BY MICHAEL SAUL
DAILY NEWS POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT
Saturday, April 12th 2008, 4:00 AM
Barack Obama described small-town Pennsylvanians as "bitter," distrustful have-nots who "cling to guns or religion" - prompting his foes to accuse him of being a condescending snob.
During a private fund-raiser last weekend in San Francisco, Obama said "the jobs have been gone now for 25 years" in a lot of small towns.
"They fell through the Clinton administration and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate. And they have not," Obama continued in the riff first reported by the Huffington Post Web site.
"And," he concluded, "it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."
The remarks could be political dynamite, with the Keystone State voting in just 10 days.
"Pennsylvanians don't need a President who looks down on them. They need a President who stands up for them, who fights for them, who works hard for your futures, your jobs, your families," Clinton blasted.
"As I travel around Pennsylvania, I meet people who are resilient, who are optimistic, who are positive, who are rolling up their sleeves," she added. "They are working hard every day for a better future, for themselves and their children."
Steve Schmidt, a senior McCain adviser, described Obama's statement as "remarkable" and "extremely revealing."
"It shows an elitism and condescension towards hardworking Americans that is nothing short of breathtaking," Schmidt said. "It is hard to imagine someone running for President who is more out of touch with average Americans."
Obama stood by his comments and shot back at McCain - and Clinton.
"She says I'm out of touch? No, I'm in touch," he told voters in Indiana last night. His point, Obama said, was that "working-class people" are "frustrated and for good reason." He did not explain his remarks that they are hostile to "people who aren't like them."