GOP primary fight a 'godsend' for Obama, says former governor

CAMBRIDGE, Md. — The combative and long-running GOP primary is a "godsend" for President Obama and the Democrats, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) said Thursday.

Rendell, a frequent spokesman for Democrats, said the Republicans' sharp attacks on one another have revealed "deeply flawed" candidates who not only can't secure the GOP vote but are also alienating independents as they air their dirty laundry.

"The Republican race for president, so far, has resembled a clown show," Rendell said during a press briefing amid the Democrats' annual issues conference on the Eastern Shore. "We've seen clowns running for president [who are] totally unqualified, who have no idea what's going on in the world, who have no idea about how the government works, no idea about foreign affairs [and] have one bizarre idea after another."

Rendell said the two front-runners for the GOP nomination — former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) — are "tone-deaf" and "keep making one mistake after another."

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Meanwhile, the economy continues to show signs of recovery, Rendell said, and the incumbent Obama is free to tour the country taking credit.

"The president's going to be in great shape — I think this Republican primary season has been a godsend," he said. "It's happening at the same time that he's finding his voice, [and] it's happening at the same time the economy is beginning to recover."

Last year's killing of Osama bin Laden, combined with operations in Libya and this week's news that U.S. special forces freed an American hostage from Somali pirates, will only help the president, Rendell added. 

"He's taken the security issue totally away from the Republicans," he said. 

Rendell's remarks come as the Republican candidates are campaigning in Florida ahead of Thursday's debate — the second this week — and next Tuesday's primary there. The attacks between Romney and Gingrich have intensified, with the former Speaker hammering Romney Wednesday for stashing his wealth in international tax havens, and the former governor going after Gingrich for his financial ties to Freddie Mac.

"This primary season," Rendell said, "has exposed the Republican Party [as] the party that wants to continue supporting special interests."

Rendell said Democrats were clobbered at the polls in 2010 not because of their policies, but because they lacked the courage to defend them.

"Regardless of where the winds are, stand and defend what you've done, because you can't run away from it," Rendell said, referring to the message he said he delivered to House Democrats earlier in the morning. "We learned that in 2010: all the Blue Dog Democrats who voted for the healthcare bill and tried to act like it never happened learned — you can't run away from it."

Echoing the rueful message of Republican leaders after the 2006 and 2008 elections, when Democrats won dozens of seats and the White House, Rendell said the Democratic Party needs to get back to its roots. 

"If we've gone astray with voters, it's because we've run from our core beliefs," he said. "We're the party that supports the average ordinary American working family.

"You hear Democrats say it," he added, "but they don't say it with much gusto and they don't say it with much conviction."