Today, Pennsylvania Treasurer Rob McCord will join the crowded field of Democrats hoping to unseat Governor Corbett next year.

 

The presence of at least a half dozen candidates with enough of a record or a campaign chest to be taken seriously poses a question: Are the Democrats setting up a circular firing squad here?

You have the prospect that the Democrats will use the time between now and next May bludgeoning each other and spending every nickel they can raise to win the primary, leaving the winner broke and bleeding to face an incumbent governor who will be rested and well-financed.

This is a familiar story, here and elsewhere. The old saw is that Democrats fight like roosters in primaries for their party's nomination, while Republicans settle their differences at the country club and avoid primary battles.

It's an exaggeration, of course, and tea party candidates have shown a willingness to buck the GOP establishment and contest primary elections. But there's something to it, nonetheless.

Should Democratic big dogs muzzle the pups?

Capitolwire.com's bureau chief Pete DeCoursey noted in a column yesterday that if you look back over the last 30 years of gubernatorial primaries, you usually find Republican Party leaders uniting around their pick and either eliminating primary fights or keeping them one-sided.

And he poses the question of whether the Pennsylvania Democratic Party has, or should have, leaders who can clear the field and avoid a bloody primary fight. The two senior officials are U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and former Gov. Ed Rendell, who maintains a significant profile as a TV analyst of national politics and Philadelphia Eagles football.

Neither Rendell nor Casey seems inclined to play the role of party heavy, probably in part because they know Democrats aren't easily herded. In addition, Rendell has made the case more than once that scrappy primary fights can help. They get media attention, and force you to sharpen your game.

When this subject came up a couple of weeks ago, Rendell recalled his decision to run for governor in 2002, when Casey was in the race with bigger name recognition and more political backing.

"People told me, `You've got to get out. You and Casey are going to spend all your money. It's going to be divisive, it's going to be terrible. You won't have any chance of winning in the general election,'"  Rendell said.

"But we got so much momentum by winning that race, by showing I was a candidate who could do well in Western Pennsylvania," Rendell said, "that I became the odds-on favorite to win in the fall, and really won without much of a stumble."

Rendell said a contested primary will do what it's supposed to do: give the candidates a chance to have their say, and identify the party's strongest horse for the fall.

Time to saddle up.