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Rendell’s racial remarks revolting

OUR VIEW: Governor’s allegation maligns conservatives.

February 17, 2008
The Altoona Mirror
Gov. Ed Rendell is not only out of line but off-base in alleging that white, conservative Pennsylvanians won’t vote for Barack Obama because he is black.

What a wonderful image to project for our state.

‘‘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 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial board.

That’s offensive, and to have the state’s chief executive insinuating Pennsylvania has lots of redneck racists is horrible. Rendell must think it’s a sizable group. Otherwise why mention it?

Yes, regrettably there are some who feel that way, but we doubt it is nearly as substantial as Rendell believes. You always will have small bigoted groups, but that doesn’t mean they reflect the values of the majority.

The governor, who is backing Hillary Clinton, tried to justify his outrageous claim by citing his re-election victory over Republican Lynn Swann in 2006.

‘‘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.’’

A Rendell spokesman says the governor ‘‘wasn’t being critical, he wasn’t making accusations, but just being realistic.’’

So let’s take a realistic look at the 2006 election.

First, it’s important to remember that every Pennsylvania governor who has sought a second term — Democratic or Republican — has won. Incumbents have a clear historical edge. The odds were against Swann from the start.

Second, while Swann has fame from being a star football player, he was a political amateur who was outclassed by Rendell, a master politician.

Third, 2006 election results show some of the more conservative areas with small minority populations — including Blair, Bedford and Huntingdon counties — did choose Swann over Rendell. Swann won in 34 counties, most of which are in the central part of Pennsylvania, which generally is seen as more conservative.

So how does that fit in with Rendell’s theory that white conservatives might not vote for a black candidate?

Rendell won the urban counties in the eastern and western parts of Pennsylvania, as well as a few counties in the center of the state, including Cambria, Centre, Clinton, Elk and Clearfield.

Rendell should review the election results. Then he should apologize for representing the state so inaccurately and unfairly.

Fact Box

By the numbers
How area counties voted in the 2006 gubernatorial election:
Candidate Votes Percent
Bedford County
Lynn Swann ------10,270 ---- 61.7%
Ed Rendell -------- 6,372 ---- 38.3%
Blair County
Lynn Swann ------ 23,295 ---- 60.1%
Ed Rendell -------- 15,435 ---- 39.9%
Cambria County
Ed Rendell -------- 31,856 ---- 60.8%
Lynn Swann ------ 20,506 ---- 39.2%
Centre County
Ed Rendell -------- 23,415 ---- 53.9%
Lynn Swann ------ 20,051 ---- 46.1%
Clearfield County
Ed Rendell -------- 12,938 ---- 50.2%
Lynn Swann ------ 12,830 ---- 49.8%
Huntingdon County
Lynn Swann ------ 8,103 ---- 59.6%
Ed Rendell -------- 5,490---- 40.4%
Source: Pennsylvania Department of State

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