With friends like these...
A Trib columnist wrote this analysis of the Casey-Santorum Senate race in The Weekly Standard, in which she argues--correctly, in my mind--that Santorum can still pull it out. What's astounding to me is this statement from Gov. Ed Rendell:
"I will eventually campaign with Casey," Rendell went on. "But, no, you won't see me attack Santorum." He added, "I work well with him and [U.S. Sen. Arlen] Specter. When it comes to Pennsylvania, Santorum delivers."
Now that kind of praise from an office holder of one party about an incumbent candidate from the opposing party is not entirely without precedent. In 1998, Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy gave Republican Gov. Tom Ridge a tacit endorsement in his race against Ivan Itkin. But there are a few factors that makes Rendell's comments different:
1. Rendell handpicked Casey to take on Santorum, against the wishes of many of the Democratic Party faithful who wanted a more liberal--and charismatic--candidate. But Santorum is still the greater evil, and for Rendell not to go balls out to work for his defeat is a slap in the face to every Democratic voter who is going to hold their nose and vote for Casey.
2. Tom Ridge was a moderate Republican who was going to waltz his way to re-election no matter what Tom Murphy did. Murphy no doubt calculated that he had little to gain--and that Pittsburgh might have had much to lose--by actively campaigning for Itkin. Santorum, on the other hand, is one of the nation's most conservative senators and one of the Democrats' biggest targets in attempting to take control of the Senate. He's vulnerable; Ridge was not.
3. In regard to my second point, it's worth noting that Ridge was running for his final term as governor in 1998. Even though at the time he had ambitions for higher office, he nonetheless had more latitude to punish Murphy by denying him funding for some pet project than Santorum has with Rendell. Santorum faces the very real possibility that, even if he beats Casey, he's going to need to win at least one more statewide race before he can take a shot at the White House, which many people assume is in his plans. I doubt he gets offered a spot on the ticket on 2008, which reduces his shot of getting the nod either as the presidential or vice presidential candidate in 2012. That means he's going to have to continue to deliver the pork to Pennsylvania.
So why would Rendell say such a thing? He may indeed have some favorite project that will depend on federal largesse, and he wants to hedge his bets. Or he wants to shore up his own re-election bid by keeping Santorum from actively campaigning for Lynn Swann. In other words, you don't stab my back, I won't stab yours. To cut him a little slack--just a little--it's only human not to want to spoil a working relationship that's going to have to continue for six more months, whether Santorum wins or loses.
Either way, if you're desperate to see Santorum go down, it's an unwelcome statement.
UPDATE: I forgot to credit A Big Fat Slob for the original link to the Weekly Standard article.