- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Political fumbles by the White House, the Pennsylvania GOP and gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann are turning the NFL Hall of Famer’s campaign into a bad joke, Republicans in the state say.

Republicans thought they could knock off Gov. Edward G. Rendell this fall by running a famous athlete against the former Philadelphia mayor. But now they say the Swann campaign is looking like a loser.

In the beginning, Mr. Swann seemed to have it all — an ABC-TV sports broadcaster, four-time Super Bowl wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers and former chairman of President Bush’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Even Democrats acknowledged him to be popular, articulate and charismatic.

But now some Republicans in the state who were initially sympathetic to Mr. Swann are critical of a campaign they describe as arrogant and inept. Lacking guidance from the White House or the Republican National Committee, they say, Mr. Swann has failed to reach out to the state’s most influential Republicans.

He has taken an ambiguous position on taxes, offered no clear philosophy of governance, arbitrarily cancelled speaking commitments, failed to file required financial statements and hired as chief campaign spokesman a New Yorker unschooled in Pennsylvania politics.

Mr. Rendell has outraised him by nearly 6-1, with $13.6 million to the Swann campaign’s $2.4 million. As of late May, Mr. Rendell had opened up an 18 percentage point lead, according to a Rasmussen poll.

State Republican leaders say that neither Mr. Swann nor chief adviser Mark Holman has sought their help.

“I have never been asked directly by them to do anything,” former U.S. attorney general and former Gov. Dick Thornburgh told The Washington Times. “I support the ticket wholeheartedly and would do anything they asked.”

Former Lt. Gov. Bill Scranton, who was pressured indirectly by the White House and the Republican National Committee to withdraw from the GOP gubernatorial campaign in favor of Mr. Swann, said: “It was awhile before Lynn called me after he won the nomination.”

“What will I do to help the Swann campaign win?” Mr. Scranton mused aloud. “It depends on what they want me to do. So far, they’ve made no specific requests.”

“The premise of the campaign has been celebrity and the candidate’s ability to communicate well with voters,” said Republican campaign adviser and former state Rep. Jeff Coleman. “But the celebrity dust is wearing off. All that’s left is the arrogance.”

Mr. Swann told The Washington Times that as far as he was concerned, “Scranton got out because he knew he didn’t have the votes to win endorsement. He didn’t have enough votes to force an open primary. It would have been embarrassing for him to come to the state [GOP central] committee and watch me blow past him.”

The former gridiron great says he is a Republican because the party’s “values and direction more closely resemble mine on taxation, a belief in small government and letting people decide what to do with their money, how to spend it. I’m pro-life and this party is pro-life. I believe in family values.”

Mr. Swann dropped an easy pass last week when he infuriated a group of local manufacturers by canceling his keynote speech so he could campaign elsewhere with former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. The group withheld the $15,000 it had raised for Mr. Swann.

Pennsylvania Republicans say President Bush’s campaign strategist, Karl Rove, picked Mr. Swann as the nominee over Mr. Scranton, working through Republican National Chairman Ken Mehlman and then-state GOP Chairman Eileen Melvin to force Mr. Scranton out of the gubernatorial primary.

But the RNC says it played no role in the gubernatorial primary and had nothing to do with choosing as Mr. Swann’s chief campaign adviser Mr. Holman, a former White House aide and former chief of staff to Mr. Ridge when he was governor of Pennsylvania.

Mr. Holman chose New York GOP operative Leonardo Alcivar to run Mr. Swann’s campaign press operation, but Mr. Alcivar acknowledges that he has scant knowledge about Pennsylvania politics.

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