Key Clinton Backer Says Some Whites "Not Ready" for a Black President

Looking back over the last couple of months, it seems every controversial remark from the Clinton campaign has come by way of one of her surrogates, not the candidate. Hillary Clinton, to her enormous credit, is extraordinarily disciplined, very bright, and loath to commit dangerous gaffes on the campaign trail.

But those speaking for her, keep causing needless distractions -- Bob Kerrey, Bob Johnson, Billy Shaheen, and even on occasion Bill Clinton have all made comments the campaign probably wishes they could take back.

I'm curious, though, whether Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D), a key Clinton backer and former DNC chairman, fits into the same category.


Gov. Ed "Don't Call Me 'Fast Eddie' " Rendell met with the editorial board of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last week to talk about his latest budget. But before turning the meeting over to his number-crunchers, our voluble governor weighed in on the primary fight between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama and what the Illinois senator could expect from the good people of Pennsylvania at the polls:
"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," he said bluntly. Our eyes only met briefly, perhaps because the governor wanted to spare the only black guy in the room from feeling self-conscious for backing an obvious loser. "I believe, looking at the returns in my election, that had Lynn Swann [2006 Republican gubernatorial candidate] been the identical candidate that he was -- well-spoken [note: Mr. Rendell did not call the brother "articulate"], charismatic, good-looking -- but white instead of black, instead of winning by 22 points, I would have won by 17 or so."
I know I have a habit of sometimes zoning out in these meetings, but it sounded to me like Mr. Rendell had unilaterally declared Pennsylvania to be Alabama circa 1963. Was he suggesting that Pennsylvanians are uniquely racist in ways that folks in the states Mr. Obama has won so far aren't?
At first, I thought Rendell was making some kind of clumsy general-election electability argument, suggesting Clinton would fare better against McCain because of latent electoral racism. But if this report is accurate, Rendell seemed to argue that Clinton would win the primary because of latent racism among Pennsylvania Democrats.

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