by Lowman S. Henry | May 13, 2008

Both Rendell and Casey face hurdles

Now that Barack Obama appears to have derailed the Clinton regime’s return trip to the White House speculation is beginning to pick up on who might be the Illinois senator’s running mate.

Both Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and our state’s Democratic U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. are being prominently mentioned. The Keystone state has not had a resident in either the White House or in the Vice President’s office since James Buchanan, and chances are that drought will not end this year.

It is true that selecting either Rendell or Casey would likely lock up Pennsylvania and its treasure trove of 21 electoral votes for Obama. It is axiomatic that a nominee must win two of three swing states: Pennsylvania, Ohio or Florida, in order to claim the presidency. George W. Bush did in it 2000 (yes, he really did win) and 2004 by posting victories in Florida and Ohio, but lost Pennsylvania both times.

Ohio has been trending heavily Democratic in recent years, but Florida remains a toss-up, so winning Pennsylvania would be vital to Obama’s chances. Right now polls suggest Penn’s woods is up for grabs. Therefore, a move that would cement his standing here would be politically prudent if not decisive.

But there are problems with either choice. Senator Casey’s convincing win over incumbent U.S. Senator Rick Santorum in 2006 proves the Casey name is still magic in Pennsylvania. But, part of that magic is that Casey is pro-gun and pro-life (although not as dedicated to the position as was his father). It was not all that long ago that the party hierarchy banned Casey, Sr. from addressing the Democratic National Convention because of his pro-life stand, so his son’s selection would amount to a major turn-around.

It is inconceivable that the Democratic Party’s base would accept a pro-life vice presidential nominee. Former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, who could do for John McCain what Bob Casey would do for Obama, has the same problem on the Republican side. The GOP base simply won’t accept a pro-abortion nominee on the national ticket. Thus, both Ridge and Casey are disqualified.

As for Ed Rendell, he proved his political prowess by decisively delivering Pennsylvania for Hillary Rodham Clinton in the April 22nd primary. That is his strength and his weakness. He is not by any means Obama insider, which is a negative. But, his selection would go a long way toward uniting the party and bringing Clinton’s supporters – who will be disheartened after losing a close, hard-fought race – back into the fold.

Rendell himself dismissed the possibility of being on the national ticket saying he is not second banana material. He knows himself well. After two terms as mayor of Pennsylvania’s largest city and a term and a half as governor Ed Rendell is used to being the chief executive and calling the shots. Unless he is given Cheney-like responsibilities in an Obama Administration, the role would not suit him well.

But perhaps the biggest drawback when it comes to Rendell is who would replace him as Governor of Pennsylvania. Lt. Governor Catherine Baker Knoll is the Democratic Party’s version of the crazy aunt in the attic. She is a grandmotherly figure who is well liked, but who also completely and totally lacks the ability to function as governor of one of the nation’s largest states.

With Flavia Colgan, her erstwhile top staffer out trying to become a CBS News maven, Knoll even lacks the staff infrastructure to handle the duties of governor. The lieutenant governor only makes the news for her frequent malapropisms, most recently for a tongue lashing she gave Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato over what she perceived as insufficient recognition at a political event. Simply put, neither Rendell nor Pennsylvania can withstand two years of Knoll in the governor’s mansion.

That having been said, this is a wild and crazy political year and anything can happen. Six months ago conventional wisdom held Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton would wrap up their respective party nominations early and embark on one of the longest general election campaigns in history. Neither will be standing at the podium this summer accepting a nomination.

So, it is unlikely either Casey or Rendell will grace a national party ticket this year – but don’t bet you sub-prime mortgage on it.