Clinton, Obama meet with blue-collar Ind. voters

Ministers hope Obama response will end contrversy
April 30, 2008 8:37:06 PM PDT
With the important Indiana primary less than a week away, both Democratic presidential contenders are in the Hoosier State.Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama spent time with working class families. The controversy over Obama's former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, hangs over Indiana voters as the latest polls in the Hoosier State tell conflicting stories. Clinton leads in one, Obama in the other. But Obama, who is still the Democratic frontrunner, picked up key endorsements from three more super delegates, including a congressman from southern Indiana. And sources in Washington say that most of the 80 uncommitted Democratic congressmen and women are leaning toward Obama. But they're all watching to see how the Wright controversy affects the Indiana primary next Tuesday.

Obama campaigned with his wife at the home of a blue-collar family near Indianapolis as he tried to reconnect, face to face, with a voting bloc that's abandoned him in recent primaries and may be even more alienated by his relationship with Wright, who is combative performance in Washington, D.C. on Monday prompted Obama to sever a deep spiritual bond that now threatens to derail his presidential bid.

"I made a statement yesterday that was hard to make but it was what I believed, and what we want to do now, though, is to make sure this doesn't continue to be a perpetual distraction," Obama said.

"What do you think when you hear fellow American citizens say that stuff about America?" TV host Bill O'Reilly asked Clinton in a taping of his show.

"I take offense. It is outrageous," she responded.

Clinton's comments in a taping of "The O'Reilly Factor" come as the latest polls indicate she's ahead by eight points in one poll, and he's up by two points in another. Clinton is also courting the blue-collar crowd in a different part of the state, beginning with a surreal ride in a pickup truck.

The gas station stop illustrated her call for a federal gas tax holiday for drivers this summer, which Obama opposes, calling it economically unwise political pandering.

"I would impose an excess profits tax on the oil companies. Let the oil companies pay the gas tax for the summer," Clinton said.

"There's no guarantee that the oil companies would actually lower prices as opposed to just boost their prices to match whatever money was taken out from the gas tax. So it's not a real solution" Obama said.

Obama continues to campaign in southern, eastern and central Indiana because he is relatively confident of his support in the northwest part of the state, which is where Clinton is spending a lot of time, including a stop in nearby Portage where the Wright controversy is troubling a lot of voters.

The Obama campaign filed an election complaint Wednesday against a pro-Clinton group for allegedly running anti-Obama ads in violation of federal law, which the group vehemently denies.

Obama was in Bloomington Wednesday night trying to get back on message.

"This party will be unified in November to make sure we're taking the country in an entirely different course," he said.

Clinton campaigned in Kokomo Wednesday night. Earlier, O'Reilly asked Clinton about Obama's former pastor and how Obama has handled Wright's controversial statements this week.

"He spoke out forcefully yesterday," Clinton said. "I think he made his views clear finally that he disagreed. I think that's what he had to do."

Former President Jimmy Carter, in Chicago Wednesday night signing copies of his new book "A Remarkable Mother," said Obama is being tortured with this issue through no fault of his own.

"My opinion is Rev. Wright is either ignorant about politics, or he was trying to hurt Obama because he kept on and on. I think yesterday when Obama separated himself from Rev. Wright, he had to do it and he did it completely," Carter said. "I have 11 grandchildren, four children, most are married and all of them - 100 percent - are for Obama. My hometown and my home state of Georgia went for Obama. I'll make my decision after the primary season is over."

Ministers hope Obama response will end contrversy

Reaction is pouring in one day after presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama was forced to publicly denounced the man who married him, baptized his children and prayed with him the day he announced his candidacy for president.

Does Obama's declaration Tuesday that he is separating himself from Reverend Jeremiah Wright mean the issue can be put to rest?

Several African-American ministers, and Wright's colleagues, say it's time to move on and focus on the campaign issues. But they did offer words of support for each man, who they say had to publicly deal with what should have been a private issue.

About 25 ministers gathered at a West Side church to discuss ways to curb the recent violence that has plagued the city. But a few also expressed concern that controversy over the relationship between Obama and Wright is plaguing Obama's presidential campaign, an issue that Obama addressed Tuesday when he distanced himself from Wright, denouncing comments the minister made during an appearance at the National Press Club.

"He was presenting a world view that contradicts who I am and what I stand for," said Obama.

"The senator was quite eloquent. He was quite pained. He was hurt," said Rev. Ira Acree, Greater St. John Bible Church.

"What we saw yesterday from Sen. Barack Obama was a glimpse into his soul. That was painful for any parishioner to have to do, with the relationship they've had with their pastor," said Rev. Marshall Hatch, New Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church.

Hatch says he supports both Wright for speaking his mind and Obama for making what he says is a difficult choice in order to appeal to a variety of voters, especially the working class white voters who sided with Hillary Clinton in the Pennsylvania primary.

"The relationship between a pastor and parishioner is sacred. It's unfortunate that it's spilled out in the public but perhaps after yesterday's comments we can move on," said Hatch.

"Senator Obama at the end of the day will be the president of these United States, he will secure the nomination for the Democratic Party we still believe that," said Acree.

It remains to be seen whether Obama's public divorce from Wright will make an impact with voters. Recent polls show Obama and Clinton in a tight race going into next week's primary in Indiana. He still has the lead in North Carolina.

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