Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pennsylvania 15: Callahan Running Against Rudy Giuliani?

By Stuart Rothenberg

When I met Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan (D), I was impressed. Democratic insiders had told me he would be a good candidate, and they were right.

He’s articulate, personable, and able to talk about his accomplishments in a persuasive way. He’s also a proven vote getter and a strong fundraiser. His June 30 FEC report showed just under $1 million in the bank, only $55,000 less than what incumbent Cong. Charlie Dent (R) showed in his report. Callahan has raised $1.4 million this cycle to Dent’s $1.7 million.

Maybe that’s why I was so surprised to receive a press release from the Callahan campaign recently attacking former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani – or as the press release described him, “High powered Wall Street Attorney Rudy Giuliani.”

“We may never know just how much money Rudy Giuliani’s high powered Wall Street law firm made from Congressman Dent’s bailout vote, but it’s clear that Giuliani is here to return the favor,” Callahan was quoted as saying in his campaign’s release.

The so-called bank bailout vote may well be a good issue for Callahan, and his effort to connect Dent to “Wall Street special interests,” another phrase in the release, is understandable and standard political fare.

But does Callahan really want to run against Giuliani, who probably has a pretty good image in the district from his years as New York City Mayor after the 9/11 attack?

Callahan, who is running in Pennsylvania’s politically competitive 15th Congressional District, is one of the few Democratic challengers who has a chance of knocking off a GOP incumbent in this very Republican political environment. But running against “America’s Mayor” may not be the best way of defeating Dent, a moderate Republican who is every bit as good of a candidate as Callahan is.