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Pa.'s Gov. Rendell Calls For Democratic Unity


Among Hillary Clinton supporters, few carried more political weight than the governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell.

Our co-host, Michele Norris, spoke with Rendell in Denver.

MICHELE NORRIS: We're here with Governor Ed Rendell. Thank you so much for joining us.

Governor ED RENDELL (Democrat, Pennsylvania): My pleasure.

NORRIS: I understand that you are planning to cast your ballot for Hillary Clinton.

Gov. RENDELL: If it's a roll call, you know, the campaign has decided there was a roll call. But we're not certain yet what type of roll call it will be. But if it's a traditional roll call, I would urge all the Clinton superdelegates as well as the Clinton-elected and pledged delegates to cast their votes for Senator Clinton. She won them fair and square.

I mean, gosh, the people of Pennsylvania, you know, a 10-point victory, and for presidential politics, that's huge, gave her a 10-point victory, they deserve to have us, the delegation, cast our votes for Hillary Clinton. Then, they'll put a period behind it. They'll say, we did everything we could. Now, let's get to the next phase and that's electing Barack Obama.

I think there will be a cathartic effect. The more I talk to our Clinton delegates - I believe we need something like that.

NORRIS: You know - I'm going to play devil's advocate with you because the other argument that I heard on this is that what it might do is whip up the enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton as opposed to helping people become more enthusiastic for the eventual nominee.

Gov. RENDELL: I would think that would be a problem where Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton not speaking at the convention. I mean, if you care about Hillary Clinton and you followed her and cared about the things she's fought for, you have to do what she says. I mean, put it behind us. The choice is Barack Obama versus John McCain. And for anybody who care about Hillary Clinton - that choice is absolutely crystal clear. So we've got to get over it.

You know, I'm speaking Tuesday night and I'm speaking about renewable energy. But I almost feel like going off prompter and saying, you know, I was supposed to talk about renewable energy, guys, but I want to give a message to the Clinton forces.

If you're out there and you're thinking about not voting or voting for Senator McCain, come on. It's over. We gave it our all. Nobody worked harder than I did. We gave it our all. We fought. We're proud of what Hillary did. We're proud of what she accomplished. But if we care about Hillary Clinton, we have to do exactly what she told us, not look back. Look forward. Come on, let's get over it. Let's go. Let's roll up our sleeves and elect Barack Obama.

NORRIS: I want to talk to you about Pennsylvania, if I can.

Gov. RENDELL: Sure.

NORRIS: For the Obama-Biden ticket, where are the biggest challenges in the state? What region presents the biggest challenge? And what…

Gov. RENDELL: Well…

NORRIS: …voters present the biggest challenge?

Gov. RENDELL: I think it's more than just region. I think there are two types of voters that are going to be a challenge for Senator Obama even with Joe on the ticket and that's working class white, middle class, lower middle class voters, who, by the end of the election, by June 2nd, Hillary Clinton had become a genuine hero, had become a genuine spokesperson for the middle class, for the blue collar middle class of this country.

I went with her on the Saint Patrick's Day parade in Pittsburgh and then we flew to Scranton - we walked to the Scranton parade. And people were going nuts, like there was a movie star. It was incredible what a symbol she had become because of her toughness, because of her refusal to quit and because they thought that she spoke about the things that were important to them.

So, we've got to win those voters back in Northeast Pennsylvania, in Southwest Pennsylvania, in the Central, what's called the T(ph), and it's very important.

NORRIS: I want to ask you about working class voters because many polls show that Barack Obama is still having a hard time reaching out in particular to white working class voters. You took a lot of heat early on when you said that there were some white voters who would not line up behind Barack Obama. If you look at the polls and where we are right now, seems like you could say, I told you so.

Gov. RENDELL: Well, first of all, I did take a lot of heat. But even the fellow who wrote the story a week later wrote that I was really right. There are some voters in Pennsylvania who aren't going to vote for Barack Obama because he was African-American. But I also said in the next breath, there were some voters in Pennsylvania who weren't going to vote for Hillary Clinton because they couldn't see a woman as commander in chief of the armed services.

When I ran for office the first time, there were some voters in Pennsylvania who weren't going to vote for me because I'm Jewish.

NORRIS: But to the extent that race is a barrier, how does this campaign overcome that?

Gov. RENDELL: Well, I think, when the economy is troubled, and Pennsylvania, we're doing better than most states, we actually ended the year in a surplus, but - and we've gained jobs this year. Most states have lost jobs and the country has lost over a quarter of a million jobs. But when the economy is troubled, people look to who's going to bring them help. Who's going to help their budgets?

And if they decide that Tom Jones is going to be the best help to their budget, they don't care if he's purple, green, fuchsia, aqua, black, white, red - it doesn't matter. They're looking for that help. And that's what message - if Barack Obama gets that message (unintelligible) to the working class whites, he'll get the significant majority of their votes, race notwithstanding, not withstanding.

NORRIS: Ed Rendell is the governor of Pennsylvania. Thank you so much for speaking with us. Have a great convention.

Gov. RENDELL: My pleasure.

SIEGEL: And that's our co-host, Michele Norris in Denver. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.