Slightly but significantly, Ed Rendell has separated himself from the Clinton campaign’s assertion that Barack Obama can’t win Pennsylvania–and the general election, for that matter–in the fall, telling MSNBC that Obama would be able to defeat John McCain in the Keystone State.
This comes a day after Mark Penn, Clinton’s chief strategist, bluntly stated that Obama “really can’t win the general election,” and two days after the Clinton campaign issued a memo that sought to portray the Pennsylvania primary as a significant historical indicator of general election strength.
Rendell’s take more closely comports with reality. The two most recent Pennsylvania polls, released in the last few days, have both found Clinton handily beating Obama in the Democratic primary–in which only registered Democrats may participate. But those same polls also showed Clinton and Obama performing almost identically in hypothetical general election match-ups with John McCain. This is only logical, since about two-thirds of the November electorate will be made up of independents and Republicans–voters who can’t participate in the Democratic primary but who are more receptive to Obama than Clinton.
Rendell did make sure to say that he believes that Clinton has a better chance of winning Pennsylvania than Obama. But he mostly conceded the basic fact that the Clinton campaign has been resisting: that primary results–especially in closed-primary states like Pennsylvania–are not reliable indicators of a candidate’s ability or inability to carry that state in the fall.