Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Confidence of a Winner

As a football Hall-of-Famer and wide receiver on the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers championship teams, Lynn Swann knows a thing or two about winning. He carries that positive attitude into the 2006 Pennsylvania race for Governor against both his Republican primary opponents and incumbent Democrat Ed Rendell. But can he win, for real? He certainly thinks so:

Former Steelers star Lynn Swann said Monday he is the Republican with the best chance of beating Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell in 2006.

As a campaign theme for taking on any incumbent, that's not new.

But the candid, off-the-cuff way Swann framed it brought howls of laughter and a round of applause during a Republican event in Pittsburgh.

Swann, 53, of Sewickley Heights, was asked by someone in the audience to explain the "major difference" between himself and Bill Scranton, 58, a former lieutenant governor from Lackawanna County. Scranton and Swann are considered the early front-runners among four Republicans seeking the nomination.

"The major difference?" Swann said. "I win."

Of the four Republican contenders, Swann has the most potential for crossover appeal just because he's a famous former pro football player. In American politics, celebrity matters. Jim Panyard, the last man to enter the race and who is least known to voters statewide, would be the best choice based on principles. "Conservative" doesn't count for much in a swing state like PA. State Senator Jeff Piccola is already established in Harrisburg, and I would prefer someone who is more of an outsider in the Governor's mansion. But I do confess to knowing less about Piccola than I do about the other candidates. Finally, there is the man who I believe is likely to win the nomination: former Lt. Gov. Bill Scranton. He has the same kind of experience and family background that made George W. Bush such an attractive candidate for the presidency five years ago. Keep in mind, though, that this is Spectervania. If an issue like abortion matters to PA voters, then Scranton will walk away with the nomination while the other three split the pro-life vote.

Speaking of issues, the most valid criticism of Lynn Swann is that he has not stepped forward to discuss his positions on anything -- until now:

Swann used the speech at the Rivers Club, Downtown, to lay out his campaign's first specific proposals regarding a potential Swann administration. They include a pledge to roll back tax increases passed under Rendell's watch and support of a constitutional amendment to restrict state government spending.

Alluding to his former role as chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness, Swann said: "If I'm governor of Pennsylvania, government is going on a diet."

Swann said he would push capping spending increases by tying them to the cost of living. Tighter spending controls could save the state more than $500 million annually, which would be used to offset about $500 million in tax cuts, Swann said.

Now you're talking! I may be leaning towards Panyard right now, but Swann has my ear. It's going to be a long eight months to the May primary.

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