Sheila Dow Ford

is a public policy consultant in Harrisburg

On Sunday, I watched Gov. Rendell demean Sen. Barack Obama, on national television. Again.

I watched Rendell dismiss the skills and capacity of Obama, the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee. I watched Rendell, acting in his role as a surrogate for Sen. Clinton and head of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, do what he has done on innumerable public occasions over the last several weeks: state that Obama lacks the experience, authority, reach, pull, savvy, leadership and general skills necessary to clinch the presidency.

I watched Rendell repeat, even as his candidate's chances evaporate, that she is the better candidate and is the one who can win the presidency.

Enough, already.

I have worked for and provided financial support to many candidates over the years, including Rendell. Although the party's "big tent" approach to issues and agendas is often unwieldy and frustrating, it is one I endorse and support.

My status as a mere member of the Democratic Party provides me and every other member the right to speak out. It is this standing I invoke in making the following request of Rendell: Stop. Stop demeaning the party's presumptive nominee. Now. Not Wednesday, after the final primaries have concluded. Not in August at the party's national convention. Today. Stop.

Why? My reasons for making this public request to Rendell are many, but they emanate primarily from a gut check, a visceral reaction to his recent statements:

1. His comments, made this late in the game and with the nomination nearly wrapped up, appear intended to undermine Obama's candidacy.

2. The governor is acting as an inappropriate sore loser on behalf of the Clinton campaign.

3. The governor's continued proclivity to dismiss Obama sends a dog whistle to other Clinton supporters to shun Obama and to actively or passively work against his candidacy.

In other words, at this point in the process, Rendell's comments offend every admonition regarding time, place and manner that exists when it comes to resolving family issues, and these are family issues. Ultimately, he is working against the party's own interests, knowing full well what hangs in the balance is a Democratic presidency.

Rendell will likely dismiss this request by stating, as he does at the conclusion of each Obama public bashing, that he will fully support whomever is named the party's nominee. But not even the governor can have it both ways. And his actions will leave the Democratic candidate unnecessarily and pointlessly bloodied and bruised, and the governor lacking in any credibility to leverage on Obama's behalf in the fall campaign.

This is just wrong and deeply inimical to the interests of the party. What is required of the governor and other members of the party is a new habit of the heart that embraces Obama.

Certainly it can and will be argued that Rendell's statements, while critical, do not approach the incendiary screeds of late from Clinton campaigners Terry McAuliffe and Harold Ickes. My response to that defense is simple: One bad deed does not offset a less strident, but nonetheless harmful, deed.

In fact, if Democrats are to prevail in November and beyond, we need the leadership of the senior members of the party.

Gov. Rendell, your time is now.

I hope you will stand down from your recent negative musings and step up to fill the Democratic leadership role in the positive and energizing manner you have so deftly demonstrated in past years and elections. I invite you to become a part of our Democratic Party's winning strategy for November. We need you.

Sheila Ford, a Philadelphia native, served on Gov. Rendell's transition team and volunteered for the Obama campaign. E-mail her at sed_ford@comcast.net.