As governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell is getting a lot of attention these days as the chief surrogate for Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., as she and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., square off in preparation for the Keystone state’s April 22 primary.
Rendell joined us for the ABC News Shuffle Podcast, which you can listen to on iTunes or HERE.
Some highlights from our 37-minute chat:
"I think that Hillary Clinton wears very well, the more people get to know her I think the more they like her. I’ve seen that transformation with working-class stay-at-home women who last year at this time were very cool to Hillary. But when we were at the St. Paddy’s day parade at Pittsburgh and Scranton they were screaming for her like she was a rock star."
Rendell said that Clinton will be able to beat Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in states such as Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and "she’s been really well vetted, all the bad stuff is by and large out there, and there are no surprises. With Sen. Obama I think the right now he may run, a little stronger in some areas — not the key states — but in some areas against Sen McCain, but understand that he hasn’t been vetted."
Rendell says Obama hasn’t been upfront about his position on nuclear power — he referenced a New York Times story on Obama watering down some legislation, after which the nuclear exec became big contributors — and then said, "but you haven’t heard that from the Clinton campaign and you won’t We’re not going to put up a TV ad saying ‘He’s lying to you’ because I think there’s been restraint on both sides. I’m not just praising Sen. Clinton, I think Sen. Obama has been pretty restrained."
That said, Rendell said, once Obama becomes the nominee the Republicans will unleash the hounds.
"You don’t think the Republican 527s are going to leave this stuff alone do you?" he asked. "You don’t think you’re going to see 527 ads with the explicit comments Rev. Wright said, about Rezko and the land deal? You’re going to see 527 ads about all of those things."
It’s not as if the race will be nicer if Clinton is the nominee, I suggested.
"It won’t be nicer," Rendell responded, "but what there is to construe negatively in Sen. Clinton’s background is out there so I think she’ll suffer less slippage than Sen. Obama would and that’s why I think she’s a stronger candidate."
I took issue with the assertion that everything about Clinton is "out there" — she hasn’t released her IRS returns from the past seven years, there are library documents that remain unreleased, we don’t know who the donors to the Bill Clinton Library are.
"I will grant you that, let’s say that there’s 10% about Hillary Clinton that we don’t know yet, I will grant you that, but I would say there’s also about 50% about Barack Obama that we don’t know yet," Rendell said.
He suggested that Obama can win Pennsylvania, but avoided saying that he thought he would.
"I don’t know how hard they’ll hit him and I don’t know how hard, well, either the Obama campaign will respond or how well the American people will respond," he said. "I always like to credit peoples better angels. I think they can overplay all this stuff and I think it could backfire . . . I have no doubt (Obama) can win — it’s going to be tough. John McCain is the best candidate the Republicans could’ve fielded to win Pennsylvania. He’s probably the best they’ve fielded in probably 4 or 5 presidential elections in terms of likely to carry Pennsylvania. So it’s going to be tough but he can win."
Rendell also talked about:
* how women voters have been offended by the media coverage of Clinton and how his wife — Judge Midge Rendell — has been personally touched by what she perceives to be unfair bias in the coverage of Clinton;
* the battlegrounds in the state — the fiercest fight, like always, is in the suburbs of Philadelphia;
* the racial politics of the state — a buzz saw he ran into when he ran against an incumbent African-American Mayor in the Democratic primary in 1987 — as well as his controversial comments about white voters not being ready to vote for a black candidate; and
* the scandals involving neighboring state Democratic governors, Jim McGreevey of New Jersey and Eliot Spitzer of New York. He laughed about a David Letterman TV ad that looped him in with those two, but called the two scandals "sad." "I’ve tried to live as normal a life as I can in my 31 years in public office but its hard. You have to catch yourself all the time…you don’t have the same freedom that a normal person has."
A fun chat for political junkies between two Philly-boys. Listen HERE. ABC News Shuffle Podcast produced by the fantastic Julia Hoppock.