The operative was quoted in John Heilemann's new exploration of Obama campaign strategy in New York Magazine:
"'Romney really, actually thinks that if you just take care of the folks at the top, it'll trickle down to everybody else,' says another Obama operative. 'But no one believes that stuff—no one! And once you puncture that, there's nothing left. He's not likable. He's not trustworthy. He's not on your side. You live in Pittsburgh and you've got dirt under your fingernails, who do you want to have a beer with? It ain't f#$%^ Mitt Romney. You're like, 'S#$%, I'd rather have a beer with the black guy than him!' "
Typical Pittsburgh voters, according to this Obama operative, are working class, vote based on who they want to have a beer with, and are racist enough that they view Obama being a "black guy" as a strike against him. But apparently Mitt Romney is so unlikable that it outweighs the race factor in the mind of the imagined Pittsburgh voter.
This is certainly not the first time that someone in politics has called Pennsylvania voters racist or otherwise made them seem not too intelligent.
Former Johnstown U.S. Rep. John Murtha told the Post-Gazette before the 2008 election that "there's no question Western Pennsylvania is a racist area." Murtha did think Obama could overcome the racism to win the state, though, which Obama did. Murtha apologized for the comment the next day. However, the apology did not stop him from telling WTAE a week later that "this whole area, years ago, was really redneck."
Perhaps the most famous analysis of Pennsylvania racism comes from Obama himself. In the midst of a tough Pennsylvania primary battle with Hillary Clinton in 2008, Obama made controversial comments to attendees of a fundraiser in San Francisco, the stereotypical opposite of working class Pittsburgh.
"You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them," Obama said. "And 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. And it's not surprising then 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."
These imagined Pennsylvania voters perhaps are not quite redneck racists, but they are working class and not too bright. Therefore, "they cling to guns or religion" or just blame immigrants.
Pennsylvanians also clung to Hillary Clinton, handing her victory in the primary.
Despite the clinging and the racism, Obama beat Sen. John McCain by a healthy 10 points in the general election in the state in 2008, and the Obama campaign appears to be confident that it will win the state again in this year's general.
The same New York Magazine article quotes a "senior Obama campaign official" boasting that there are 900,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans in Pennsylvania.
Peter Sullivan is a news intern at the Post-Gazette.