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Clinton Pounces on Obama's Apparent Misstep

Aired April 12, 2008 - 22:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John King live in Pittsburgh. It is 10 days before Pennsylvania's primary, and a major misstep by Democratic presidential frontrunner Barack Obama. Tonight, he is trying to explain just what he meant when he described rural voters in this state as, quote, "bitter," and people who, quote, "cling to God and guns" when faced with economic anxiety. Rival Hillary Clinton sees the opening she desperately needs, and is pouncing, casting Obama's remarks as elitist and demeaning to small-town Americans. Is it enough to derail Obama? I'll ask top supporters of both sides. Former Senator Tom Daschle for Obama and Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell for Clinton.
We'll also take you across Pennsylvania exploring its rich history, diverse terrain, and the raise factor. From the inner city street of Philadelphia to the white working class town that gave this state its blue collar (INAUDIBLE).

Tonight, some Obama supporters privately say their candidate must move quickly to correct a rare mistake that could cost him here in Pennsylvania and beyond. The candidate sometimes in the past compared to Robert Kennedy or young Bill Clinton is now being cast as the next Al Gore or John Kerry.

At issue, Barack Obama's use of the word bitter and a characterization of working class voters for which he is now expressing some regret. The next contest is here in Pennsylvania. But this debate played out today in Indiana and CNN's Jim Acosta joins us now from Valparaiso with the latest fallout.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, with Barack Obama closing the gap in the polls in Pennsylvania, Hillary Clinton saw an opening today wasting no time. She slammed Obama as elitist. And in blue collar Indiana (INAUDIBLE) words.


ACOSTA (voice-over): For Hillary Clinton it was a Hoosier Country slam dunk.

From Indianapolis.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was kind of taken aback by the remarks of Senator Obama made the other day, because they don't reflect my experience. You know, they seem kind of elitist and out of touch. ACOSTA: To Valparaiso.

CLINTON: I don't think that Americans need a president who looks down on them. We need a president who stands up and fights for the American people again.

ACOSTA: Clinton was out to make Barack Obama pay for his recent remarks that are close to her California fundraiser where he referred to blue collar voters in Pennsylvania as bitter. In Indiana, Obama labored to explain away those comments.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Lately, there's been a little typical sort of political flare-up because I said something that everybody knows is true, which is that there are a whole bunch of folks in small towns of Pennsylvania, in towns right here in Indiana and my home town in Illinois who are bitter. They are angry.

ACOSTA: But by the end of the day, Obama was ready to go further telling a North Carolina newspaper, if I worded things in a way that made people offended, I deeply regret that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right here in our state in the heartland of America...

ACOSTA: But the piling on had already begun. In Indiana, Clinton surrogate Senator Evan Bayh argued undecided superdelegates should consider Obama's remarks before making up their minds. And down in North Carolina, a former Democratic Party leader and Clinton supporter all but called Obama a limousine liberal.

TOM HENDRICKSON, FORMER N.C. DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIRMAN: So Senator Obama don't pity us and think that we are bitter and frustrated. We're hard working family folks who are smart and we get it.


ACOSTA: The Clinton campaign is clearly hoping that this controversy will spill over into Indiana, North Carolina which both hold their contests two weeks after Pennsylvania. By all appearances today, John, Hillary Clinton is hoping to take Barack Obama's comments all the way to the bitter end of this campaign.

KING: We could be certain of that. Jim, thank you very much. And Jim, we're having it here in Pittsburgh tonight to the supposed to be the spring portion of the campaign. Not quite yet there in Indiana. Jim Acosta for us. Thank you.

And we're joined now by one of Barack Obama's prominent supporters. Former Senate majority leader and minority leader Tom Daschle. He joins us from Washington.

Senator, you're from the State of South Dakota. You have cringed in the past when the Democratic Party had seem to be catering to the coast. New York and San Francisco appear to be elitist and hurt itself with voters like those in the state where you come from. I thought the Democrats had learned their lessons.

TOM DASCHLE (D), FORMER SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Well, John, I'll tell you what. I think the media is missing this story entirely. Barack Obama was raised with a single mother. He went to work in the poorest part of Chicago. He has worked most of his life with those who have been disenfranchised.

You're right, I'm from a rural state. Go to a reservation today with 80 percent unemployment. Go to a clinic that has to turn hundreds of people away because they don't have the money to deal with the health care needs of that particular community.

Go to a small town that doesn't have the ability to employ the numbers of people who had been laid off because of plant has left that town. Go to an unemployment line all over Pennsylvania or South Dakota where we just don't have the kinds of jobs that should be offered.

People are concerned. They feel left out and locked out. They believe that Washington has been turned over to the special interests and the powerful. And what they want is change. And that's what Barack Obama's campaign has been all about is change and I think you're going to see that come again.

KING: It has been about change, senator. And one of the remarkable things in this campaign is a young guy with such little experience in national politics has performed so well. Surprising, most of all, the Clinton Family in this campaign.

But, he, himself said that at the end of the day he regrets if he offended anyone. And you're right he has a compelling life story to tell. But that is not what he said and especially said to a fundraiser in one of the more affluent communities in America and many people in this blue collar state and other's think he might have been looking down his nose at them.

Saying they cling to God and guns when they have economic anxiety. You know in your state people have God in their lives because it is their tradition and it is their faith. Will you least concede tonight that he misspoke in a big way?

DASCHLE: Well, Barack has said that he could have worded it a little bit differently. But the passion and the commitment to people in rural America couldn't be stronger. I wouldn't support him, John, as strongly as I do or not for the fact that I really believe he can make their lives better. I believe that he has a message of hope, not of despair for all of those people who do feel left out, who do feel that Washington isn't listening today.

So I'm encouraged really by the tremendous support he has all across rural America today. And I think the next election will show that.

KING: You know, this days' politics -- this age of politics is not always fair. So let's assume he made a mistake and he's willing to say I didn't say it exactly the way I would like. This is what I really mean.

You've seen what's going on in the blogs. You've seen what the Clinton campaign is doing. What the McCain campaign is doing. Let's take the Clinton reaction for a minute.

They are calling around to superdelegates in the Democratic Party -- you are one. You know them quite well and saying, this is what the Republicans would do to Barack Obama. They would make him a liberal elitist like al Gore, like John Kerry. We will lose West Virginia again. We will lose Iowa again. We might lose Pennsylvania. Can they sell that argument?

DASCHLE: Well, first of all, I can't take seriously somebody who has made $110 million calling somebody else elitist. But I have to say I think Barack has already showed a tremendous attraction turning people out like we've never seen before. Breaking all kinds of records with regards to participation.

So we're excited, we're ready for that fall election just as soon as we lock in the nomination. I think you're going to see a real level of participation that ought to excite America about this -- about the candidates and about what Barack's message is all about.

KING: Senator Tom Daschle with us in Washington tonight representing the Obama campaign. Senator, thanks for coming in and visit us on ROUTE 2008. And we'll watch how all this plays out as today's go forward here on Pennsylvania.

We'll get the other side of this controversy. Just ahead on our program, Pennsylvania governor and Hillary Clinton supporter Ed Rendell will join us live in just a little bit.

First though, we want to bring in two of CNN's reporters, Dana Bash and Suzanne Malveaux. Both of course part of the Best Political Team on Television.

We'll begin with Suzanne, who is in Philadelphia tonight. You've been tracking the Democrats, Suzanne, throughout the campaign. You heard the volume from the Clinton campaign today. Hillary Clinton, herself, statement from mayor after mayor after mayor here in Pennsylvania and other rural communities. Why is this so important and the volume so loud from Camp Clinton?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, really, she can't afford to lose Pennsylvania. This is really critical for her. And what we've seen in the ten days before the Pennsylvania primary, Barack Obama really has had the momentum. He has gained superdelegates. He has narrowed her lead. He really has moved forward here until you get this glitch, this controversy here.

So what is happening? She not only needs to win big here in Pennsylvania but it really needs to be kind of this seismic, psychological shift here. She has got to convince the superdelegates that Barack Obama -- if he goes forward to the general election, he cannot win. That is what we're already seeing there. Making this case to the superdelegates that look, the same thing is going to happen last time to al Gore, to John Kerry. The ghosts are going to come back. This question about elitism and they think that it's bad to see John Kerry and these ads wind surfing, really kind of a flip flopper there.

Wait until you see the ads. Barack Obama -- this bad bowler who is condescending, striking out at the working class. That is something that they are looking forward there, saying, look, they need these working class voters. She is not about to lose them, John.

KING: And Dana Bash is in Grantham, Pennsylvania near Harrisburg. One of those very small town communities, where this debate might play out.

Dana, in recent days and weeks, the McCain campaign is often been content to sit on the sidelines and do its own business and let the two Democrats fight it out amongst themselves. Yet they jumped in on this one, too. Pouncing as aggressively perhaps that Senator Clinton did. Why?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, it's no secret that the McCain campaign is preparing to run against Barack Obama. They've been testing some themes challenging his commitment as a reformer. Really challenging his experience, but as soon as they heard this -- much like Hillary Clinton, according to a senior adviser, they said this is a game changer if in fact it is a McCain-Obama race.

In fact, that senior adviser I spoke to said that they would really put the entire campaign through the prism of Barack Obama is an elitist. Remember, this is something as Suzanne just touch on that it's part of the Republican playbook.

In 2004, Republicans feel that they were very successful in painting John Kerry, for example, as a wind surfing French-speaking -- a guy from the left bank of politics.

The question, though, John is whether or not John McCain is able to really -- to tap into the ability to set himself as a contrast to that kind of caricature, if you will, of Barack Obama, because certainly McCain talks about himself at least recently as a patriot, as a war hero. But he doesn't talk much about God and guns either.

KING: Fascinating story. And Dana Bash in Grantham, Pennsylvania. Suzanne Malveaux in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania who will rejoin us a bit later in the program as we discuss further the fallout of this story. Still ahead of the Democratic Party facing the possibility of lasting wounds from a bruising battle.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to -- you know, all of us need to be adults about this. It's an electoral contest. It's not American gladiator.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter joins us to talk about the pressure he's facing over the candidate he's supporting.

Also, union support is critical here in Pennsylvania. But there's a serious labor divide. Find out what it means for the campaign.

Plus, we will show you the political lay of the land with the magic map. Stay with us. You're watching ROUTE 2008.


KING: Here in Pennsylvania it's a feisty debate over the economy in Iraq. African-Americans, the elderly, and white working class voters are key political constituencies. And the question of race looms large. We want to show you right now a live picture of Pittsburgh. This fascinating industrial city as we repair to take you through a closer look at the issues.

But first, let's get a better sense using our magic wall. Our pixel board of Pennsylvania's unique political geography.

A major industrial battle ground. As you can see from the neighborhood, Senator Clinton won Ohio, won New York, won neighboring New Jersey. Obama won down here in Maryland and Delaware. The poll shows Clinton with the advantage. But a shrinking advantage going to the final days of the contest in Pennsylvania.

And here are the key battle grounds for the Democrats in this primary. For Senator Clinton, right out here, this blue collar quarter from Scranton, where she has roots all the way down through Allentown reading and into the Philadelphia area.

The other big blue collar area out here, you have Erie in the north, all the way down to West Coast to Pittsburgh. Former steel country, railroad country, the gate way as America expanded right here an area in economic transition. Critical white working class voters pivotal to Senator Clinton's chances.

If Senator Obama is to makeup the gap and somehow pull off the big upset in Pennsylvania, he will have to do it here. He needs a big African-American turnout in Philadelphia. That's about 12 percent of the state wide turnout in the general election. Critical in the Democratic primary. The winner is the person who does well in the African-American community right here in Central Philadelphia.

Also pivotal for Senator Obama. These suburban areas, they're increasingly turning Democratic. They tend to be affluent. We've seen Senator Obama have success with these voters in other states. They are pivotal if he is to comeback in Pennsylvania. Bucks County here. Montgomery County here. Delaware County and over here further out Chester County.

Those suburbs is just around Philadelphia of the swing counties in the state and they could be decisive if Obama is to come back in the Democratic primary. Now as we watch the Democratic contest play out, we're also looking for lessons that we might apply to the general election battle ground.

This is a state where John McCain currently runs even with either Obama or Clinton and the state he very much hopes to compete in come November. So what could be key then? Obviously, again, you have the Democratic blue collar corridor here, and then the city of Philadelphia. You have a democratic blue corridor out here. And what the locals call the T, out here in culturally conservative Central Pennsylvania, this belt and then across the New York border in the north is a culturally conservative area that is pivotal to the Republicans.

And we can show you by going back to 2000. George W. Bush targeted this state heavily. Heavily won big out here in the middle, across the top, with the Democrats with a big edge here and a big edge here.

Al Gore beats George W. Bush 51 percent to 46 percent. More than 30 times, Bush came to Pennsylvania in his first term. More visits to this state than any other state except his home state of Texas. He wanted it badly. Fast forward to 2004.

He improved to 48 percent, but he still lost to John Kerry who had 51 percent. Again, because of the Democratic strength here in the East, the blue collar corridor. Out in the west, Bush did better. But not good enough because of the huge Democratic advantage down here in Philadelphia and the suburbs.

So if John McCain wants to make this a red state in 2008, the key again -- these suburban counties right around here, they are turning more Democratic. John McCain must compete here, especially among suburban women if he is to offset the Democratic advantages. But for now, we focus on the Democratic race. A diverse state known as the blue collar state.

A pivotal primary for Senator Clinton going forward. You see what it looks like on the map. Now let's look in person.


KING (voice-over): Philadelphia is the state's population and political anchor for America's democracy took route, and now where Democrats count on huge margins to make them competitive state-wide. So on a tough Democratic primary, Rudi ethnic neighborhoods are the bigger in battleground.

Nearly half of the city's electorate is African-American, an Obama advantage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come out and get one of these. (INAUDIBLE), he's the man for the job.

KING: To role west is to lead the gleaming office towers and the poverty for the Philly suburbs. Wealth is easy to find here, but also more traditional middle class neighborhoods, crucial now and again in November. TERRY MADONNA, POLLSTER, FRANKLIN AND MARSHALL COLLEGE: Middle class, lower middle class, typical suburbs, these are people who are in pharmaceuticals. They're in real estate. They're in the financial industry. They're in high tech. They're in service. The one thing about South Eastern Pennsylvania is the diversity of its economy.

MUSIC: When we're living here in Allentown.

KING: Just an hour away though, the quarter of the (INAUDIBLE), Pennsylvania is blue collar labor. Bethlehem is anonymous with steel. Allentown of the road, another scrappy place where signs of difficult change are everywhere.

The roads west from here bring us to Central Pennsylvania. Some of America's most fertile farmland and it can seem a trip back in time.

To the north not too far from the New York border, America's past time has a special home carved from a hillside.

KING (on-camera): Williams Port is home of the little league world series. This is conservative country. President Bush twice carried like Homing County (ph) by a 2-1 margin. But if the Democratic presidential primary is especially close, even small rural communities like this could make a difference.

(voice-over): It's been 32 years since Pennsylvania's presidential primary mattered. Jimmy Carter clinched here back in 1076.

(on-camera): And this year it can seem like a long way. Six weeks separate Pennsylvania from the last Democratic contest. And so as listening to the candidates off late, it seems, well a bit like Groundhog Day. Well, that's part of Pennsylvania's tradition too. Phil Cooper says Count Punxsutawney Phil is undecided or uninterested.

You're not going to tell us Clinton or Obama?

BILL COOPER, PUNXSUTAWNEY, PENNSYLVANIA: No, doesn't matter to him. He's only a groundhog.

KING: Pennsylvania countryside unfolds like a history book. Valley Forge of revolutionary war fame. Gettysburg, a bloody and defining civil war test. Shanksville with a crash of flight 93 shattered the quite of a September mourning. It began a war on terror that is now a major political fault line.

The railroads blossomed here and carried the loads and hopes of a nation expanding west.

MADONNA: Once you get beyond the blue mountains you have the old mining and mill towns that were famous in the 19th century. You know, as part of the industrial revolution. There the conservative blue collar working class voters live. 40 percent of the voters of our state tend to be these more conservative blue collar working class -- Catholic Democrats that we now just euphemistically refer to as the Reagan Democrats.

KING: Pittsburgh anchors western Pennsylvania. Tiny compared to Philadelphia but important politically. Everywhere remind us of Philadelphia's proud industrial past but then its crucial present day political choice.


KING: Some of them are for Barack Obama, others are for Hillary Clinton. But what's the one thing union members here in Pennsylvania can agree on? Find out.

And Barack Obama is embroiled in another political controversy. Hillary Clinton called the recent comments about guns, God, and bitter voters, elitist. How might this play out in their heated campaign rivalry? I'll speak with Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. You're watching ROUTE 2008.



KING: Up to 30 percent of Pennsylvania voters are members of union households. But while union roles were up last year, labor's clout here still as it were once was.

25 years ago, there were 1.2 million union members in Pennsylvania. Now there are 830,000.


KING: Pennsylvania's overall economy is doing OK. But things are very different here than they were in the state's industrial hey day. Pennsylvania has lost more than 200,000 manufacturing jobs during the Bush presidency. So it goes without saying the economy is the major issue for organized labor here. And in such a fiercely contested Democratic race, there's an increased pressure on big labor to back the winning candidate.



KING (voice-over): A pep talk before hitting the streets for Barack Obama. The labor hall field with the trademark purple for the Service Employees Union. Cornell Woolridge is an import from New Hampshire. Hillary Clinton scored a dramatic come back win there. And Woolridge is in Pennsylvania looking good naturedly for revenge.

WOOLRIDGE: You know, I think it's absolutely not just a chance just for revenge but I think a chance to say, hey, you know, give us time and give us opportunity to talk to the people and really present Senator Obama's case. And we will do very, very well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's the man for the job. KING: Door to door in the inner city.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you a Barack Obama supporter now? Get out there and vote April 22nd in the primary.

KING: This union support is critical as Obama looks to block Clintons only realistic path to a come back. And this union support is just as critical to Clinton.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the union have endorsed Hillary. And we're just calling to (INAUDIBLE) our members.

KING: Obama's union backers report nearly 250,000 Pennsylvania members. Senator Clinton on the other hand is supported by unions representing about 170,000 Pennsylvania workers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're just calling our members to talk to them about this presidential primary that's coming up. At this phone bank just outside of Philadelphia, volunteers say the split leaves some workers confused about who their union is backing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want you to find out if you don't know that union has endorsed Hillary Clinton. Oh, that's great.

KING: There are rivalries and occasional tensions. Bob Cooper and other Pennsylvania labor leaders dismiss talk of lasting damage.

ROBERT COOPER, AFSCME: This election is so important and the object is McCain. So I don't see it really hurting us in the long run. Everybody, we let down -- if their candidate loses but I think we'll all come back together again. Labor has too much to lose.

KING: But for now, a spirited competition. A bar code for every union member makes it easier to add answers from the phone survey to the database. This list is part of an Obama effort to reach Democrats who don't always vote.

Every step part of both the Clinton-Obama battle and the fight for bragging rights within the house of labor.


KING: Let's get a quick snap shot now of economic conditions here in Pennsylvania. The median price for a home in Lackawanna County, the Scranton area is $123,000. And Lehigh and Allentown, it's 185,000. Now compare that with Marin County, California where Barack Obama gave that speech, talking about bitter working class workers.

It's just north of San Francisco. One of the wealthiest areas in the country. The average home sells for about $900,000. The median household income household in Lackawanna earns about 39 grand a year. Lehigh County it's more than 48,000 a year.

But in Marin County, again near San Francisco, the median income more than $81,000 a year. Quite a contrast. Barack Obama says he deeply regrets his comments about working class voters in Pennsylvania. Hear for yourself what he's saying on the campaign trail today and Hillary Clinton hitting him back.

Identity politics and the battle for Pennsylvania. It's the issue that never seems to go away. How race is shaping the campaign for the White House. Stay with us. You're watching ROUTE 2008.


KING: Welcome back to ROUTE 2008. I'm John King reporting live from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Right now, Barack Obama is explaining something he said and hoping to defuse a situation Hillary Clinton is pouncing on. If again, he described rural voters in this state as bitter. Voters who cling to God and guns when faced with economic anxiety. Well, listen to Obama explain and defend his comments now.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I said something that everybody knows is true. Which is that there are a whole bunch of folks in small towns in Pennsylvania, in towns right here in Indiana, in my home town in Illinois who are bitter. They are angry. They feel like they've been left behind. They feel like nobody is paying attention to what they're going through.

So I said, well, you know, when you're bitter, you turn to what you can count on. So people, you know, they vote about guns. Or they take comfort from their faith and their family and their community. And they get mad about illegal immigrants, who are coming over to this country. Or they get frustrated about how things are changing.

That's a natural response and -- I didn't say it as well as I should have because, you now, the truth is that these traditions that are passed on from generation to generation, those are important, that's what sustains us. But what is absolutely true is that people don't feel like they are being listened to.


KING: Well, Hilary Clinton heard what Obama said and is blasting him for it. She's casting what the Senator said is demeaning to many Americans.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was taken aback by the remarks that Senator Obama made the other day, because they don't reflect my experience. You know, they seemed kind of elitist and out of touch and talking about people who live in small towns and rural areas throughout America.

You know, Americans who believe in the 2nd Amendment as a constitutional right. Americans who believe in God as a matter of personal faith. Americans who believe in protecting good jobs for the American dream right here in Valparaiso, in Indiana.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Well, perhaps, no one knows Pennsylvania politics better than the current governor, Democrat Ed Rendell. He is one of Hillary Clinton's most high-profile supporters in the state. He joins us tonight from Philadelphia, where he once served as mayor before going on to the State House in Harrisburg.

Governor Rendell, a big controversy. You just heard Obama explaining what he said -- trying to explain what he said. Senator Clinton, however, jumping all over him for it. Senator Obama also told a North Carolina newspaper, look, if I said this in a way that offended anybody, I regret it; maybe I didn't day this in exactly the right way. He's a fellow Democrat. He says maybe he misspoke. Time to move on?

GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I think first of all this demonstrates two things. Number one, Senator Obama does not have a very good understanding of Pennsylvania or Pennsylvanians. It is true we've lost some jobs to technology. We've lost some manufacturing jobs to trade.

But the state is at its highest number of jobs in its history at the end of January. Cities like Scranton and Wilkes-Barre and Harrisburg and Lancaster and York have turned around dramatically in the last five, six, seven years.

You wouldn't recognize Scranton if you'd been there 10 years ago and seen what Mayor Doherty outlined today in terms of the progress that's been made. We are a proud people. Sure, we've suffered some blows but we're resilient. We are optimistic. We believe that we can, by our own hard work, change things throughout the State of Pennsylvania.

That's number one. So, it showed a real lack of understanding about Pennsylvania and its people.

And secondly, it demonstrated, I think thinking that made no sense at all. As you pointed out in the interview with Tom Daschle, people of Pennsylvania didn't turn to religion because they were angry about losing their jobs. We have a deep and abiding religious heritage here that started with the Quakers. And people here believe in their faith very deeply. It's a heritage passed down from family to family.

We didn't turn to guns because we're angry and bitter about losing jobs. We have a wonderful hunting tradition here. We have the -- I think the second or third highest number of hunters in any state in the Union. And we've had them when they had the most booming economy in the world in the 40's and 50's.

So, it shows a real lack of understanding and I think it is demeaning to people to say, well, you're religious only because you're angry or bitter. People aren't religious --

KING: Well, Governor, let me jump in for a second, Governor. Because what he says is that he -- if he said it in an inarticulate way, he regrets it. But he was trying to describe a bigger economic situation. You say he still doesn't have it quite right.

As you know, there are many here saying, well, wait a minute, maybe Hillary Clinton -- maybe there's an opening here, maybe there's a discussion here. But she's turned the volume up so loud because she knows, she needs to win Pennsylvania. The polls have narrowed dramatically. She not only needs to win here but needs to win big and needs to somehow convince the superdelegates that this guy, Obama, can't win a general election because of this one thing he said.

Is that fair?

RENDELL: Well, first of all, that wouldn't be fair. But number one, let me correct here. The polls have not narrowed that much. The last three polls, eight nine and ten, so, that's not a real significant narrowing. Number one.0

Number two, you know, Senator Clinton closes well as she did in Ohio and Rhode Island and blows those poll numbers away.

And number three, I don't think that this is going to -- if Barack Obama is our nominee, this isn't going to stop him from becoming president of the United States. And I will work my heart out for him even though I disagree very strongly about his statement. And I'm going to try to teach him about Pennsylvania and about where we are now and about the turnaround of so many places that he can be a partner to if he becomes president.

But he did something that people should consider when their thinking about who's the most electable. I have no doubt, John, Hillary Clinton would be a stronger and more electable candidate in the fall. No doubt at all.

KING: Well, let me ask you in closing this question. I've known you for a long time. You said a few things over the years you'd like to take back. I work in live television. I trip over my tongue in a case and I wish I could get it back.

If Barack Obama comes out again tomorrow and says, look, I didn't say this the way I meant it; here's what I meant. And he says it in a way that convinces you, all right, maybe he gets it. Would you then tell the Clinton campaign, stop that ad you're preparing to put on TV in Pennsylvania, and other rural communities. Don't do it.

RENDELL: Well, I'm not sure we're preparing to put an ad on TV in Pennsylvania and other rural communities. But let me say this. Again, it shows a real lack of knowledge of what's going on here. And it's important. This is an important state. It's important to the country.

And so I think we've got some ways to go. I'll take him at his words that he didn't mean it in a way that came out. But it also shows a lack of understanding. How can you imply that people's faith is based on anger and bitterness? People have faith here because it's passed on from generation to generation. And people cling very strongly to their faith in good times and bad. So, I would worry about those statements and I worry about the senator's electability. I think he can win in the fall. I think Hillary Clinton is a much surer bet.

KING: Democratic Governor Ed Rendell, a Clinton supporter here in Pennsylvania. Governor, thanks for your time tonight.

RENDELL: Thank you, John.

KING: Now, some here in Pennsylvania say they've heard people politely criticize Barack Obama. But others have this to say.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They probably slam the door on my face (INAUDIBLE). No, I don't want to be bother. I'm not going to vote for a black person.


KING: How much might that happen? We'll look at the issue of race in the race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

And they served their country, now they're homeless. Thousands of veterans, many right here in Pennsylvania. You'll hear what they're hoping to hear from the candidates. Stay with us. You're watching ROUTE 2008.


KING: A live look at the Pittsburgh sky line as we continue here on ROUTE 2008. Special coverage from Pennsylvania. Nothing complicates American politics for this presidential race like the issue of race. Some say Barack Obama has gotten a boost because of his skin color. But others, it's a hurdle that he'll never be able to overcome. Either way, it's the issue that simply will not go away.



KING (voice-over): On the tough streets of Philadelphia, Miss Gunn admits to being a little frightened yet mostly welcome.

GUNN: Hi, how are you doing? I'm here for the Barack Obama campaign. I'm from St. Louis--

KING: Home is St. Louis, every now and then, canvassing there...

GUNN: Are you ready to vote him, Ma'am?

KING: And now here for Barack Obama, a doorway encounter with the race factor.

If you run into people, they would say they're not going to vote for a black guy. GUNN: Yes, I do. Or they probably slam the door on my face. No, I'm not going to be bother. I'm not going to vote for a black person. No.

KING: To be clear, Gunn says it doesn't happen very often. And veteran Pennsylvania pollster, Terry Madonna, plays down the idea that Obama's skin color will cost him a meaningful number of votes either in next week's primary or, if he's the Democratic nominee, in November.

TERRY MADONNA, POLLSTER, FRANKLIN & MARSHALL COLLEGE: I'm not going to argue that race will not be an issue. But I don't think it's a determinative issue and a number of people who won't vote for Obama because of race even among conservative Democrats is relatively small.

KING: In Levittown last week, Obama was asked to explain why his Chicago church had lavish praise on the nation of Islam's Louis Farrakhan.

OBAMA: I've been clear about saying that that was wrong. And nobody has spoken out more fiercely on the issue of anti-Semitism than I have.

KING: He knows that it's part of a larger question.

OBAMA: This is part of the reason that I gave that speech in Philadelphia. Hold on. I mean, we still have, you know, biases, hurt, misunderstanding in all our communities.

KING: The speech was an effort to quiet the storm from the controversial remarks by his longtime pastor Jeremiah Wright. But race was already a subplot in Pennsylvania.

Democratic Governor Ed Rendell easily beat Hall of Famer Lynn Swann back in 2006. And two months ago, Rendell, Hillary Clinton supporter, caused the stir by attributing 5-percentage points of his margin to whites he said aren't ready to support an African-American.

Pollster Madonna is dubious.

MADONNA: I don't see a lot of evidence of that. I mean, there may be a relatively few number. Everybody understands there are some white folks who won't vote for a black guy. And there are some men who won't vote for a woman.

GUNN: Do you know who you'll be voting for?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not sure yet.

KING: One is too many for Gunn, but she doesn't bother arguing.

GUNN: I always say, just have a good day and I smile and keep going, because that motivates me to move on to more people that want to vote.

(END VIDEOTAPE) KING: Another subplot in the race debate, some African-Americans are being criticized for supporting Hillary Clinton and pressured to help Barack Obama make history. Earlier we talked about that with Philadelphia's Mayor and Clinton supporter, Michael Nutter.


KING: You're under some pressure in your own community because you are supporting Senator Clinton at a time many African-Americans see the possibility to make dramatic history. Not only to nominate a Democratic candidate for president who's an African-American, but perhaps win the White House as well.

You said something recently that was quite interesting. I assume responding to some of the pressure you get from fellow African- Americans, you said this: "There are no automatics in life that all black people are going to support a single black candidate in a race. All black folks don't eat fried chicken or eat watermelon. When do we make progress here?

What do you mean by that?

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER (D), PHILADELPHIA: Well actually, that came not from a constituent, that came from a reporter who happened to be white because there's been a lot of fascination with this issue. I talk with my constituents on a regular basis, African Americans and white, Latino and Asian.

And actually, people in African-American communities, specifically, know me well, know that I'm deliberative in my process. Talked to both candidates last year. Talked to them about the issues that matter to Philadelphians. People understand why I made the decision that I did and they respect me for it.

Everyone is entitled certainly to their opinion. And folks in African-American community like any other community can support any candidate that they want. So, there really has not been any pressure. And the only folks who ask me about this are actually people in the news media.

KING: Take us inside the campaign in the final nine or 10 days here in Pennsylvania, specifically in your city of Philadelphia. You know how the math works. If Senator Obama is to have a chance to overcome Senator Clinton's lead here, he's going to have to do it with huge and overwhelming support in your city, in the central city, among African-Americans. How does Mayor Michael Nutter go into that community and say, no, support Senator Clinton?

NUTTER: The same way I've always campaigned over the last 27 years. When I support a candidate or of course when I'm running myself, I do it very directly; I do it very aggressively. It's the same thing I talked about in the commercial that's running. Senator Clinton gets it. She understands cities like Philadelphia and many others. She cares about people like us here in this city and many others across America. KING: If she's in to stay, sir, is there anything in the tone of the conversation, whether it's this back and forth, which has been pretty pointed in the past 24 hours, or some of the other discussions, whether they be about Senator Obama's pastor or his questioning of Senator Clinton as someone who might not be genuine, might be more calculated.

Is there anything in the race that you see is potentially causing long-term lasting damage, no matter who wins going into the general election? The bruises, if you will, that everybody has in a primary campaign turning instead into lasting wounds.

NUTTER: That's why they call them primaries and the Democratic Party, we kind of specialize in that. We need to -- you know, all of us need to be adults about this. This is an electoral contest. It's not American gladiator.


KING: An opening for Hillary Clinton here in Pennsylvania. She's hammering away at the remarks Barack Obama is now expressing regret about. Will the stumble on the trail help her pull ahead?

Plus, homeless Iraq veterans. Find out what the campaign means to them. You're watching ROUTE 2008.


KING: We're rejoined now by our Suzanne Malveaux. She's in Philadelphia and Dana Bash in Grantham, Pennsylvania. More discussion about the fallout of Barack Obama's comments.

Did some small town voters here are, quote "bitter" or "cling to God and guns at times of economic anxiety?"

Suzanne, the challenge for Senator Obama now is to put this behind him. You heard the Clinton campaign hammering away on this point. What does Obama do or can he do anything to turn the page?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What's interesting, John, covering both these candidates, they really have a different approach to all of this. Senator Clinton, as we know, she and her husband, making some $100 million for the last six years. But she's really painting herself as anybody who gets it here talking about her roots in Scranton and that her grandfather worked in the mill. They've got an ad that says she grew up at pinnacle of the American dream.

What really was surprising here is that you had one of his ardent supporters Tom Daschle speaking to you about his background, that this happened now and not 36 hours earlier, when this controversy was first brewing, when the Clinton campaign was pointing to this to reporters, hey, take a look at this.

And what we got from the Obama camp was, we can't confirm or deny this is even true because we don't have an audio tape. The one thing the Obama campaign has been successful at is defining their candidate, and not allowing the other person to do so. They realize they have to continue to do that.

What does means is talk about being raised by a single parent of humble means, that he gave up being a part of the elite to work at the Chicago south side, to continue to talk about his own background and put this in a larger context, to put it behind him, John.

KING: And then the McCain campaign sees this as a gift. But working sources today also a good number of Democrats who are privately cringing that their candidate, their leading candidate, would say something like this.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They absolutely are cringing because, you remember look back just to the last election cycle in 2006, when Democrats realize and the reason why they were so successful is because they learned how to talk to and appeal to the very Democrats that we're talking about here. Those rural Democrats, those conservative Democrats.

The reason why Nancy Pelosi is the Speaker of the House is basically because they put her what seemed to be a witness protection program during the fall of 2006 because Republicans were going after the Democrats as saying that Pelosi was the San Francisco.

Sound familiar? San Francisco. The same place that Barack Obama gave this speech. And the reason is because they understood that in order to win seats that they did win in rural areas of Indiana, those three districts that they won, they had to really appeal to and talk the talk of these rural Democrats.

And really -- there are a lot of Democrats right now who are feeling like, wait a minute, you know, I thought we learned the lesson of how to really -- to be successful in these areas and they worry that this is going to hurt them in the end.

KING: Dana Bash for us in Grantham. That's in central Pennsylvania. Susan Malveaux in Philadelphia, in eastern Pennsylvania. I'm in Pittsburgh in the west tonight, part of our extensive coverage of the primary, just 10 days away. Stay with us here on CNN and stay with us here on ROUTE 2008. We're not done tonight.

A plea to the candidates from Pennsylvania's homeless veterans. Their numbers are disturbing. Their message, urgent. Hear it for yourself. Stay right here. You're watching ROUTE 2008.


KING: The debate over Iraq is critical in this campaign and it's about more than just how long the troops will be in Iraq. It's also about how they will be treated here at home. Here's Dan Lothian.


BOB ZARNOCK, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: This would be the entrance to my house.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): How did you stay warm? Lots of blankets?

ZARNOCH: Lots of blankets.

LOTHIAN: Bob Zarnoch is an Iraq war veteran who returned from the battlefield and ended up homeless, living under this bridge.

ZARNOCH: When you sleep here at night, you're still in the battle.

LOTHIAN: And what battle is that?

ZARNOCH: Battle against what has happened to us. Why is this happening? I don't deserve this. But what can I do.

LOTHIAN: Zarnoch is a Pennsylvania Army National Guard specialist who says he survived hostile combat missions. He's now divorced. Says he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. The 11 and a half months spent in Iraq shattered his life.

ZARNOCH: I am not adjusting to civilian life very well. I'm not. OK. Maybe I need to be shot at the rest of my life.

LOTHIAN: He and other vets who joined him at this Wilkes-Barre soup kitchen don't believe the federal government is doing enough to keep them off the streets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I see too many out here that are just lost.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A homeless veteran trying to get assistance through the VA is like trying to get past the velvet rope at Studio 54.

LOTHIAN: They hope one of these two candidates will deliver. Zarnoch is banking on Senator Barack Obama.

ZARNOCH: Senator Obama to me has a connection with the more common man.

LOTHIAN: Mike Kasloski (ph) presented his case to Senator Hillary Clinton at a recent town hall meeting here and now supports her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would hope you would move to make it illegal to discriminate against veterans in employment, reemployment and housing and that would eliminate all the homeless veterans.

CLINTON: You know, it is wrong to discriminate against the vet. But our government is not enforcing the law and I will.

GARY CLARK, ALLIANCE AGAINST HOMELESSNESS: See all the broken out windows?

LOTHIAN: Gary Clark a retired professor turned a homeless advocate, who hopes the candidates will pay attention in Pennsylvania.

CLARK: To veterans, it's easier to turn your head and look the other way. I mean, the homeless are essentially invisible.

ZARNOCH: We don't deserve red carpets and crowns, but we do deserve respect, you know. And that's what I'm fighting, me and every other veteran.

LOTHIAN: For respect?

ZARNOCH: For respect. What we've done.


KING: That's Dan Lothian. And we're back Sunday night with another edition of ROUTE 2008. Special coverage from the CNN Election Express at 10 Eastern. That's right after our CNN special, "THE COMPASSION FORUM," with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama facing hard questions about the role of faith in politics.

I'm John King, thanks for joining us tonight. And we'll see you then.