Ed Rendell: Too Voluble to be Valuable?
posted by Josh Goodman
Ed Rendell fits the vice-presidential profile perfectly: He's the popular governor of Pennsylvania, a large swing state. He has executive experience, having served as mayor of Philadelphia before he was governor. He's a Hillary Clinton backer, who might be able to heal rifts in the Democratic Party.
So why do most people discount his chances of being picked by Barack Obama?
He's too voluble, he's too loquacious or, to put it In layman's terms, he has a big mouth.
Sometimes the problem is unfiltered honesty, such as when the governor said that he signed a legislative pay raise to "kiss a little butt" or when he said during the presidential primaries, "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."
A related problem: Rendell veers off message. In 2006, Pennsylvania Republican Rick Santorum was the most embattled Republican senator in the country. But there was Rendell declaring, "Rick Santorum has proven that he gets the job done. Time and time again he has come through."
Sometimes the problem isn't what he's saying, but how he's saying it. He said that Barack Obama's young supporters "drink the Kool-Aid." Author Buzz Bissinger quoted Rendell as describing his job as mayor along the same lines as that "kiss a little butt" quote, except in a way that a family-friendly blog can't repeat.
And sometimes Rendell says whatever pops into his head. Here's what he told Bissinger he was thinking during a meeting with Louis Farrakhan: "As I sat there, I said to myself, 'Wouldn't it be great if someone burst in and gunned me down, because then Buzz would at least have an ending to his book.' " (Bissinger's take on Rendell as a running mate is here and includes that too-profane-to-print quote.)
So the next time you glance at the political map and wonder why Obama doesn't put Pennsylvania away by picking Rendell, listen to what the Pennsylvania governor is saying:
"If I'm asked a question, I answer it and I tell the truth. That probably isn't a good idea for someone who is the No. 2 on the ticket," Rendell said Saturday in an interview with reporters from The Patriot-News and The Politico for C-SPAN's "Newsmakers," which will air nationally Sunday.
"I would hate to think that an honest but politically incorrect answer that I gave as a vice presidential candidate might hurt my running mate who is running for president of the United States," Rendell said.
(Previous items in my vice-presidential series are here.)