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March 30, 2006
Swann Leads Rendell

NFL Hall-of-Famer Lynn Swann's campaign for governor in Pennsylvania has generated more than its share of skepticism. Some questioned whether the former Pittsburgh Steeler could translate his home-state popularity into real political support, especially against an experienced and wily pol like Ed Rendell. The skeptics appear to have miscalculated in this case, however:

Pro Football Hall of Famer Lynn Swann held a slight lead over Gov. Ed Rendell in a statewide poll released Thursday, but more than a third of registered voters indicated they hadn't settled on either candidate.

Thirty-five percent of those surveyed in the IssuesPA/Pew Poll said they were likely to vote for Swann, a retired Pittsburgh Steelers star and Republican campaigning to become the state's first black governor.

Twenty-nine percent said they would probably support Rendell, a Democrat and former Philadelphia mayor who is running for a second four-year term.

Among the rest, 34 percent were considered up for grabs and 2 percent didn't support either candidate. Neither Swann nor Rendell faces a primary challenge.

For a political novice taking on an incumbent of national stature like former DNC chair Ed Rendell, Lynn Swann has made his presence felt early. Even with so many voters undecided, taking a six-point lead over the sitting governor has to have not just Rendell's campaign worried, but also Robert Casey's campaign to unseat Rick Santorum in the one Senate seat considered most vulnerable for the GOP. The Democrats wanted to use Rendell to help push Casey over the top against Santorum. Now it looks like Rendell will be kept busy fighting for his own survival, and if Swann generates enough momentum, he may wind up rescuing Santorum as well.

This means more than just a lost opportunity in the Senate for the Democrats. Pennsylvania barely went to Kerry in 2004 even with the war and Rendell running the state. Without having Bush Derangement Syndrome as an issue in 2008, the Democrats will have a tough enough time keeping the Keystone State in their column. If Swann pushes Rendell out in 2006, the GOP will gain the upper hand in 2008 in one of the most significant states in the Electoral College.

Swann has a long ways to go, but he has already shown that he cannot be dismissed.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 30, 2006 11:05 PM

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