Edward Rendell won't lose any sleep tomorrow night. "Happy Days Are Here Again" will play early in the evening at his headquarters after he garners an overwhelming majority of the vote, political observers predicted yesterday. But these same experts say Senate candidates Harris Wofford and Richard Thornburgh will have to stay up late to hear their songs, and few have been willing to say which candidate will win. The overwhelming majority of registered Democrats in the city and the relative anonymity of his challengers have paved Rendell's way to near-certain victory, they said. Recent polls show Rendell running as much as 40 percentage points ahead of Republican challenger Joseph Egan. "The tremendous visibility and recognition of Rendell just adds up to a landslide," Temple University political science professor Michael Hooper said last night. Hooper said that Sam Katz, who finished third in the Republican primary behind the late Frank Rizzo and former District Attorney Ron Castille, would have been the best candidate against Rendell after Rizzo's death. While Hooper said Egan's obstacles were insurmountable, Glasboro State University political analyst Bruce Caswell said Egan could have done a better job in the race. "Egan could have run a better campaign," Caswell said. "He could have been better prepared." Caswell pointed to Egan's inability to discuss issues credibly and said Egan had been "openly unprepared" on the campaign trail. Both observers said race was not a factor in the election for the first time in several years because there was not a viable black candidate for mayor. But the observers did not agree over whether or not voter turnout would remain constant or decrease. Experts say a higher voter turnout -- particularly a high straight-ticket Democratic turnout -- will help other Democratic candidates, particularly Democratic Senator Wofford. Wofford needs a high turnout in Philadelphia, as well as across the state, in order to beat former governor and attorney general Richard Thornburgh, they say. Thornburgh, on the other hand, will have an advantage if turnout statewide is low, the observers added. Observers said last week they have been impressed with Wofford's campaign, saying he has made the election much closer in the past month. "No one expected him to do anything," University of Pittsburgh Professor Raymond Owen said. "With [Thornburgh's] name recognition and the Bush administration's PR machine . . . everyone expected him to roll." "[The close election] is a surprise, not only to Thornburgh, but to everyone I know who thought he would win easily," Owen added. "When you have a big lead, [your goal is] not to make a mistake . . . and wait until the coronation takes place," O'Connor said. "Elections aren't coronations and that's the problem. Wofford's running a good campaign . . . and Thornburgh's running a poor one." Wofford set the agenda for the campaign, forcing Thornburgh to take a defensive position, Owen said. His "sophisticated" use of ideas has tapped a widespread discontent with Congress, he added. Wofford's emphasis on national health care has helped him considerably, Owen said. And O'Connor said that Wofford's use of television has been much more effective, even though he did not have nearly as much money to spend as Thornburgh. Thornburgh's recent attempts to attack Wofford have been unsuccessful because he has not been able to make them believable, Pennsylvania State University Political Science Professor Robert O'Connor said, because "a lot of them are bad ads." "It's not credible to argue that this man is an irresponsible leftist," O'Connor said. In the special election to replace U.S. representative William Gray, Lucien Blackwell appears ready to capitalize on the straight-ticket Democratic vote. Blackwell's "Pull the First Big Lever" campaign will capitalize on already-present heavy Democratic loyalty, and challengers John White and Chaka Fattah will have difficulties being found on the ballot, observers say. While Hooper and Caswell praised the hard work of White and Fattah, both say Blackwell will easily win the 3rd District seat in Congress.Comments powered by Disqus
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