April 3rd, 2008
09:39 AM ET

Penn. gov. says many whites won't vote for Obama

He said what!!??

That was the reaction many had after hearing what Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell said about white voters in his state and Senator Barack Obama.

Gov Ed Rendell
See Randi's report on Gov. Rendell's comments tonight on a special edition of Anderson Cooper 360: Race & Politics at 11p ET

First, you should know, Rendell has endorsed Obama’s opponent, Senator Hillary Clinton. Why?  He said, “If you were having brain surgery and you had one brain surgeon who was considered the greatest, A+, and you had one who was graded A, you could choose either one of them, not pay any more for either one of them, you choose the A+.  Obviously.  And that’s why Hillary Clinton should be our nominee."

But in a meeting with the Pittsburgh Gazette in February, Gov. Rendell said, “You've got conservative whites here, and I think there are some whites who are probably not ready to vote for an African American candidate."

Yes, he went there... 


When I interviewed him last week about his remarks for a story for Anderson Cooper 360, he told me, “I was handicapping a race. It’s like saying that NC is gonna beat Duke because it’s taller, they’ve got taller players. Taller players generally get more rebounds than shorter players. I was handicapping a race in a private room. I wasn’t trying to influence, I didn’t think that my comments would ever get into the public domain. If I was trying to influence the race to help Senator Clinton, I would’ve done it at a big rally. It wasn’t intended to be racial.”

I asked him, do you regret saying it? His response: "I had 3 difficult days, sort of to the extent that I regret them. I would have loved to concentrate on my governor’s job. But no, do I think there was anything wrong with them? Absolutely not. No, I told the truth and we’ve got to be able to speak the truth about the race without someone pointing a finger and saying you’re racist- you know, um, we have to be able to speak the truth.”

You can only imagine the firestorm that followed after the Gazette first published his remarks. The head of Philadelphia’s NAACP called the remarks “callous and insensitive.” And Rendell’s former opponent in the Governor’s race, Lynn Swann, an African American, called what the governor said “a subtle form of racism.”

In the past, Gov. Rendell had said that if Lynn Swann had been white, not black, the race for governor may have been closer when they ran against each other.

In all fairness to the governor, the reporter who wrote the article in the Pittsburgh Gazette seemed surprised by the reaction it got. So he wrote another article five days later agreeing with the governor, writing, “Mr. Rendell didn’t “dump” or “strategically plant” his opinion about race in our paper on behalf of the Clinton campaign. We asked him for his opinion and he gave it without equivocating.” He added, “It wasn’t my impression that Mr. Rendell was advocating a bigoted electorate as an acceptable status quo or a healthy attitude for Pennsylvania.”

I couldn’t help but point out to the governor that he made these comments just about a month after Bill Clinton had compared Obama’s victory in South Carolina to the victory of another black candidate from years ago, Jesse Jackson. The governor told me he was bothered by the comments made by the former President but still stood by his.

Is Gov. Ed Rendell a racist? He says no and attempted to prove it, saying, “Anybody who knows my record as governor knows I’ve been probably the most inclusive governor we’ve ever had . Minority business enterprises now have 10% of state business. They had 2% of state business before I became governor. This is the most inclusive administration we’ve ever had.”

In our interview, Mr. Rendell also told me, ”Senator Clinton might lose some votes because there are conservative white democrats who don’t want to see a woman as commander in chief. Those are facts, and Senator Obama had done a great job sort of putting race behind him. Look at the votes in Wyoming, Wisconsin, Utah where there are predominantly white voters. He has done a great job overcoming that.”

Who does Rendell blame for all this talk of race? You guessed it, the media! He said, “The media in my judgment is the number one offender here. We've got to get to the point where white candidates can criticize black candidates and black candidates can criticize white candidates without it being characterized as racist.”

At the end of our meeting, I asked the Governor if his candidate doesn’t win the nomination, will he support Barack Obama? He told me, “Of course. I had a call from Senator Obama, he said, you know I’m gonna be the nominee.  And I didn’t argue with him. I said, sure.  And he said, I just wanna make sure that nothing happens during Pennsylvania, the campaign here, that will make it harder for us to win in the fall.  And I said, Senator, don’t even worry about that for 5 seconds.”

Even the Governor admitted to me it is tough for him to hold his tongue, so these days he’s waiting a few seconds between thinking something and opening his mouth. He says he doesn’t want to hurt the Democrats' chance to win the White House come November.

– Randi Kaye, 360° Correspondent 

Program note: See Randi's report on Gov. Rendell's comments tonight on a special edition of Anderson Cooper 360: Race & Politics at 11p ET.

Filed under: Ed Rendell • Randi Kaye
soundoff (128 Responses)
  1. D. Tucker, PA

    . . . .Sorry to disappoint Mr. Racist Rendell, but this one white voter
    who will be casting my vote for Senator Obama. Us poor factory workers
    and truckers remember NAFTA, and exactly WHO is responsible for it.
    (And that blame lies with Hillary Clinton, not Rev. Wright).

    April 3, 2008 at 12:08 pm |
  2. Seattle Randy

    Eight years of Bush will help a lot of people get over their racism.

    April 3, 2008 at 12:05 pm |
  3. Seattle Randy

    If we have one man, then another, then the first man's son, and then the second man's wife; the United States ends up looking dynastic 3rd world oligarchy.

    April 3, 2008 at 12:04 pm |
  4. Penny

    That is why old people should not be in politics. They destroy morale. Futhermore, he is unable to provide real leadership that will prevent that type of thinkng of the working class in PA. He should be focused on the problems in the state, THERE ARE MANY.

    April 3, 2008 at 11:59 am |
  5. jimmy velman


    April 3, 2008 at 11:42 am |
  6. Janice, Aberdeen, SD

    His comments sound both racist and stupid to me – and a pathetic attempt to influence the election using the Clinton dirty tactics playbook. Does Rendell want to move to South or something to enter politics there?

    Lots of whites in Iowa, MN, and WI have already voted for Obama – and these folks hunt, fish, and have blue collar jobs just like the folks in PA.

    This is all smokescreen to distract from the real issues of the campaign. Why is it, Gov. Rendell, that as people get to know Hillary and Obama more – his numbers go up and hers go down.

    April 3, 2008 at 11:38 am |
  7. Robert Bennett

    Whites won't vote for Obama? But he actually won Texas, Hillary's "firewall" state. At least that's what NBC Nightly News reported a couple of days ago, when the results finally came in. Maybe it was reported on AC360 too, but if so, I missed it. Anyway, if Obama can win Texas, doesn't that make him electable enough?

    April 3, 2008 at 11:18 am |
  8. Rahni, Connecticut

    Unfortunately, our society can't get over race. And that Governor is correct. Some white people will not vote for Obama because his skin is dark.

    April 3, 2008 at 11:10 am |
  9. Sam

    ...and how many people are too misogynistic to vote for a woman?

    April 3, 2008 at 10:53 am |
  10. Jason, Texas

    I'm White and I'm voting for Obama.......

    April 3, 2008 at 10:50 am |
  11. Taj

    Ed may not know that one of the best briain surgeons in the world is a black surgeon who was in UCLA & now practices in Southern California. He is an A++. If Ed (America) wants to survive & live healthy, do well, he better go for the best of the best. Hillary is only the second best (A+). Obama is A++. McCain is A. GW (F). Ed Randell is from the old school of thought. We want some new blood, a person of great vision, integrity & honor. That's Barrack. Amen.

    April 3, 2008 at 10:46 am |
  12. James

    This is outragesou!

    March 28, 2008 at 11:33 pm |
  13. Michele

    Why do we hold Barack Obama accountable for what his former pastor says and not hold Hillary Clinton accountable for the racist statements made by her backers and her husband? We also tend to ignore her numerous embellishments and fabrications.
    If NAFTA has been good for the fine peoples of Pennsylvania, then they will vote Clinton. (Because , in spite of her present claims, she did, at the time, promote NAFTA and encouraged members to vote for it.)
    If the people without health care want to be mandated to pay for insurance or their wages will be garnisheed; then they will vote for Clinton. (Do I buy groceries or health care?)
    Additionally, if the people of Pennsylvania are pro war in Iraq, then they will gladly vote for a woman who helped pass legislation giving Bush the go ahead to attack.
    If one believe that by having one term longer in the US senate constitutes having substantial experience; that then is another vote for Clinton. Or, does she count her eight years as first lady as experience? Now, I realize that she has "mis-spoke" all her accomplishments and dangerous trips as first lady, and as far as I can tell the major undertaking she worked on, while in the role as first lady, was a universal health care plan..and she failed. Oh, let us not forget the years Barack spent as a senator at state level in Illinois. Hillary does not have that under her belt.
    We have had 8 years of an administration that has been far from truthful to the American people. I have had enough of lies.
    Hopefully, the citizens of Pennsylvania will prove their governor incorrect, and people of all colors, social standings, and economic and educational backgrounds will cast their votes for Barack Obama.

    March 28, 2008 at 11:32 pm |
  14. jes from Canada

    USA does it again! It looks like Americans are to thick to learn. You voted in Bush now your country is going down the toilet. Obama is inexperienced & lacks good judgment. Sadly he has a wife who will only be a proud American if named first lady. The world is aware of the nature of all his shortcomings. He will do much damage to the status of the USA. Bush put you in the toilet Obama will flush it.

    March 28, 2008 at 11:31 pm |
  15. Karen - FL

    I will vote for Obama, because Mrs Clinton have shown that she is all for herself. If she was for the Country and the party the things that she is saying about Obama when he is the clear front runner she would not be saying so. I have to ask myself the question – What would she do if she is the president and and a situation arises where she have to chose between herself/family and the country? – I know the answer – she would choose herself

    March 28, 2008 at 11:30 pm |
  16. Laury

    Regarding Governor Rendell’s belief that Hilary Clinton =Experience =A+
    Sometimes, as we have seen “experience” can often = D- or F
    Case in point– Bush/Chenney: the more experienced they became the more they failed.

    Let me clear up this misconception of Governor Rendell. If I have a brain tumor, and most older “experienced” surgeons decided to go with the more traditional treatment such as chemotherapy and surgery which would provide merely palliation will little change in my overall prognosis; I would do more research and investigate all my options. I would rather proceed with a newer more innovative surgeon who albeit less “experienced” has developed a different approach which has the potential to cure me rather than provide palliation. The greatness of medicine in this country lies not just
    with experience but with research and innovation. But, what do I know I am simply a new surgeon. I have the privilege of observing the older experienced surgeons performing surgeries that should be obsolete, and unfortunately I get to fix their disasters.
    I give Governor Rendell a C for mediocrity in judgment.

    March 28, 2008 at 11:28 pm |
  17. Ray in Hawaii

    Senator Obama campaign clearly has tried to paint the entire Clinton Campaign with Racism ,
    has REFUSED to distance himself from his minister of over 20 Years.

    I for one, read racism into many of Reverend Wrights "sermons", and must retract my vote for Senator Obama, over this mess......
    I only wish I had know this before Primary Election Day here !

    Senator Clinton may not be the best candidate either,
    with mis-steps too, but she did not just sit there for 20 years, AND, select this "church" based on the philosophy being preached !

    March 28, 2008 at 11:24 pm |
  18. Ken - Tennessee

    Rendell is not out of touch, he is very much in tune. He speaks the truth and for those who think different have their eyes shut and to cowardly to be honest.

    March 28, 2008 at 11:22 pm |
  19. John

    It won't matter she'll just change the firewall. And you wouldn't expect her to admit her people want her out

    March 28, 2008 at 11:22 pm |
  20. Willie

    So its ok to say that it would be hard for blacks to vote for Clinton, but its not of to say that it would be hard for whites to vote for Obama. This democratic race is so one sided.

    March 28, 2008 at 11:21 pm |
  21. Ken - Tennessee

    Well, Obama is Black (tongue in cheek) and Clinton is white...hmmm.. some will vote for Clinton because she is white ans some will vote for Obama becuse he is black (tongue in cheek). So what... human nature, not racism.

    March 28, 2008 at 11:20 pm |
  22. Kathy

    Sure Rendel is racist, A lot of people are, it's one of those things that if you aren't careful more than your family will know your dirty secret. If there wasn't any racist, his words would have never left his mouth, but on April 22, 2008, he'll see.

    March 28, 2008 at 11:20 pm |
  23. Kelli

    Gov Rendell is an idiot. I am a Philidelphian, born and raised and grew up when he was mayor, and he was an idiot them. He should apologize to the Pennsylvanians!

    March 28, 2008 at 11:19 pm |
  24. HM-Nevada

    I am a Clinton supporter i was born and raised in the south and still travel extensively through out the U.S. it is my opinion that the Democrat are between a rock and a hard place unfortunately the country is not ready for a woman or a black to be President of the U.S. This is an informed opinion on my part.

    March 28, 2008 at 11:19 pm |
  25. John

    She had a 22% lead now it's about 16%

    March 28, 2008 at 11:19 pm |
  26. Pat

    I just wish you guys would stop trying to end this race. It is really irritating that your calls for Hillary to get out are going to affect voters who have yet to vote. It is just too close for that. LEAVE IT ALONE. STOP TRYING TO DIRECT IT. PLEASE. Let it go. It will be over when it is over.

    March 28, 2008 at 11:17 pm |
  27. Charles

    I don't think Gov Rendell is wrong. This country is not that far removed from the era of Jim Crow, Poll Taxes, and 'the back of the bus'. There are some whites who just will not vote for a black. Remember, the KKK still exists. There are a host of white supremist groups out there still, spreading their hate. There are people who are on the fringes of those groups. So his statement is true. It is a fact.

    Does it make Gov Rendell a racist, I don't think so. I am going to vote for Obama in November and I think it is just realistic to understand that there are whites who have not left the early 1800's behind us.

    March 28, 2008 at 11:16 pm |
  28. Mr. J

    It's not weather a white man will vote for a black man it's that we just will not vote for this black man. There is no way he can win in the general election. No one I have talked to lately will vote for him now. I think the question should be how can we be asking Hillary to get out when she is our only hope to win in november.

    March 28, 2008 at 11:12 pm |
  29. Dan

    How many strikes are there in a ball game the last time i checked it was three an thats about three first it was Bill with the fairy tale comment then it was the if he was'nt black he would'nt be where he is.
    now Rendell give all of the white race a set back by saying they care more about the race of a man rather then the issues that lay ahead.
    like there jobs there homes there childrens well being the rising cost of gas in this country what i do feel Gov Rendell was trying to do is to .
    place a subliminal thought to pull focuss from the sniper ordeal.
    an to try an shift it back to race an it,s a political strategical move.

    March 28, 2008 at 11:11 pm |
  30. Vic, from Canada

    How are these comments not racist; 50% white is not White enough...I guess it would only be racist if the "N" word was used.
    Maybe if both his parents were Whites...
    This was a great race, until the Clinton camp inserted race and sat back and watched...
    Good luck!

    March 28, 2008 at 11:09 pm |
  31. John

    I am from PA and unfortunatley still here. Look back a week and you can find where I've blogged about the KKK in Pa and the predjudice attitude in this state , Including The Governor

    March 28, 2008 at 11:06 pm |
  32. amanda thayer

    it is all very silly. what does it matter. if all the news stations would stop talking about all these comments, they would just go away. the way something exists is by agreement. please just stop. if you cover the issues and talk about these and only these, the rest would stop. we should all take the high road, our country deserves this from us.i do want obama to win. however, i will vote for clinton. please just stop. stop talking about it all. lets here the issues. lets believe we can make a difference.

    March 28, 2008 at 11:03 pm |
  33. Ruth

    After reading all these comments my thoughts go to forgiveness and
    looking at what we are all saying. If we are to do unto other what we
    want done to us then I would say a great deal of us want a lot of hate and unforgiveness to come our way. We all need to lighten up and stop taking every comment personally. Obama's new Pastor got it right, everyone is trying to hang someone else and I see it going on, on every network and in every campaign, know one is wearing any
    hay-lows in this world.

    March 28, 2008 at 11:00 pm |
  34. David - Tampa

    I very much in agreement with Deb – Canada. The Media is always instigating the issue of race. The Media miasma of racial divide has taken the center stage in the nation's democratic election. The Media is responsible for this unfortunate irresponsible conduct.

    Similarly, they are constantly playing annoyng statements by Senator Obama's supporters who are out there working over time to shoo Senator Clinton out of the race prematurely and threreby prevent the rule of democracy. I wonder why the New York Giants was not shooed out of the game in the 4th quarter, just 2mins. before the end of the game, when the New England Petriots was ahead. The wrong team would have won. WHAT A CALAMITY THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN!

    How can we determin the winner without allowing people to vote? What type of technicality is that? We are yet to include Florida and Michigan.

    March 28, 2008 at 10:58 pm |
  35. Greg Erie PA

    Sen. Obama is a lot like Sen. Bob Casey in PA. If you don't live in Pittsburgh or Philadelphia you never see him and he does nothing for your community.

    March 28, 2008 at 10:51 pm |
  36. Catherine

    Hillary should not throw in the towel, what about all the people who support her I don't think she would let them down.. I wonder if she was a man if they would ask him to throw in the towel...I doubt. it...
    ,,, What does Anderson have against Hillary???? You can tell he does not like her... One more thing if Hillary doesn't get in I will vote for McCain.....I think that is what CNN really wants..

    March 28, 2008 at 10:49 pm |
  37. Alex Alexander

    Gov Rendell is out of touch with what people in Pennsylvania think. I was at the Sldiers and Sailors hall today. It was a very mixed group. I am white and many of my white friends are also voting for Barack Obama. It has nothing to do with race. He is a leader who has come to us at this time. I feel confident that he is the man for this season.Judging from the many people who were in Pittsburgh and Greensburg today-black and white, he Sen. Barack Obama will be our next President.

    March 28, 2008 at 10:43 pm |
  38. Mary

    Ed Rendell speaks the truth and now he is labeled a racist. What are we coming to if you cannot speak the truth. It's the Obama campaign that keeps the race card going. So than all those blacks that vote for Obama are racist.
    Give me a break people...take off those rose colored glasses and look at Obama for real. And the press should stop giving him a free ride.He doesn't have an original thought to put forward. I too am a democrat and I too WILL NOT vote if Obama is the candidate. How anyone can vote for a man who sits in a church for 20 years and doesn't know what the preacher is preaching. What a liar.
    Gee whats he going to do when there is a real tragedy that befalls this country...give us a pretty speech??? He's all speech and no substance

    March 28, 2008 at 10:42 pm |
  39. judy Leach

    This has been amost interestng race. It has forced us to realize just how racist we are. Most of us are in complete denial. When we make statements of the sort which the governor made, these are racist statements coming from the heart. Even though we deny it, it is still true. Racismis alive and well. Inorder to settle those issues, we have to realize there is the problem. It's like alcohol anonymous. We have to admit there is a problem. The problem will persist as long as we deny. Help can only come form Almighty God.

    March 28, 2008 at 10:38 pm |
  40. jeromeepps

    I am a black male 54 years old, retired military/DAV and I am asking that all voters in PA., to show the racism state senate in MI what they did is not fair and unjust to america people all over. They vote not to let the people in MI to revote because they was afraid that Senate Hillary Clinton would win another big state and the man they support will lose. They talk about racism how can they and I hope and pray that either one of them be reelected to the state senate. How will they feel if all whites would vote for Sen Clinton to prove to them that two can play that game. She is a much better leader than obama and she care more about this country and what need to be done. Thank about this now obama wife is now proud to be america now that her husband is winning. I am black and I always been proud to be america and serve my country with respect. His campaign is the one that is playing the race card and I will vote for John mccain before I vote for him because I don't vote for a good speech or the color of some skin like most blacks are doing.

    March 28, 2008 at 10:36 pm |
  41. Alex

    auggie, that's not why. since ur caucasion, u cant speak for african-americans' behalf, right. So if you cant, theres no need to mention anything about that, because its only going to blow up in your own face.
    First of all, a group for caucasions??
    We have everything, and so much more. Its because of people like you give people like us a bad name. Shame on you, auggie. =P

    March 28, 2008 at 10:35 pm |
  42. Donald, Upland, CA

    Gov. Rendell spoke the truth. There are plenty of white voters that won't vote for Obama soley because he has dark skin. That's racisim! Isn't it? Only Gov. Rendell knows whether he's racist or not. The male commentator tonight asked the question as to why Obama is not picking up more of the white vote. The answer maybe somewhere between racisim and sexism.

    March 28, 2008 at 10:33 pm |
  43. Marie

    Rendell is 100% correct! I grew up in Steelers town and many many many white people will not vote for Obama only because he is black. There is NO racism here, just the truth!

    March 28, 2008 at 10:32 pm |
  44. Greg Erie PA

    This just goes back to what most educated whites believe. Blacks can say anything they want. Call whites anything they want. But if a white person says anything, even if it might be true, they call him or her a raciest.

    March 28, 2008 at 10:30 pm |
  45. David

    Does anyone know what Hillary's thoughts on race are? I don't mean her thoughts on the Wright controversy or her thoughts on Obama's thoughts, but her honest thoughts on the state of race relations in society today and how she would address them?

    March 28, 2008 at 10:29 pm |
  46. Alex

    Both him and Hillary should apologize. They have no respect for Pennsylvanians. This is obvious since she lies a lot, and he has no control over his tounge. Must be a Clinton and their endorser...
    Tisk tisk.

    March 28, 2008 at 10:28 pm |
  47. David

    People are always talking about how Obama provokes such a fervid following, which I guess is true to some degree; but what's more disturbing is the rabid hate he seems to generate among an isolated disgruntled few. Weird.

    March 28, 2008 at 10:27 pm |
  48. RKFla

    For Obama's supporters to be publicly calling for Clinton to withdraw ,and then squealing like a stuck pig when a private comment is made that is probably politically realistic is leaked to the public, is about what I have come to expect from a campaign that is trying desperately to preserve it's lead by preventing the representation of Florida and Michigan.

    March 28, 2008 at 10:27 pm |
  49. Alex

    He must be a racist. Nobody just says that, especially after Obama's speech, because they know that they'll be called a racist.

    March 28, 2008 at 10:26 pm |
  50. clemente

    June get over it ! this country is divided Gay/Anti-Gay, Abortion/Anit-abortion, Republicians/Democrates. Right wing/Left wing so get over it. Obama is going to change anybodies mind. Mr. Blue SKY!!! I feel exactly like Barbara–Bristol,Va. Obama hasn't go what it takes black or white. I'm hispanic he isn't going to do anything for us. He is just going to let al sharpton and jesse and wright in the white house or should I call it the black house, I hope not. Hispanics have always know blacks are for blacks. GO HILLARY!!!! do not quite no matter what !!!! June do you go to church and say GOD DAMN AMERICA?????

    March 28, 2008 at 10:25 pm |
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