February 12, 2008

Ed Rendell Sees Democratic Bigots, Too

Governor Ed Rendell follows the lead of Susan Estrich in diagnosing the issues associated with Barack Obama's underperformance in some states, including his own. In an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Rendell tells the editors that some Democrats in their state just can't pull the lever for an African-American (emphasis in the original):

Gov. Ed "Don't Call Me 'Fast Eddie' " Rendell met with the editorial board of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last week to talk about his latest budget. But before turning the meeting over to his number-crunchers, our voluble governor weighed in on the primary fight between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama and what the Illinois senator could expect from the good people of Pennsylvania at the polls:

"You've got conservative whites here, and I think there are some whites who are probably not ready to vote for an African-American candidate," he said bluntly. Our eyes only met briefly, perhaps because the governor wanted to spare the only black guy in the room from feeling self-conscious for backing an obvious loser. "I believe, looking at the returns in my election, that had Lynn Swann [2006 Republican gubernatorial candidate] been the identical candidate that he was --well-spoken [note: Mr. Rendell did not call the brother "articulate"], charismatic, good-looking -- but white instead of black, instead of winning by 22 points, I would have won by 17 or so."

I know I have a habit of sometimes zoning out in these meetings, but it sounded to me like Mr. Rendell had unilaterally declared Pennsylvania to be Alabama circa 1963. Was he suggesting that Pennsylvanians are uniquely racist in ways that folks in the states Mr. Obama has won so far aren't? By the way, Mr. Obama won Alabama on Super Tuesday, thank you very much!

Rendell, who backs Hillary Clinton, has already received some blowback for this pronouncement. Eric Kleefeld at TPM Election Central calmly calls it "a bit off message". TalkLeft's Big Tent Democrat says Rendell "does not get to say this." However, it's the second time in as many days as we have heard this sentiment from Democrats about Democrats, and this time from a Governor, no less.

Coming from a Hillary supporter, it seems a little stranger than what Estrich wrote. It almost sounds as if Rendell wants to make the argument that enough bigotry exists in the Democratic Party that Obama won't get its full support as its nominee -- and so Democrats should appease them and nominate Hillary instead. Maybe he didn't mean it like that, but one could read it that way -- and certainly BTD and Kleefeld at least consider that point in their condemnations of the remark.

I suspect the next time Rendell runs for public office with this comment on the record, he won't put 17 points between himself and his competitor. He may not put any points on the board.


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