So the game is on.
This was Saturday.
By Saturday evening, Rendell's signing copies of his book, A Nation of Wusses, at the Moravian Book Shop in Bethlehem.
When asked about the Romney/Wawa thing, Ed tells a reporter from the Easton Express-Times, "On the surface, it looks like he wussed out."
A day, an event, a tagline made to order — as in book order.
It's no coincidence that Rendell's book is out during a national campaign; or that Rendell draws national attention commenting on the campaign in ways that underscore the theme of his book.
Last month, he criticized Team Obama for going after Romney with tough TV ads about Mitt's tenure at the buyout firm Bain Capital. The ads painted Romney as a corporate destroyer of companies, towns and families.
"Very disappointing," said Ed.
It was a clear defense of Romney the man and a castigation of Obama's campaign.
It suggested that Obama wussed out by going after an easy, cheap-shot hit on Mitt. Remember, Romney's GOP-primary opponents beat Bain like a rented mule.
This month, Rendell, on CBS' "This Morning," suggested that Hillary Clinton would have been a more assertive president than Obama (because, you know, wusses aren't assertive).
"I think she would have come in with a lot more executive experience. I think the president was hurt by being a legislator only," Rendell said. He added that on issues such as health care and stimulus, Obama left too much up to Congress, whereas Hillary would have sent lawmakers specifics and said, "Here's what I want."
I'm not sure that serving as first lady of Arkansas and then first lady of the U.S. qualifies as "executive experience," but I'm sure Rendell, a former national party chairman, supported Hillary over Obama in '08, remains close to the Clintons and wants Hillary to run for president sometime down the road.
So Rendell stays in the news by offering comments that loyal Democrats could consider hurtful to Obama, and that political experts might call counterintuitive.
And the thread through these comments matches nicely the theme of his book.
How does Romney fit in here? And why would Romney do Ed favors?
It's a matter of reciprocity.
Rendell has always been a Romney fan.
Back in 2007, the first time Romney ran for president, Rendell more than once publicly praised him.
In March of that year, the then-guv said at a Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon that Romney was "the Republican to watch."
That May, he told the Harrisburg Regional Chamber of Commerce that all the '08 presidential-primary candidates had flaws, "with the possible exception of Gov. Romney, who I have a huge regard for."
In an MSNBC interview in June 2011, Ed said of Mitt, "He was a good governor of Massachusetts."
And earlier this month on Philly talk-radio WPHT (1210-AM), Ed said that Mitt ran a "successful business" and "rescued" the Olympics and that "nobody out there thinks that Gov. Romney is unqualified."
So it makes sense that Mitt would "on the surface" appear to wuss out and provide a timely opportunity for Ed to hawk more books.
After all, it's pretty clear that Mitt has a friend in Pennsylvania. n
For recent columns, go to philly.com/JohnBaer. Read his blog at philly.com/BaerGrowls.