Republican gubernatorial candidate and former Pittsburgh Steeler Lynn Swann is down in the polls and has $10 million less in cash than his opponent, but he insists that the campaign is still in its early stages, and once voters get to know him, he'll be able to close those gaps and run a winning race.
To that end, Swann attended a Center City meet-and-greet hosted by the Philadelphia Chapter of the Republican Jewish Coalition; many of those in attendance didn't seem to know much about the candidate other than his name.
Yet many were hopeful that Swann could do better than former State Attorney General Mike Fischer, who was beaten handily four years ago by Gov. Ed Rendell. That victory made him the first Philadelphian elected to the governor's office in almost 90 years.
"I am not here to gain political experience," Swann told the nearly 100 people who'd gathered in the lobby of the Rittenhouse Hotel. "This is not a test run. This is about winning."
The event was not a fundraiser; the Republican Jewish Coalition is not a political-action committee, and does not run events where candidates can directly solicit money. But it was clear that Swann was trying to cultivate support among influential Republicans — and potentially big donors — in Southeast Pennsylvania where statewide Republican candidates often struggle.
Fighting the Ratings
Swann painted himself as a fiscal conservative who, if elected, would concentrate on reforming how politics gets done in Harrisburg. He explained that his platform includes abolishing the state estate tax; lowering the corporate tax; reducing personal income and property taxes; and linking caps in state spending to the rate of inflation.
The state could make up the $1 billion tax revenue by improving efficiency, he argued.
"We need a government that will get out of your way," he said. "It's about putting government back into the hands of the people."
Swann compared himself to neophyte politicians, including Ronald Reagan and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who were voted into governorships without having previously held elected office. Curiously, he did not mention President George W. Bush, whose debut political post was as governor of Texas.
At this point, the numbers don't look good. According to an independent Quinnipiac University Poll conducted in June, 55 percent of respondents plan to vote for Rendell, compared with 31 percent for Swann.
When the same poll was conducted in May, Swann garnered 33 percent.
And in terms of finances, the Rendell camp has about $13.8 million at its disposal so far, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State. Swann has about $3.3 million in the bank.
Kenneth Davis, a member of the Republican Jewish Coalition and chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party, argued that as long as Rendell's approval ratings don't climb above 60 percent, Swann has a chance.
As for the Rendell campaign, it's claiming that Swann has failed to define himself as a candidate.
Last week, the office released a list of 15 questions to Swann — there are 15 weeks left to Election Day — asking the candidate to clarify a series of positions, ranging from how he would increase access to health care to how he would ensure the state's air and water quality.
"Either Lynn Swann is going to run a real campaign — or he's not," stated Rendell spokesman Dan Fee in a press release. "But either way, the time is now for him to begin answering real questions."