Gov. Ed Rendell was jubilant, and Republican Sen. Arlen Specter more muted, as they discussed the outcome of Tuesday's presidential election.
Before an audience of about 500 civic and business leaders, Rendell and Specter - Pennsylvania's most prominent politicians - made the differences in their views clear at a breakfast hosted by Philadelphia-based political watchdog group Committee of Seventy.
Although both politicians seemed hopeful that President-elect Barack Obama will serve the country well, Rendell was more elated than Specter at the change in party of the executive branch.
Rendell flaunted the Democratic party's success in attracting centrist and independent voters, propelling Obama to an electoral landslide.
"Let me give you the statistics from last night to show you what's happening to the Republicans in states like Pennsylvania and Ohio and Missouri," Rendell told Specter, noting that 83 percent of Philadelphia voters chose Obama and that Obama won Pennsylvania by a margin of about 10 percent.
He added that "unless the Republican party undergoes a significant change," their candidates cannot expect to win swing states like those.
Specter responded by emphasizing his indifference to partisan affiliations. He said Obama will govern "hopefully from the center."
Rendell was also more enthusiastic than Specter about the Democrats' newly strengthened majority numbers in the Senate and House of Representatives.
"It is undesirable to have one-party government anywhere," Specter said, lauding the checks and balances that prevent ultra-partisanship in U.S. government.
Yet one advantage of a Democrat-dominated Congress, Rendell countered, is that "we'll have quick action on things," such as clean energy legislation and the Children's Health Insurance Program.
Committee of Seventy CEO Zack Stalberg and a group of students from Philadelphia's Constitution High School asked the politicians questions.
Darlene Jackson, a Constitution High student, asked what major issues Obama would need to address after the economy.
Rendell responded that clean energy and the war in Iraq would be at the fore of Obama's itinerary.
Specter said education and health care would also likely be top priorities.
Both politicians agreed that Obama's victory may herald an end to racially-divided politics.
The outcome of the election, Specter said, "tore down the racial wall just like they tore down the Berlin Wall."
Rendell more cautiously observed that "you can't eliminate [racism] from politics any more than you can eliminate it from the human condition."
When asked if Republican nominee John McCain could have run a tougher campaign, Rendell and Specter agreed McCain could have made it a closer contest but probably still would have lost.
McCain's choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate "proved very harmful to his campaign," Rendell said.
Specter said he thought one of McCain's biggest mistakes was that he didn't "point out that the economy wasn't a Republican problem or a Democratic problem - it was a systemic, bipartisan problem."Comments powered by Disqus
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