Philadelphia Daily News | 01/19/2006 | John Baer | Why is Swann ducking a Scranton debate?: "Posted on Thu, Jan. 19, 2006
John Baer | Why is Swann ducking a Scranton debate?LET ME MAKE this as plain as possible.
It is wrong for Lynn Swann not to debate Bill Scranton prior to the state Republican Party endorsement Feb. 11.
And it is wrong for the state Republican Party not to encourage, promote or sponsor such a debate.
The biggest question about Swann is whether he knows anything.
By declining to appear at a scheduled Harrisburg debate next Wednesday with Scranton and businessman Jim Panyard (a GOP candidate not seeking party backing), he doesn't answer the question.
Instead he says one, two or three things:
1. I have more momentum than Scranton, maybe even sewed up the endorsement, and don't want to screw the pooch now.
2. I've gotten this far on glitter, grip and grin, so no need to change game plans.
3. Everyone's right, I know nothing, but I know enough not to show it.
As one insider put it, "Better for folks to see an empty chair than to see an empty suit."
Scranton campaign manager Jim Seif says, "It's a Rose Bowl - I mean a Rose Garden strategy."
He's right. Swann (who played in two Rose Bowls) is acting like an incumbent with a lead rather than a challenger with a question mark.
He offers little but football stories and his own celebrity with a few bromides about "making all of Pennsylvania better."
He should offer more. He should demonstrate substance.
True, he proposes three debates after the endorsement, but that's like saying I'll take the test after you give me my grade.
His position is defenseless and invites assumptions that he's clueless.
GOP members have a right to see Swann in action before they commit to his candidacy.
That commitment (unlike that of the state Democratic Party) means actual resources that are invaluable in a primary election and is worth too much to be given without full and fair appraisal.
Why isn't that happening?
When I ask state GOP executive director Scott Migli why the party doesn't push a debate, he says, "There's no precedent."
Well, now's the time to set one.
It seems to me Republican State Committee leadership is bowing to Republican National Committee efforts to extend appeal to minority voters by embracing an African-American candidate for major office.
Such national efforts are understandable, even laudable - they just shouldn't be determinative in selecting state candidates.
And I say all this despite the fact (even though I worked for Scranton when he lost the '86 race to the real Bob Casey) I think Swann is the more interesting challenger to Ed Rendell this year.
But Swann serves neither his cause nor his party by ducking a debate. If he isn't ready for Scranton now - after a year on the campaign trail - how will he ever be ready for Eddie?
Swann shows charisma, leadership qualities, intelligence and, from what I've seen, is pretty good on his feet. There's no need for handlers to shelter him.
There's still time for a debate before the endorsement. Swann should make that happen. To take a pass is a disservice to the 354 members of the GOP state committee and an insult to Republican voters."