Clout: On TV, Specter gets laughs, Rendell gets laughed at

Posted: March 21, 2008

WITH THE Pennsylvania presidential primary in the national spotlight, the Keystone State is hot, hot, hot.

And that means Pennsylvania pols are hot, too.

In case you missed it, Gov. Rendell and U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter graced late-night TV this week.

Specter was on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" hawking his new book, "Never Give In: Battling Cancer in the Senate." (He'll be at the Central Library Monday night to read from it. See item on Page 38.)

Specter showed a photo of his thin, bald self at the height of chemotherapy shaking hands with President Bush, and noted that Bush's body language seemed to say, "He doesn't look like he's going to make it. They say it's not contagious but who the hell knows?"

When Stewart asked Specter how old he is (he's 78), Specter answered: "I forget."

He said he recently looked at his birth certificate and said: "Why let a little thing like this bother me? It happened so long ago."

Rendell, meanwhile, was fodder for a David Letterman video skit. In the wake of ex-New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's prostitution flap and ex- New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey's three-way, Letterman ran a faux announcement that Rendell wants his constituents to know he "freely and openly nails staffers, interns, whores . . . transvestite whores, elderly, you name it."

The video showed a smiling Rendell mixed with generic shots of all the above and ended with, "Ed Rendell, he's into some freaky s---, too."

Jenkintown hot spot

If Pennsylvania is now the center of the politcal universe, is the West Avenue Grille in Jenkintown the center of the center?

Six months ago, in a nationally aired newscast, NBC's Andrea Mitchell rounded up a group of women diners there to talk about what it meant to have U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton running for president.

On Tuesday, following his much praised speech on race at the National Constitution Center, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama dropped by to shoot a TV ad there, answering questions from 50 union members.

"At first, I thought it was a joke," said Bob Katz, who, along with wife, Hope, and son Dan owns and runs the restuarant. "People from the senator's camp said they'd like to use the restaurant."

The Secret Service told Katz to keep the news quiet.

"But this is a small town, so Tuesday came and there were 300 or 400 people outside waiting for him," Katz said.

Obama arrived about 2:15 p.m. and spent about two hours shooting the ad.

"He asked for a tuna wrap to go," Katz said. "We gave him one and he stuck it in his pocket. He said: 'We eat on the run.' "

Afterward, Obama shook hands with the crowd waiting outside.

Katz is a Democrat but declined to take sides in the Clinton-Obama fight.

"I would more than welcome Hillary or John McCain," he said.

Pat arm-twists for Doc

Philadelphia Building Trades business manager Pat Gillespie has been lobbying Gov. Rendell for an endorsement of electricians union leader John Dougherty in his run for Vince Fumo's state Senate seat.

Rendell had said he'd back Fumo, who withdrew from the race last week.

So what about backing Doc?

"I told Pat that that I'm not in a position to endorse," Rendell told reporters yesterday, "but that the many good things I've said about John in letters and statements, he's free to quote."

Said Gillespie: "That's the governor's way of saying 'Yeah, I like Doc, but I'm going to wait and see if he's going to win before I endorse him.' "

Dougherty, meanwhile, said Rendell has said enough "glowing things" about his experience and help on job-creation and health-care issues "that I cannot get a better endorsement than that."

Fumo: Conspiracy theory 1

Brian Abernathy, a top aide to Fumocrat Councilman Frank DiCicco, is taking a leave of absence Monday, primarily to work on the campaign of Larry Farnese, who's running for Fumo's Senate seat.

Dougherty has long held that Farnese was a Fumo sleeper-agent in the race, who'd be activated if Fumo's legal clouds forced him out.

We dismissed this as paranoid rambling, but in the week since Fumo dropped out, a steady stream of Fumo allies have been flowing to Farnese.

Might this move set up a rematch with Doc ally Eddie Kirlin, who once accused Abernathy of chest-bumping him and slapping him after saying, "I'm going to bitch-slap you like the p---- you are"?

"Nah," said Abernathy. "Ed and I have gotten past whatever issues we had. Our work together on the casino issue has helped."

Fumo: Conspiracy theory II

Fumo has dropped out . . . or has he?

Yesterday was the deadline to get your name off the April 22 ballot.

Fumo failed to file withdrawal papers.

Bob Lee, of the city commissioners office, says now that the only way Fumo can get off the ballot is to get a court order.

Fumo spokesman Gary Tuma says the senator plans to take action next week.

Cue "The X-Files" music.

What if suddenly, in the final week of the campaign, Fumo springs to life? And Farnese and Good Government Goddess Anne Dicker cut a deal to drop out, throwing their support to Fumo?

Can a candidate who dropped out of the race still win?

Yes. It happened in 2003, when Anthony Clark got a court order to get off the ballot as city commissioner candidate, but won anyway.

Fumo has first ballot position in his race. Even if a sticker covered his name, you could still vote for him. The truth is out there. *

Staff writers Gar Joseph, John M. Baer, Dave Davies and Bob Warner contributed to this report.


Have a news tip? Gossip? Suggestion? Contact Gar Joseph at clout@phillynews.com, call 215-854-5895, or fax 215-854-5910.

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