Ed Rendell: The mystery of the missing appeal.
Today I read that Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell polls as the 35th most popular governor in the United States. That also makes him the sixteenth least popular, which sounds even worse.
Go figure, huh? In general, the Pennsylvania Republicans are sagging, but it seems to me that Democratic Governor Ed Rendell is benefiting from that sag only because he doesn't look as bland as he would if the Republicans were surging. Despite the Republicans' ill fortunes in Pennsylvania as of late, Pennsylvania remains a divided state. But in Pennsylvania, Republicans are like genital warts: they may go into a tolerable remission, but they'll come back surging sooner or later.
It doesn't seem like Rendell is very popular at all. My parents, (nearly) lifelong Pennsylvanians, loathe him. They find him sleazy, for the most part, but they're also upset about property tax increases and his having legalized gambling in order to drive up state revenues. Sure, it's the Neocons' "starving the beast" strategy that forced states to jack up tax rates, but that doesn't matter to most folks, and anyway, he really shouldn't have legalized gambling. I can't forgive him for that, myself. Legalized gambling has social costs that I find hard to overlook.
Another gripe might be the east/west divide in Pennsylvania: Rendell was the Mayor of Philadelphia, and my family, we're westerners. That doesn't mean we will always prefer a westerner over an easterner, but it's a plus. I remember all sorts of digs at Governor Casey about how good the roads are around Harrisburg, but in Hermitage, 200 miles to the west, the roads were like a mortar range. That said, there's plenty of love for Arlen Specter in the Pittsburgh/Erie corridor, as Democratic as that part of the world is. We just tend to prefer voting for one of our own. Tom Ridge was from Erie, you know. (On the other hand, Rick Santorum is from Pittsburgh, and there's not much love for him in da Burgh, which is fulla Democrats 'n 'at.)
I'm always surprised by the talking heads who mention Rendell as a possible vice presidential candidate. To hear them talk, you'd think there was a statewide case of "Rendell fever" in the Keystone State, but I can vouch that there isn't. It makes strategic sense for the governor of a large swing state like Pennsylvania to appear on your ticket, but Ed Rendell isn't the most... electrifying guy. He'll probably win reëlection next year by merit of the fact that the Pennsylvania Republicans can't seem to get it together, but I don't know how much of an asset he'd be to a Democratic ticket. Of course, he's a good fundraiser, so that might make him look better, and there's no way he'd outshine a presidential candidate. So maybe it would work out if the Democratic presidential nominee taps him as a running mate in 2008. He'll be term limited out of running again in 2010, anyway.
I moved out of Pennsylvania in 1996 and I'm probably not going back, but I still feel pretty involved with the state. Regardless, I can't say I feel much of a thrill when I see Ed Rendell talking or getting the national spotlight. Maybe I'd feel different if he were on a presidential ticket, but I have a feeling I'm not going to get to find out.
I originally posted this article on the Daily Kos