Ed Rendell: Obama Can Be a Wuss, and So Can I

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First Ed Rendell called the president a wuss. Then he wondered if Mitt Romney might not just win Pennsylvania.

Rendell visited the Bloomberg View offices Wednesday to promote his new book, "A Nation of Wusses: How America’s Leaders Lost the Guts to Make Us Great." One of the ways he is promoting it, apparently, is to compete with Bill Clinton over which of them can be more off-message.

President Barack Obama made the wuss list a year ago, for failing to get behind a bill that would have banned automatic magazines carrying multiple rounds of ammunition after the 2011 shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords. Had her assailant needed to stop and reload his gun, Rendell says, there might not have been so much carnage.

Rendell, a former mayor of Philadelphia and governor of Pennsylvania, labels himself a wuss for not stopping the Republican state legislature from awarding itself a pay raise. In the non-wuss column he puts the tax hike he signed in his first term, which he used to pare the deficit and establish full-day kindergarten programs in the state. He went on to win a second term by 21 points -- proof, he says, that if you treat your citizens like adults, they can accept sacrifice.

Like Clinton, Rendell goes rogue at pretty much the first sound bite. He famously told Democrats in 2000 to drop their fight over the Florida recount right after the Supreme Court ruled and before Al Gore had had a chance to respond. He also told of the time Gore "reamed" him for telling the vice president he had to use Clinton in his 2000 presidential campaign even if he was mad at him about Monica Lewinsky.

Now Rendell is turning his attention to Obama. The president, who is as chilly (Rendell calls him "shy") as Rendell is hot, should embrace the essence of the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction plan (although it’s a little late, he notes). Obama should also acknowledge that, with life expectancy at 80 instead of 65, Social Security and Medicare have to fundamentally change. Oh, and Obama has done a lousy job explaining health care reform, too.

As far as his home state is concerned, Rendell said Obama will lose "Alabama" -- that swath of Pennsylvania between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. He will win Philadelphia, of course, but the surrounding suburbs, Rendell's not so sure. The sketch Romney is etching could capture some of the moderates and independents there.

"Romney’s biggest liability in the primaries was that voters didn’t believe he was conservative," Rendell said. "His biggest asset in the general is that moderates voters don’t believe he’s conservative."

So he didn’t say Obama would lose Pennsylvania, exactly. Just most of it. When asked how often he gets calls from Obama's Chicago campaign headquarters complaining about his comments on MSNBC, where he practices his punditry, Rendell replied, "I’m one of you now.”

With that, he was off. Probably to take a call from Chicago.

(Margaret Carlson is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow her on Twitter.)

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