- The Washington Times - Monday, November 6, 2006

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LANCASTER, Pa. — Pennsylvania’s popular Democratic governor, Edward G. Rendell, may not be a Hall of Fame football receiver, but he is a dexterous politician who has outrun his Republican challenger, former NFL great Lynn Swann, from the first whistle.

“We’re going to run as hard as we can across that finish line,” Mr. Rendell told a cheering crowd, enjoying a double-digit polling lead that allowed him to stump for other state and federal Democratic candidates over the weekend.

Mr. Rendell, a former mayor of Philadelphia and onetime chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is expected to handily win a second term today and has set his sights on helping state Treasurer Bob Casey Jr. unseat Republican Sen. Rick Santorum.

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm right now; and certainly, having two giants at the top of the ticket have helped Pennsylvania Democrats tremendously,” said state Democratic Party spokesman Abe Amoros, also referring to Mr. Casey, son of former Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey.

Mr. Swann, known for his feats with the Pittsburgh Steelers and later as an ABC sports commentator, has essentially been using the same theme as the Democrats here have been. He promises to cut taxes, rein in government spending and reform state government.

“I stand for smaller, more responsive government that’s accountable to every citizen of Pennsylvania,” said Mr. Swann at campaign stop.

But as the first-time candidate has tried to find his footing, Mr. Rendell has been touting his leadership — highlighting bills that he signed to give Pennsylvania children health coverage and to raise the minimum wage. He also signed a bill to reduce property taxes.

“Government can be an important vehicle for making peoples’ lives better,” Mr. Rendell told a crowd in Glenside Saturday.

A few polls in October indicated that Mr. Swann might have been closing the gap but Mr. Rendell continued to gain and the latest Strategic Vision poll, taken Nov. 2 to 4 had him ahead by 23 points.

Still, Republicans are staying positive.

“We’re not ready to give up on Lynn Swann’s candidacy,” said Mike Barley, spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Republican Party. “Obviously Governor Rendell has a huge advantage financially. But we’re still confident that Lynn Swann has a very good chance of delivering an upset.”

In the nation’s sixth most-populous state, 48 percent of registered voters are Democrat to 41 percent are registered Republican. Mr. Rendell was elected by an eight-point margin in 2002, but it also has a Republican-controlled legislature. Voters here favored Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, over President Bush in 2004, 51 percent to 48 percent.

Terry Wimmer, an Ardmore resident and professor at Gwynedd Mercy College, said Mr. Rendell has helped the party set aside factions and strategically unite against Republicans.

Namely, the governor persuaded a pro-choice Democrat not to challenge pro-life Mr. Casey in a primary for U.S. Senate, Mr. Wimmer said, and now Mr. Casey is ahead of Republican Sen. Rick Santorum.

“That says a lot for Ed Rendell,” he said as he waited for the governor to speak in Norristown.

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