PHILADELPHIA — Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday picked up the endorsement of Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who wished Clinton and her presidential rivals would drop the rancor.
"I don't like it," Rendell, the garrulous former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said at a news conference in an ornate room in Philadelphia City Hall.
"I have tremendous respect for Senator Obama and Senator Edwards and of course great respect and affection for Senator Clinton," he said. "I would love it if we could do it with less acrimony."
Rendell also blamed reporters for encouraging the political rough and tumble and said the candidates were expected to participate in too many televised debates. Rendell said that if he were still DNC chairman he would limit the number of debates to four or five, each on a specific topic.
Emotions spilled over in a televised debate Monday, where Clinton and Obama exchanged pointed and personal barbs over issues and character while Edwards battled for air time.
Rendell acknowledged such exchanges come with the territory.
"This is a tough election. The stakes are high," he said. "Everyone talks about what they want to do and talks about the weaknesses of other candidates. You have to do that."
Pennsylvania doesn't hold its primary until April 22 but Rendell said he was eager to campaign for Clinton in neighboring New Jersey and Delaware, which hold contests on "mega Tuesday" Feb. 5.
For her part, Clinton defended her husband's sharp criticism of Obama and said the tension would diminish once a nominee was selected.
"We're going to have a vigorous contest and then we'll have a unified Democratic Party," she said. "Each of us has to present our case and draw contrasts."
She traveled to New Jersey, another Feb. 5 state, later Wednesday for fundraising and campaign events, one with a largely Hispanic audience. She is counting on a strong showing among Hispanics in several states holding Feb. 5 contests, including California, Arizona and New Mexico.
She planned to return to South Carolina on Thursday; the state holds its primary on Saturday. Obama is favored to win the contest, propelled by strong support from black voters, who could account for as much as 60 percent of the electorate that day.
Campaigning for his wife there Wednesday, Bill Clinton told about 100 people in Charleston that his wife was tough enough to be president in part because she'd been on the receiving end of "smears and slime."
"This is not about race or gender, it's about who would be the best president," the former president said. "She has to live with the smears and the slime that people have put on her all those years ... I think she has shown a degree of toughness that I have rarely seen in public office. I don't know how many other people can take the kind of whipping she's taken for 15 or 16 years."
Associated Press Writer Mike Baker in Charleston, S.C., contributed to this report.