Thursday, March 23, 2006

Governor Rendell's re-election.

"Real Clear Politics" explains the competitive nature of this gubernatorial election:

· Mood of the Electorate--Rendell faces a growing anti-incumbency mood, fueled in part by last year's legislative pay hike and reinforced by a drumbeat of negative stories about the culture and lifestyle in the state capital. Nationally, Bush's low approval rating could help Democrats, but the anti-incumbency sentiment in Pennsylvania might prove to be an even bigger liability for the Governor.

· Rendell's Base in the East--The seeds for the closeness of the race lie in the way Rendell won the 2002 race. He did so despite losing 49 of 67 counties, pulling off this feat of legerdemain by winning 60 percent of the vote from the Lehigh Valley and Southeast where 40 percent of the voters in the state live. Rendell is still "Beast of the East," but he has largely been unable to extend his base beyond the eastern part of the state.

· Weakness in the West--In 2002, Rendell convinced voters that he had the leadership to move the state forward on the basis of his extraordinary success as mayor of Philadelphia. But that claim has become a double-edged sword for him. He's so identified with the City of Brotherly Love that he's alluded to facetiously by some as the "Governor of Philadelphia." At the same time, his approval rating in the western part of the state remains weak. This is potentially a huge problem for him, given the still vigorous anti-Philadelphia sentiment alive and well in many parts of the state.

· Some Policy Failures--It is true that Rendell has delivered on much of his agenda, but some of it has been controversial, such as the slots gaming law and Act 72, the ill-fated effort to get school districts to accept gaming money for property tax relief. Conversely, the political credit he claims for increased economic development monies and education funding has been undermined by failure to get property tax relief enacted into law. Then, too, the pay hike fiasco--in which Rendell was intimately involved--continues to damage him politically. Both property tax relief and the pay hike are huge issues in the southwest, where the political damage to the governor is the greatest.

· A Viable Opponent--Rendell has an opponent who arguably is more formidable than any gubernatorial challenger in modern times. Moreover, in Lynn Swann, he has drawn a candidate very popular in the region of the state that Rendell is the weakest. The race is now virtually even--something unprecedented in earlier eight-year cycles. The Swann-Rendell contest--a match up of heavyweights--is both attracting enormous state and national attention. With each candidate's ability to raise millions of dollars, this election will be like no other in the eight-year cycle.
Read the rest


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