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Obama fires back at 'bitter' criticism by Clinton, McCain

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  • Obama fires back at Clinton over criticism of his "bitter" comment
  • Obama last week said some Pennsylvanians are bitter and cling to guns, religion
  • McCain, Clinton have accused him of being elitist, out of touch
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MUNCIE, Indiana (CNN) -- After two days of criticism over his remarks at a California fundraiser, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama hit back Sunday by mocking Clinton's professions of outrage over the comments.

Sen. Barack Obama says his remarks about Pennsylvanians were badly phrased, but accurate.

Speaking at a raucous union rally in the Harrisburg suburb of Steelton, the Illinois senator said Clinton "knows better" than to attack him as elitist and out of touch.

"This is the same person who took money from financial folks on Wall Street and then voted for a bankruptcy bill that makes it harder for folks right here in Pennsylvania to get a fair shake," Obama said. "Who do you think is out of touch?"

The controversy has erupted less than two weeks before Pennsylvania's presidential primary, the biggest contest remaining on the Democratic calendar.

Speaking to a closed fundraiser in San Francisco, California, last week, Obama said decades of lost jobs and unfulfilled promises from Washington have left some Pennsylvanians "bitter" and clinging "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."

Obama has spent the weekend telling reporters that the remarks were badly phrased, but accurate. Clinton, however, has pounded on the remarks, calling them "elitist, out of touch and frankly, patronizing" on Sunday.

"You know, the Democratic Party, to be very blunt about it, has been viewed as a party that didn't understand and respect the values and the way of life of so many of our fellow Americans," she said during a "Compassion Forum" hosted by CNN. Video Watch Clinton discuss Obama's remarks »

"And I think it's important that we make clear that we believe people are people of faith because it is part of their whole being; it is what gives them meaning in life, through good times and bad times."

Speaking at the same forum, at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania, Obama said what has left people bitter is the absence of "any confidence that the government is listening to them." Video Watch how the "bitter" battle is playing on the trail »

The campaign of the presumptive Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain, has chimed in with similar attacks -- which drew scorn from Obama at the United Steelworkers rally, held before the forum.

"I expected this out of John McCain," Obama said. "But I've got to say, I'm a little disappointed when I start hearing the exact same talking points coming out of my Democratic colleague Hillary Clinton. She knows better." Video Watch Obama respond to Clinton's criticism »

And he ridiculed Clinton's expressions of support for gun rights in the wake of the controversy, saying, "She's talking like she's Annie Oakley."

"Hillary Clinton's out there like she's on the duck blind every Sunday," he said. "She's packing a six-shooter. C'mon, she knows better."

Obama said his earlier remarks were "subject to be twisted," but added, "It sounds like some politics being played."

"Shame on her," he said at one point.


Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said the New York senator and former first lady "does know better -- she knows better than to condescend and talk down to voters like Sen. Obama did."

"Sen. Obama's outburst won't change the fact that he has embraced his characterization of the millions of Americans who live in small towns," Singer said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Dana Bash, Peter Hamby and Chris Welch contributed to this report.

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