April 12th, 2008
04:15 PM ET
14 years ago

Southern Democrat: Obama's 'got a bunch of explaining to do'

MISHAWAKA, Indiana (CNN) - Dave ‘Mudcat’ Saunders, the Virginia-based Democratic strategist credited with helping big-name politicians appeal to rural voters, said Saturday Barack Obama has “got a bunch of explaining to do” over his claims that economically-frustrated Americans “cling to guns or religion” when they get “bitter.”

“I’m a southern boy myself,” Saunders told CNN by phone. “I don’t have a gun because I’m bitter, it’s because I’ve always had one. I don’t pray to God because I’m bitter. I pray to God because it makes my life better.”

Saunders was an adviser to former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, and he wrote on The Huffington Post in January that Edwards was the only Democrat with the potential to defeat McCain in a general election match-up.

The consultant is also credited with helping former Virginia governor Mark Warner win election in 2001 by moving socially-conservative voters into the Democratic fold. Warner sponsored a vehicle in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series during that campaign, a move attributed to Saunders.

Obama’s advisers, including the state’s current Gov. Tim Kaine, see Virginia as a state Obama can win this fall. Although Obama won the state’s primary on Feb. 12 overwhelmingly, he lost the 9th congressional district in rural southwestern Virginia to Hillary Clinton.

Saunders said “rural America will be crucial in this election.”

“The one thing that I preached during this whole deal is we can’t be stereotyping anybody,” he said. “Well, Barack Obama just stereotyped my people out in rural America.”

“Here’s a guy who says he shouldn’t be stereotyped, but yet he stereotyped us.”

- CNN Political Producer Peter Hamby

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama
soundoff (114 Responses)
  1. jeff

    Obama has nothing to explain – having lived in upstate New York for over 30 years before moving to California, I felt bitter that upstate New York never recovered over the past 25 years. The fact that Clinton does not recognize this only demonstrates how elitist and out of touch she is with her constituents.

    April 12, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  2. Hillary08

    America is starting do become dehypnitized ........... just in time!

    April 12, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  3. Nan

    There is an old Simon and Garfield song called The Boxer – when I see how people are reacting to what Obama said I thought of that song. Great song by the way. One of the lines says – a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.

    Obama '08

    April 12, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  4. Trev

    Very well said. I hunt because I like to, not because of bitterness. My faith does not come from anger. Don't try to throw Clinton under the bus. She did not make the comments.

    April 12, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  5. Stephon L. Scott

    Since when do Democrats rally behind McCain criticisms.... Strength in numbers, remember? ...unless, that is, you have a win at all costs mentality.

    April 12, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  6. Lisa

    Barack is arrogant, he already thinks he's the President and he's not.

    April 12, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  7. Fred

    Re: Comments about bitter citizens.
    I find it hard to believe that national and state politicans do NOT understand the voters. Obama is CORRECT. Most people are sick and no longer have faith in Congress and the Presidency (their government). Who is really out of touch? McCain and Clinton who think things are ok? Politicans who refuse to HEAR the disappointment of the voters?

    April 12, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  8. Larry, Bellevue WA

    Does Obama have a lot of explaining to do or is this whole thing just the latest concoction of negativity from the Clinton campaign? I'd argue for latter. The latest campaign "controversy" appears to be nothing more than a well-orchestrated smear attempt designed to give the press something to talk about on an otherwise boring Spring weekend.

    April 12, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  9. Paul

    What explaining? its exactly true.............are we that pathetic?

    April 12, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  10. marie

    Way to go Hillary take the focus off of yourselfand put it on someone else. Like it or not Obama was telling the truth,but you wouldnt know about being bitter since you made 109 million. Americans cannot handle the truth. I dont think all this hype is about what he said, I think its about who said it, because if Hillary or McCain had said it it would have been alright.

    April 12, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  11. Kevin

    This is the most weak so called "controversy" that the pundits have exploited yet.

    I dont think people are bitter... people are down right pissed off.
    Obama recognized their anger, "elitists" do not recognize peoples anger, leaders do that.

    April 12, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  12. mike


    April 12, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  13. martin

    I guess elitist Senator Obama has to adjust his speech a little better according to his audience. The speech took place in a private gathering in San Franciso. It was not meant for a blue collar state like PA or Indiana.

    Hillary 08

    April 12, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  14. s.positive

    However it is said, Hillary will lose this normination and then you democrates will have to find a way to beat the republicans.

    April 12, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  15. Geez...

    Why are the responses not being posted CNN?

    April 12, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  16. Lisa

    CNN should do a poll on how many of the Barack supporters voted for Bush. It clear that they have a lapse in judgment when voting for a leader.

    April 12, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  17. Tym

    Thanks for exposing Obama for the hypocrite that he is.

    #1 Edwards
    #2 Clinton

    Obama never

    April 12, 2008 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  18. Dentons, Raleigh NC

    Obama's comments were actually very true and sincere. He was empathizing with the voters in rural America. Why am I not surprised that a prominent Hillary supporter would try to make this an issue?

    April 12, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  19. ellianna

    Here we go again with another "CONSULTANT"!! I have to wonder how many SKELETONS ARE IN HIS CLOSET??

    April 12, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  20. Mike Davis

    What a lot about nothing!!! Talk about creating news. I'm listenning to all this about Obama's statement on "Bitterness" and cannot believe this is news.

    I'm bitter and I'm glade someone of power finally acknowledges that.

    But from Clinton and McCain, you'd think he said "god bless terrorism."

    Really, what desparation.

    April 12, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  21. Linda Feldman

    Really? No one bitter out there about being left in the dust of political opportunism? Suddenly, one word is going to force people to consider whether or not Obama will make a good president? The politicians are still playing people for fools.

    April 12, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  22. George

    Saunders speak for yourself, and now that you have had your 15 minutes, do us a favor and disappear.

    April 12, 2008 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  23. Pat Wenzinger

    It seems to me that Barack Obama is the only one of the candidates who tells the American people the truth. We are frustrated and yes, bitter with the government because nothing is getting done in the Administration or the Congress to change anything. I hope the media doesn't make this into a big "thing" as both McCain and Clinton seem to be doing.

    April 12, 2008 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  24. Ben

    Come on Dave..grow up..you of all people should know better! If you dont it only reflects on how low life you are. Dave dont get dramatic over this story cause someday it can come back to haunt you.

    April 12, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  25. Truth Hurts

    While I find an appology desirable upon any indication that someone seems hurt even when what is said appears true, I still believe the Macain and Clinton's camps don't speak for the people of Penn. Penns are and people of other states in jobless situations are bitter, and should be bitter. I

    April 12, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
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