Former Gov. Ed Rendell made a rare return appearance on Moto Harrisburg, where he weighed in on the presidential race, tweaked the state House Majority leader for his widely-criticized comments on the state voter ID law and toyed with the idea of running for vice president.
Rendell, speaking at the Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon, said the first presidential debate - scheduled for Oct. 3 in Denver - will be GOP candidate Mitt Romney’s “last best chance” to make inroads against President Obama.
“You can turn the dynamic around in first debate,” said Rendell. “Romney needs a strong performance to cut into the lead...If it’s a draw the campaign’s over.”
Rendell called Romney “a strong debater,” compared with Obama, who he thinks has a harder time in the short- answer debate format.
But, he said, “definitive trends” are now clearly showing Obama in a strong position to win Pennsylvania and claim a second term in the White House.
If Romney doesn’t win the debate and start closing the gap with Obama, he said, the big GOP donors will exit the race.
"There's some talk of giving up the ship in Republican circles right now," said Rendell, now a political analyst for MSNBC. "When I say give up the ship, all the super-PAC money that's out there ... will go almost 100 percent to Congressional and and Senatorial races."
Rendell said he has tried to play a role like former President George W. Bush with Obama and refrain from criticizing his successor.
Still, he told the audience that Pennsylvanians should remember they got what they voted for with Gov. Corbett, someone who did what he said he would in the campaign: not raise taxes and cut spending.
“He stuck to his word,” said Rendell of Corbett.
Then he went on to unleash a raft of mock praise on House Majority leader Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) for “courageously” revealing the real motive behind the GOP-driver voter ID law.
“He told the truth. They didn’t pass that law to prevent voter fraud,” said Rendell referring to a comment Turzai made to a GOP party gathering in June.
“Representative Turzai told us right what it was all about, to make it easier for Governor Romney to carry the state...I mean, Mike Turzai is one of the most honest and courageous and wonderful persons that I’ve ever met in my experience in government.”
When he departed Harrisburg in January 2011, after two terms as governor, Rendell said repeatedly he was done with elected office after 24 years - including stints as Philadelphia mayor and district attorney.
More recently, though, he's said he misses being a public servant.
Rendell has often said he doesn’t have the temperment for Congress because he’d have to get along with eveyone, and on Monday said he wouldn’t run for president because he didn’t want to spend three years running back and forth between Iowa and New Hampshire.
But he said the prospect of being vice president has some “level of attraction.” After all, it’s only a nine-week campaign, you don’t have to raise money, you get a very nice house and, he quipped, you “don’t do very much.”
Rendell sidestepped a question about a possible Hillary Clinton/Rendell ticket in 2016, saying he hopes she’ll consider a run after getting a chance to rest following her four-year stint in the physically demanding role as Secretary of State.
“The fact is the country still faces enormous challenges,” said Rendell. “I’m hoping the lure of being the first woman president in the history of United States would be too great for her to resist and I would aid her in any way I could in her run for president.”
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