Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) on Wednesday blasted House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) analysis of the special congressional election in the state the previous night as “one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard.”
Though the race between Democrat Conor Lamb and Republican Rick Saccone is still too close to call, Ryan on Wednesday tried to minimize Lamb’s shocking success in winning over large numbers of Trump voters.
“I think the candidate that’s going to win this race is the candidate that ran as a pro–life, pro–gun, anti–Nancy Pelosi conservative,” Ryan said during a press conference Wednesday. “That’s the candidate that’s going to win this race.”
Ryan noted that Lamb was selected as Democrats’ candidate at a convention of the party, not in a primary, and that Democratic delegates “were able to pick a candidate who could run as a conservative, who ran against the minority leader, who ran on a conservative agenda. You will have primaries in all these other races, and the primaries bring them to the left.”
Left unsaid: Saccone was chosen at a state party convention, as well.
In an interview with Rendell Wednesday, MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell said Ryan’s message was that “the Democrats have had to field a candidate who was really spouting Republican policies here and that it was not a clear win, certainly not for the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.”
“I thought Paul Ryan has a reputation of being a smart guy,” Rendell replied. “That’s one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard.”
“As I tell my friends, the most important vote that Conor Lamb or Joe Manchin will make is they’ll vote to have a new speaker [of the House] who will control the Democratic agenda and bring it to the floor, and a new majority leader in the Senate who will do the same thing,” he said later, adding: “Conor Lamb will deliver it. Joe Manchin will deliver it. Joe Donnelly will deliver it. So I don’t care if they’re conservative Democrats. They’re good, decent Democrats who believe in our core message. Not necessarily all the things we need to do, but believe in the core message.”
On Tuesday night, Rendell, who served as Pennsylvania’s governor for two terms, made a similar point to Fox News’ Laura Ingraham, acknowledging that Lamb was able to attract Trump voters.
“He is a moderate. He’s pro-life. He’s moderate on guns. He’s a very intelligent candidate. He did a good job with the steelworkers and the coal miners, got their endorsement,” Rendell said.
When Ingraham pointed out that while Lamb is personally opposed to abortion, he supports pro-choice policies, Rendell replied: “He’s more pro-life than most Democrats.”
“The core values of the Democratic Party going back 50 years are values that most Americans agree with, and we have gotten away from them,” the former governor said later. “We play identity politics. It isn’t good.”