” said
Steve Schmidt, a senior adviser to Mr. McCain. “It is hard to imagine
someone running for president who is more out of touch with average
Americans.”

Obama’s response to the criticism was surprisingly still a bleak view of middle-America.

“Instead of apologizing for offending small town
America, Senator Obama chose to repeat and embrace the comments he made
earlier this week,” said Phil Singer, a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton.

Maybe the bitterness and anger and frustration is coming from inside
his campaign. Up to now, campaign talk has been contentious alright.
But among the candidates themselves. Not between a candidate and the
people he wants to….lead? 

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....