ABC News’ Sarah Amos Reports: Former president Bill Clinton’s campaign rally this morning at the junior high gym in Corydon, Indiana was a wealth of Hillary Clinton surrogates, among them many who had their own thoughts about Sen. Barack Obama’s recent comments about small town voters.
The former president was introduced by Indiana’s Former First Lady Judy O’Bannon, who spoke of rural pride and reminded the small town crowd it was not a sentiment shared by the all the presidential candidates.
"All over Indiana there are people in communities like ours, and we aren’t just blind fools who live here because we don’t know where the road is that goes out, are we?" Some candidates would imply that, wouldn’t they? Read the newspapers and see what some candidates say about places like the hometown where you belong," said O’Bannon, after talking about how her husband Governor Frank O’Bannon was a Corydon local.
Citing concern over the economy, health care, and Iraq, O’Bannon passionately continued, "We’re worried about that. And that is why we know that you just don’t do the things that the other candidate implied – sit around and quake and cling. You get up and you do something about it."
President Clinton, Hillary’s number one surrogate, then used O’Bannon’s remarks as a springboard to share his own experiences of reactions to Obama’s comments at a recent San Francisco fundraiser where he said small town voters were "bitter" and "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."
Over seven stops in North Carolina, Clinton said "Everywhere I go there are all these people with signs, saying I’m not bitter – I’m not bitter."
Clinton said during a stop in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania "this fellow said to me… "President Clinton, we are not bitter, we just want to turn the country around." Clinton said another supporter in North Carolina said "I hunt ’cause I like to and I go church ’cause I need to. And if I were a millionaire, I would still hunt and go to church.’ He said what we need is to get this country together, get it on the road and go forward. So that is what this election is about. And we all gotta go forward together. We all have to go forward together."
The strong sentiments were appreciated by the crowd, but were not entirely accurate. During Clinton’s seven stops in North Carolina on Saturday there were no "I’m not bitter" signs. There was a small assortment of people at his later events wearing stickers with the slogan, but many of those sporting the stickers weren’t even sure what they meant. Clinton also was a bit confused about his encounter in Pennsylvania. The conversation actually took place at an earlier event in Bloomsburg, PA – or so Clinton told the crowd in Bloomsburg.
Despite the evolving anecdotes, the fact that the Clinton campaign needs this story to stay alive in Indiana and other rural states was crystal clear.
And just in case the reporters in the room weren’t totally sure what the message of the day was, the Clinton campaign’s Indiana co-chair, Joe Hogsett was ushered out to the press riser to talk with reporters before the rally began.
The former Indiana State Secretary told reporters "apparently Senator Obama believes that those of us in Indiana only practice our faith because we are mad at the government, or that we seek refuge in recreational activities because we are frustrated by our economic plight. Nothing could be further from the truth. As I said earlier, we pray because we love God. We hunt and fish because that is what we have been taught to do. Those are values that are time honored here in Indiana and values that apparently Senator Obama doesn’t understand"
Hogsett also made it clear that he did not believe Senator Clinton has attacked Obama over these remarks. "Oh, it is not our attack, it is Senator Obama who attacked Senator Clinton this morning saying that she would say anything to get elected, even carrying news crews around behind her to take a shot and drink a beer, trying to suggest that she shares Hoosier values. When it is in fact Senator Obama himself who suggested in California last week that he is out of touch with Hoosier values," said Hogsett.