To say that Lynn Swann got off to a slow start would be kind. All things considered, though, I like a strong closer, which is what I expect Swann to be because of what I read in this article.

It’s Monday morning and Reform One, the Lynn Swann for Governor campaign bus, is refueled (with environmentally friendly biodiesel) and ready for a day trip. And somewhere between discussing urban violence in South Philly and awarding ribbons to 4-H members at the Lebanon Area Fair, you understand why Gov. Rendell should still be a bit nervous about reelection.

‘Fast Eddie’ Rendell can only dream of being that comfortable in front of future farmers. What’s likely more troublesome is that, while he can’t touch Swann on country turf’, Swann can do plenty of damage in what might be called the ‘Rendell Zone’ of South Philly.

Most important, if the bus tour is any indication, this is a campaign that may finally have its act together, partly on issues and fund-raising, but even more so on voter outreach and organization.
It made a good impression on Theresa Rhodes of Norristown, who attended Swann’s lunch-hour stop at the borough’s Senior Adult Activity Center on George Street. Swann was following Jim Matthews, his running mate and the Montgomery County commissioner. Matthews had been talking to the several dozen people in attendance before Reform One arrived. Swann took the mike and immediately offered to answer questions. When the hands went up, he waded among the questioners seated at tables. “I’m going to come over just like Oprah,” he said, adding jokingly, “but I’m not here to make your dreams come true.”

Frankly, I think that Swann will win this race if he can prove himself sufficiently knowledgeable on the issues. He’s already showing considerable prowess at connecting with people, which isn’t something that evcery politician has. Hillary Clinton leaps to mind. The GOP, with Ken Mehlman leading the way, has been outreach oriented since 2003 really. Swann is simply following the GOP manual in terms of winning over new voters.

Another thing that will benefit Swann, Santorum and I believe Diana Irey is the GOP GOTV operation. The most impressive state GOTV operation was in Ohio, to the point where they were ‘farming’ people out to other states for GOTV operations. If they’re doing that well in Ohio again this year, I’d expect a bunch of these volunteers to be farmed out to Pennsylvania.

The first question was about restoring funds for seniors. Would he promise more? No. He didn’t want to mislead anyone, promise one thing here and another at the next stop.
“The state doesn’t have an unlimited amount of money,” he told the woman. “In fact, when the state has more, you have less because of higher taxes.” But he would commit to a “fiscally responsible plan” that would ensure the state didn’t have to divert seniors’ lottery proceeds to other programs. Rhodes, who is black and a Democrat, said afterward: “With that good speech, people who normally vote Democratic might vote for him. He seemed honest, true to his nature.”

Ed Rendell must be getting nervous after that last quote. If Swann is winning over Democrats, that’s also a sign that Rendell’s support isn’t as steadfast as Bush’s was in 2004. If Swann is winning over people that voted for Rendell in 2002, then that’s telling me that Rendell hasn’t closed the deal with people, which isn’t what an incumbent wants to think about.

Here’s the other good news for the Swann camp:

Republican Lynn Swann is bringing in a heavy-hitting New York political strategist to bolster his sagging gubernatorial candidacy. Walter Breakell begins work tomorrow in Pittsburgh as the campaign chief of staff.

Turnout will be important in this race. Fitting Zaborney, who is supposedly one of the best at GOTV operations, into that role is a big plus for Swann and the entire GOP ticket.

At the end of the day, I still pick Swann to beat Rendell in one of the tightest races in the country.

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