Swann's Popularity Has a Downside for Some Pennsylvania Republicans

By Shailagh Murray and Chris Cillizza
Sunday, January 29, 2006

Former Pittsburgh Steelers legend Lynn Swann, who is hoping to be the Republican nominee in this year's Pennsylvania governor's race, is giving Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell more than a run for his money in the latest polls.

That may sound like good news for the GOP -- but some Pennsylvania Republicans are clapping with one hand. It turns out good news can sometimes be bad, at least according to the anxious (and possibly overheated) calculations of some strategists.

Here's the logic. If Rendell were going to win in a cakewalk, many Democrats in the places where he is most popular -- such as the suburbs of Philadelphia -- might get lazy and not work hard to get out the vote on Election Day.

Some Republican members of Congress in these areas, according to strategists following the races, were hoping for exactly this scenario. But, if Rendell has a fight on his hands, he is going to work to get every last Democratic voter to the polls in his stronghold areas.

Two of the most vulnerable GOP incumbents, Reps. Michael G. Fitzpatrick and Jim Gerlach, represent southeastern counties around Philadelphia, and could be swept out of office by a particularly ferocious Rendell tide, said Republicans and Democrats who are watching the two races. Another Republican who could feel the pressure is Rep. Melissa Hart, who represents a district northwest of Pittsburgh that includes heavily Democratic Beaver County, another Rendell stronghold.

All this speculation may be a bit premature. Swann still has a fight on his hands for the nomination. But he got good news last week in a poll released by the GOP firm Strategic Vision. It showed Swann leading Rendell 46 to 44 percent, with 10 percent undecided. The same survey showed Rendell leading Swann's main competitor for the Republican nomination, ex-lieutenant governor Bill Scranton, 46 to 41 percent, with 13 percent undecided.

"Being even in the polls, suddenly people are paying a lot more attention," Swann spokeswoman Melissa Walters said. With so many hot races in Pennsylvania this fall, she said she's hearing theories on how a Swann campaign "is going to affect everything."

Bayh to Play North Carolina

Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh will head to the back yard of one of his potential 2008 Democratic primary opponents this spring -- in a bit of political gamesmanship that will be duly noted by the community of presidential politics junkies and duly ignored by everyone else.

Bayh is scheduled to headline the North Carolina Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson dinner April 29, despite the fact that former Tar Heel State senator John Edwards is an all-but-announced 2008 candidate.

Edwards and Bayh were both elected to the Senate in 1998 and became friends -- often running together on Capitol Hill. The two men have much in common: good looks, young families and a belief that they should be the country's next commander in chief.

The North Carolina event is one of a series of speeches, fundraisers and appearances on the Indiana Democrat's plate between now and the end of April as he seeks to make his presidential case to the many wings of the Democratic Party.

Bayh spokesman Dan Pfeiffer said that despite all the activity, his boss has not made any decision about 2008 and will not do so until after the November midterm elections. In the meantime, Pfeiffer said, Bayh "has a lot of ideas about how to fix Washington and make America better" that he will share with Democrats across the country.

Bayh will headline a fundraiser for the Congressional Black Caucus political action committee on Wednesday and will address the United Auto Workers conference here Feb. 7. Bayh will also be the keynote speaker at an American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy dinner here March 6 and, a week later, will be in Georgia to speak at that state's annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner.

And, careful not to ignore the critical caucus state of Iowa, Bayh will be in the Hawkeye State Feb. 11-13. During that time, he'll appear at the Linn County Phoenix Club dinner in Cedar Rapids, raise cash for the Iowa Senate Democrats' campaign fund, and speak to the state House and state Senate Democratic caucuses. Most Democratic strategists believe that Bayh, a Midwesterner, must make a splash in Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses if he hopes to have any real chance at wresting the nomination from Edwards or New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, widely presumed to be planning a candidacy.

Bayh appears well on his way to proving that he can compete with the top-tier 2008 Democrats on the fundraising front. He raised $3.1 million in 2005 for his personal campaign committee and ended the year with $9.5 million in the bank -- every cent of which can be transferred to a presidential account.

In his leadership political action committee -- All America PAC -- Bayh brought in an additional $1.5 million in the past 12 months and had nearly $820,000 in the bank, as of Dec. 31. Those dollars can't be moved to a presidential committee but can pay for his political travel and be used to contribute to influential Democrats. In 2005, All America donations included $5,000 to New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch (D), $10,000 to the Granite State Democratic Party, $1,000 to the Blackhawk (Iowa) Democratic Party and $1,000 to Democrat David Loebsack, who is running in Iowa's 2nd District.

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