(AFP) – Apr 4, 2012
HOLLIDAYSBURG, Pennsylvania — White House hopeful Rick Santorum revived a divisive political firestorm from the 2008 campaign Wednesday, reminding voters "you're damn right" that blue-collar Pennsylvanians cling to guns and religion.
"Barack Obama four years ago referred to this area of Pennsylvania, right here, as a place that clings to their guns and their bibles," Santorum told supporters in Hollidaysburg, a town in southwestern Pennsylvania known for its social conservatism.
"You're damn right we do!" he said, to a loud roar of approval.
Obama found himself at one of the low points of his presidential run when in April 2008 he made his infamous comment about how "bitter" working-class voters cling to their guns and religion.
It was interpreted by many blue-collar voters -- and his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton -- as a condescending swipe at a vast swathe of Americans.
Obama went on to win the general election, thumping Republican John McCain by more than 10 percentage points in Pennsylvania.
But arch-conservative Santorum offered a blunt reminder that many in the state, particularly those in the southwest where the number of guns per household is higher than the national average, are still stung by the remark.
"You're right we cling; we cling to our faith," he said, to nods and "Yes sirs" from the crowd.
"We cling to the rights that are God-given, that are guaranteed under our constitution, including the right to protect ourselves and those we love with the second amendment -- an individual right to bear arms."
Santorum, who trails frontrunner Mitt Romney in this year's Republican nomination race, grew up in western Pennsylvania, and reminded the crowd that he shot his first deer in the area around Hollidaysburg as a young man.
Obama's comments that some economically bereft Americans sought refuge in God and guns had been made at a California fundraiser, shortly after he visited southwestern Pennsylvania. He was slammed by Clinton and many conservative voters for being out of touch with everyday Americans.
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