Gov. Rendell's endorsement here of Hillary Rodham Clinton for president yesterday wasn't about Philadelphia or Pennsylvania.

It was about New Jersey and Delaware.

Those two states, large parts of which know Rendell through Philadelphia media outlets, are among the 22 voting on Super Tuesday, Feb. 5.

And the Clinton brain trust figured that having Rendell's support now - and perhaps his presence in South Jersey and Delaware at times during the next 12 days - might give a boost to her quest for the Democratic nomination.

With Clinton at his side, Rendell mentioned "the tri-state area" and "New Jersey and Delaware" repeatedly and said he'd gladly go to either state for her if asked.

In accepting the endorsement, which came in the Mayor's Reception Room at City Hall, Clinton said she appreciated what she called Rendell's love of policy and substance.

"I know the passion he has for getting the job done," said the senator from New York, who was 90 minutes late for the event due to airplane problems. "That is the kind of president I want to be."

After Clinton departed, Rendell said that Bill Clinton had called him about 21/2 months ago to ask that the governor endorse her. But at that point, Rendell said, he wasn't ready to endorse anyone.

He had, in fact, already made financial contributions to Clinton and two other candidates: Delaware Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., a longtime friend and political ally, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a colleague in the National Governors' Association.

"Once the field was cleared," Rendell said, referring to the withdrawals of Biden and Richardson earlier this month, "I told them [the Clinton campaign] they could have my endorsement any time they wanted it."

Another reason for the timing, said Mark Aronchick, one of the campaign's key Pennsylvania fund-raisers, was to respond to the high-profile Democratic endorsements that Illinois Sen. Barack Obama has received in recent days.

Among those backing Obama were Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano and Vermont Sen. Patrick J. Leahy.

"Ed is one of the most well-known governors in the country," Aronchick said. "His reach is national."

In a news conference after the announcement, both Clinton and Rendell were asked about the acrimony that has dominated the Democratic race the last few days.

Clinton deflected the question, saying: "We're going to have a vigorous contest, and then we're going to have a unified Democratic Party."

Rendell, who served as general chairman of the Democratic National Committee when Bill Clinton was president, said that some "rough and tumble" was inevitable; that the media were partly to blame for encouraging and exaggerating the back-and-forth; and that there have been too many debates.

"I hate this stuff," he said.

Endorsements

Democratic officials from the Philadelphia region have made the following endorsements in the presidential race:

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Governors: Ed Rendell, Jon Corzine and Ruth Ann Minner.

U.S. senators: Robert Menendez (N.J.).

U.S. representatives: Robert Andrews (N.J.), Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.) and Joe Sestak (D., Pa.).

Mayors: Michael Nutter.

Barack Obama

U.S. representatives: Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.) and Patrick Murphy

(D., Pa.).

EndText

Contact senior writer Larry Eichel at 215-854-2415 or leichel@phillynews.com.