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Ed Rendell And The Race Card

Wednesday, February 13, 2008  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt
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Bob Donaldson/Post-Gazette

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell is a Clinton guy through and through. And he’s doing his best to help reverse the slow collapse of Hillary’s campaign, even to the point of playing the race card against Barack Obama with a warning that some whites won’t vote for the Illinois senator:

“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,” Rendell told the editorial board of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in remarks that appeared in yesterday’s edition.

Rendell cited his 2006 reelection campaign, in which he defeated Republican challenger Lynn Swann, the former Pittsburgh Steelers star, winning about 60 percent of the vote.

“I believe, looking at the returns in my election, that had Lynn Swann been the identical candidate that he was – well-spoken, charismatic, good-looking – but white instead of black, instead of winning by 22 points, I would have won by 17 or so,” he said. “And that [attitude] exists. But on the other hand, that is counterbalanced by Obama’s ability to bring new voters into the electoral pool.”

These sorts of observations, when made at all by elected officials, used to be routinely coupled with the appropriate denunciation of the racist attitude implicit in such a decision-making process. Leaders were expected to exercise leadership by rejecting the very idea of race-based voting, not to accomodate it through suggesting strategic voting against minority candidates who might be more vulnerable in general elections. If Rendell made the traditional denunciation to the Post-Gazette, it is unrecorded. Asserting that 5% of the Pennsylvania electorate of 2006 was racist is a way for Rendell to scare Democratic primary voters in the big contests remaining, and such appeals to fear used to be out-of-bounds as a naked play to voters’ worst instincts.

But when push comes to shove, the Clintons and their allies don’t hesitate to break all the rules as often as is necessary to win –a characteristic that has to be contributing to her accelerating slide downhill both in tactics and results.

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