STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne. Democratic Party leaders are aiming for a harmonious convention in Denver, something that will require everyone to stay on script. Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell is one Democrat who campaigned hard for Hillary Clinton, and he still thinks she would make a great president. But he says it's now time to get behind Barack Obama. He talked to NPR's Linda Wertheimer.

LINDA WERTHEIMER: In the primaries, Ed Rendell was Hillary Clinton's most important ally, helping her to win the crucial state of Pennsylvania, winning that state's blue collar voters and raising doubts about Obama. Here's Ed Rendell in Johnstown, Pennsylvania last spring introducing his candidate.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Governor ED RENDELL (Democrat, Pennsylvania): And fortunately, we have a candidate who's smart enough and tough enough to fight to make change happen. And that's our Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

(Soundbite of cheering)

WERTHEIMER: That was then; now Ed Rendell has come to terms with his and Hillary Clinton's loss, but he's still disappointed.

Governor RENDELL: Disappointed in the sense that, you know, I believe that Hillary Clinton would have been a spectacular president, and I believe in her personally in every way. But content in the fact that we have a very good candidate.

WERTHEIMER: Rendell can be a little warmer than that. He admires Obama's intelligence, thinks he has great skills, will inspire people and make, he says, a fine president. And Rendell is now getting ready for that race. Forget the 35,000 cheering fans at Obama's Independence Hall rally in Philadelphia. They're already onboard. What about the others?

Governor RENDELL: I think what we have to do - and to the extent that I can influence this, I'm going to try - is to get him into areas where he hasn't closed the sale. No more college campuses. Let's get him into VFW halls. Let's get him into factories and have him answer questions. And people will see how smart and how well-versed and how human a person he is and we'll be converting people.

WERTHEIMER: Rendell would like to convert the campaign as well, change the tone, get rougher with Senator John McCain.

Governor RENDELL: Barack has brought a lot of new people into the voter-registration rolls because he's been a different type of candidate. And I think that there was a sort of a real desire to run this campaign on a higher plane. But when you're getting smacked day after day after day with one wise-ass commercial, one innuendo after another, there comes a time when you've got to strike back. Boom. Smack them back. If they're going to say we flip-flop, smack them back.

WERTHEIMER: Rendell is a big, gruff guy. When he starts talking about smacking, you feel like ducking. The governor really does warm to this Democratic ticket, though, when he talks about Joe Biden. He's just what Rendell thinks the campaign needs, a home run, he says - funny, smart, human and above all not afraid to smack the other side in the face.

And Rendell is confident that when Hillary Clinton speaks tonight, after her delegates celebrate and mourn, that she will lead them back into the fold. Really.

Governor RENDELL: You know, the ad that McCain has out now about Hillary Clinton and what she said about Obama? And that Obama dissed her by not picking her for vice president? Well, that ad will have a three-day half-life. By Wednesday morning, after Hillary's speech Tuesday night, that ad will be history. Hillary will make it clear to every one of her voters what she wants them to do - and that's to support Barack Obama.

WERTHEIMER: Still, Ed Rendell has not given up on his first choice for president. Asked if Hillary Clinton will try again, his answer is absolutely.

Governor RENDELL: She can do it in eight years, because she'll only be 68. She'll be a young and vital 68. So I think Hillary can have her shot, even after Barack Obama is president of the United States.

WERTHEIMER: Governor Ed Rendell. He remains a Hillary man - past and future - but he's willing to concentrate for the present on electing Barack Obama.

Linda Wertheimer, NPR News, Denver.

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