by Josh Drobnyk
FAIRLESS HILLS, Pa. -- Sen. Barack Obama said today that any notion that his race has helped him in his campaign for president is “patently absurd.’’
The Democratic candidate’s comments follow remarks that Geraldine Ferraro, the Democratic candidate for vice president in 1984, made in a recent interview published by a California newspaper.
Ferraro, the first woman nominated to a presidential ticket by a major political party, suggested that the senator from Illinois wouldn’t be where he is in his campaign today if Obama were a white man or a woman of any color. She told the Daily Breeze of Torrance, Calif.: “He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept."
“I don’t think that Geraldine Ferraro’s comments have any place in our politics or the Democratic Party,” Obama said in an interview today with The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa., after a campaign event in Bucks County. “I think they were divisive.
“I think that anybody who understands the history of this country knows they are patently absurd,’’ Obama added. “I would expect that the same way those comments don’t have a place in my campaign, they shouldn’t have a place in Sen. Clinton’s.”
Maggie Williams, Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, said in a statement issued late this afternoon that "supporters from both campaigns will get overzealous.''
And Clinton said this of Ferraro's comments: "I do not agree with that and you know it’s regrettable that any of our supporters on both sides say things that veer off into the personal. We ought to keep this focused on the issues. That’s what this campaign should be about. ''
Read more below and see the text of the interview, which includes an answer to the perennial question: Beer or wine?:
Obama faced workers at the Gamesa Turbine manufacturing facility in Fairless Hills, Pa., today. Photo by Jemal Countess / Getty Images.
Ferraro is a supporter of Clinton’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination who has raised money for the campaign at her law office in New York.
Obama’s appearance in Pennsyvlania today marked his first campaign stop in the state that will hold the next major primary election. Obama and Clinton face a six-week battle over the state’s 158 pledged convention delegates at stake on April 22.
Obama acknowledged that he faces an uphill climb in the state, whose demographics and endorsements from key state political leaders are expected to give an edge to Clinton, a senator from New York.
“In every state where I hadn’t actively campaigned, we start off behind because the Clinton name is a brand name,” Obama said.
“We think obviously Sen. Clinton is highly favored here,’’ he said. “But if we get known and people understand my track record … then I think we are going to do well.”
His campaign’s measure of success in Pennsylvania will evolve over the next six weeks, he suggested.
“I think we’ve got to sort of take a look and see as we spend more time here what opportunities we have to win votes and delegates," the candidate said in the interview with The Morning Call. “But I am confident we have a good initial core of support in the state and that we will tick upwards as people get to know our message here.”
The interview with Obama:
Q: Geraldine Ferraro suggested in an interview that your race has helped you achieve the status you have. What do you make of the assessment that you wouldn’t be where you are today if you were a white man?
A: “I don’t think that Geraldine Ferraro’s comments have any place in our politics or the Democratic Party. I think that anybody who understands the history of this country knows they are patently absurd. I would expect that the same way those comments don’t have a place in my campaign, they shouldn’t have a place in Sen. Clinton’s.”
Q: Pennsylvania’s bridges are unsafe and roads are crumbling, yet gas-tax revenues into federal and state coffers are dwindling. How will you increase federal support to states for vital transportation needs?
A: I’ve been very specific about putting forward a plan that would pump $60 billion of additional transportation funding that could be leveraged then for even more infrastructure improvements across the country and I would fund it by in part phasing down the war in Iraq, which is where we are spending $12 billion a month. It is astonishing that we have put so much money, over a trillion dollars … money that we could have been using to rebuild roads and bridges and infrastructure and putting people back to work and making our economy more competitive. I intend to put forward a very aggressive plan for infrastructure improvement and that is something that will benefit the workers in Pennsylvania and will position us well for our economic future.
Q: The Lehigh Valley is a bellwether region for the state. What is your key to winning in the region?
A: Part of my first step is just getting better known in Pennsylvania. In every state where I hadn’t actively campaigned, we start off behind because the Clinton name is a brand name. We think obviously Sen. Clinton is highly favored here. But if we get known and people understand my track record providing health care to people who need it. If People understand my track record of making sure that we are investing in education, making our young people more competitive and people know my track record on critical national security issues like nuclear proliferation, then I think we are going to do well. My job is just to talk about the things that people are struggling with day to day -- health care, education, how we can make sure they are able to live … the American dream. The more they focus I think on our plans, the better we will do.
Q: How would you define success for your campaign in Pennsylvania’s primary?
A: We want o do as well as possible. … I think it will evolve over time. I think we’ve got to sort of take a look and see as we spend more time here what opportunities we have to win votes and delegates. But I am confident we have good initial core of support in the state and that we will tick upwards as people get to know our message here.
Q: In Wisconsin, you made inroads with working class voters, but lost those voters in Ohio. In Pennsylvania, blue-collar voters make up a large percentage of the state. How do you plan to reconnect with those voters in the state?
A: I think that each state is different. It is not just in Wisconsin, we did very well with blue-collar voters in Virginia as well. I think in Ohio Sen. Clinton had more of a history there and we didn’t have as much time to campaign as actively because we were having to go back and forth between Ohio and Texas.
Sen. Clinton also had the advantage of a popular Democratic governor campaigning for her as she does here in Pennsylvania. So there is no doubt that she is going to be favored. But our message is one that should directly connect with blue-collar voters because it is a message that I have been delivering since I was a community organizer working alongside steel workers who had lost their jobs in Chicago.
It is message that says we should value not just wealth but work, we should provide tax breaks not to companies that are shifting jobs overseas but put those tax breaks to work here in the United States and provide middle class and working class people some relief in their taxes. It is a message that says if you work hard you should be able to have a decent retirement. Your pension shouldn’t be washed away through a bankruptcy court while the CEO gets a $1 million bonus. It is a message that says that we are going to make sure that everybody can go to college and get a higher education even if they don’t come from a rich family so they can live out the American dream.
Those are all messages I think will resonate. Health care obviously is one of the biggest issues that families are facing right now and we’ve got a plan that says everybody should be able to get health care that is at least as good as the health care at least as good as I have as a member of Congress and we are going to fight for that. One of the messages I have for all voters is that change is not going to happen if we are just doing business the same old way in Washington and that is what frankly has been happening and I believe that’s part of what Sen. Clinton represents, the same way of doing business. You are taking a lot of money from lobbyists and special interests. You buy into the conventional wisdom and the sort of constraints of Washington instead of the opportunities.
Q: Beer or wine?
Q: Favorite ethnic food?
Q Favorite TV show?
A: The Wire