Eleven of the nation’s governors will have to perform some political sleight of hand if Barack Obama clinches the Democratic nomination for president. After months of supporting Hillary Rodham Clinton, they will have to convince voters they’re just as happy with her rival.
Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland repeatedly has said Obama is less experienced than Clinton. Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell said the election was not about choosing a rock star.
“He needs a little more seasoning,” Gov. Mike Beebe of Arkansas said at a rally last August where he announced his endorsement of Clinton.
Other governors supporting Clinton include Jon Corzine of New Jersey and Ted Kulongoski of Oregon, along with the chief executives of Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New York and North Carolina.
Governors, whose shared priorities often transcend partisan politics, have a history of playing nice. Few have gone for the jugular in remarks about Obama, whose campaign declined to comment on Clinton’s gubernatorial supporters.
Still, this year’s long and bitter Democratic primary has given governors and other superdelegates plenty of time to go on the record with remarks about Obama that could come back to haunt them.
“There’s a treasure trove of ammunition for Republican campaign consultants to dip into,” said Chris Borick, a pollster and political scientist at Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania.
Case in point: a YouTube clip of Rendell appearing on Bill Maher’s “Real Time” in February, e-mailed to The Associated Press by the Pennsylvania Republican Party just minutes after being asked about Rendell and Obama.
“We’re not electing a rock star,” Rendell says on the eight-minute clip. “It’s not a vote to see who’s the most charismatic.”
Expect to see more of the same in the fall campaign, said Michael Barley, spokesman for the Pennsylvania GOP.
“It’s going to be very difficult for him to pivot now and support a candidate that he was actively campaigning against,” he said, referring to Rendell.
Wanna bet? said Rendell.
“I don’t mean to sound lacking in humility, but if they try to make something out of that, I’ll kill them,” Rendell said. “I’ll turn it so they’ll wish they never brought it up.”