Indiana: Hillary Clinton is packaging herself as a China-bashing scourge of profit-soaked oil giants and the Washington “elite” in a populism-fueled effort to save her White House dreams.
Clinton boasts impeccable establishment credentials as a senator, former first lady and beneficiary of an Ivy League education, along with the fortune she and former president Bill Clinton amassed since 2001.
But in a weekend tour of hard-knocks towns in Indiana and North Carolina, which hold crucial primaries on Tuesday, the underdog Democrat promised a people-power assault on economic policies she said hammer working Americans.
“What is it we are doing for people who actually do the work and are the backbone of the American economy?” Clinton asked in a run-down quarter of the Indiana town of South Bend on Sunday.
“I am unabashed, I am unapologetic, I am going to fight for the Middle Class, I am going to take on the oil companies and everybody else who has had it their way, for way too long,” she said, outside a ramshackle general store.
Clinton’s message: she feels the workers’ pain, and Democratic rival Barack Obama does not. “I am fighting, as I have told you, over and over again, for jobs, jobs, jobs and jobs,” she said Sunday.
The New York Senator is pinning her hopes for a comeback in the waning weeks of the Democratic race, on white working and lower middle class voters.
She skipped between Indiana towns blighted by the loss of economic jobs abroad, and bonded with North Carolinians in a museum dedicated to the blue-collar state’s obsession with stock car racing.
“Senator Clinton (is) someone who understands the pain that middle class and working class families are feeling,” said her spokesman Howard Wolfson. “Senator Obama -- somebody who just doesn’t seem to understand that middle class families are hurting, working class families are hurting and that they need relief.”
The hottest front in the Obama-Clinton battle is over her plan for a temporary moratorium on federal gasoline taxes, as prices at the pump go sky high.
Obama says this is nothing but a ruse to hoodwink voters, claiming it will save the typical driver only about a $30 payback this summer. “This defines, I think, the difference between myself and Senator Clinton,” Obama said on NBC. “This ... is a classic Washington gimmick, it is a political response to a serious problem that we have neglected for decades.”
Much of Clinton’s current economic strategy appears to be a departure from the centrist legacy of her husband’s two White House terms, and the gasoline ‘holiday´ idea is opposed by most leading Democrats in Congress.
For months, she has been excoriating China over trade, despite the fact that her husband was instrumental in pushing permanent normal trade relations, which paved the way for the Asian giant’s entry into the World Trade Organization.
“Our jobs go over there, and what do we get back?” she asked here. “Lead-laced toys, contaminated pet food and looted pharmeceuticals -- that is going to end.”
Clinton’s strategy, which helped her win the Pennsylvania primary last month, is designed to exploit one of Obama’s biggest weaknesses -- his struggle to connect with white, blue collar workers.
She also argues that only she can woo “Reagan Democrats” -- swing voters in states like Ohio, crucial to the party’s general election strategy. Obama hardly helped himself with an ill phrased remark last month that some Americans were “bitter” and turned to guns and religion because of their economic plight.