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A week after Randy Mastro Lí81, one of Mayor Guilianiís top aides inaugurated the Deanís Speakers Series, David L. Cohen Lí81 returned to the law school and analyzed how his former boss, Ed Rendell, beat the odds to become governor of Pennsylvania.
Invited by the Penn Law Democrats, Cohen, executive vice president of the Comcast Corporation and former chief of staff for Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell, said conventional wisdom favored Rendellís opponent, Pennsylvania Attorney General Mike Fisher. According to Cohen, most pundits figured a Philadelphia Democrat could not win the governorship in Pennsylvania. The stateís too Republican and too conservative. Rendellís liberal social policies would not play in Pennsylvania. Those were the arguments. The question was, Would Rendellís conservative economic positions override his social liberalism?
The answer was yes. Turns out, Cohen said, that Rendellís charm, regional popularity, and excellent campaign were a winning combination. Cohen specified the factors that helped Rendell. He pointed to Rendellís political base in the Philadelphia region, which makes up more than 40 percent of registered voters in Pennsylvania. Rendell, he said, had historically high approval ratings in the area, and this support gave him a remarkable boost going into the election, as did his longtime cultivation of the local media. Many voters were familiar with him from his Philadelphia Eaglesí commentary on both Comcast TV and in the Philadelphia Daily News. And thereís his charisma: heís approachable and likeable. All of which paid off on election night when he amassed huge pluralities in vote-rich Philadelphia and surrounding counties.
Cohen called Rendell ďa quality candidate, which no amount of paid media can compete with.Ē However, Rendellís war chest did contribute to his landslide victory. He raised $40 million for his campaign in what became the most expensive gubernatorial race in Pennsylvania history. Fisher, his Republican opponent, ďonlyĒ raised $13 million. Rendell spent half of his campaign dollars defeating Bob Casey Jr. in the Democratic primary. By the general election, Democrats who had not voted for Rendell in the primary were prepared to support him.
On election night, Rendell received sixty percent, or more than 800,000, of his votes from the Philadelphia region. Astoundingly, Rendell captured almost as many votes in the area as Fisher received statewide, Cohen noted. Just as astounding, or confounding, Rendell became Pennsylvaniaís 45th governor.
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