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Analysis: The Self-Destruction of Rob McCord

Photo by Colin Lenton/Philadelphia Magazine

“This is a horrible moment,” a visibly upset Rob McCord concluded. “Sometimes people fail character tests. Sometimes good people do bad things. Sometimes great people make mistakes.”

That was McCord, last May, talking about Tom Wolf’s supposed failure to condemn the acts of one of his friends.

The irony of that statement is not contained merely to the words but to what brought them about. For the same impetus that drove Rob McCord to that declaration also compelled him to threaten potential donors with political payback.

McCord desperately wanted to be Governor and for a time that looked like a real possibility. In 2013, Gov. Corbett’s approval was cratering and Democratic front-runner Allyson Schwartz was floundering.

Meanwhile, the State Treasurer had lined up the support of local party leaders, state legislators and major labor unions.

Everything was going according to plan and it seemed like the only thing that could possibly stop McCord from becoming Governor would be some kind of wildcard.

That wildcard turned out to be Tom Wolf.

Then a little-know cabinet magnate, Wolf put $10 million of his own money into his campaign AND spent most of it on early TV ads AND those commercials were extremely well produced AND (most incredible of all) they connected to voters.

If any one of those variables turned out differently, McCord may very well be sitting in the Governor Mansion’s right now, instead of worrying about how to avoid a jail cell.

Ultimately it was that fact, that Wolf had pulled off a political miracle that was likely to cost him his dream job, that drove McCord to ruin.

While the circumstances of McCord’s threats haven’t been revealed, they were almost certainly driven by the anger and consternation he felt being so far behind Wolf in cash and the polls.

As a result, his personal attacks on Wolf make a lot more sense and that statement takes on a whole new dimension (the press conference likely occurred after McCord’s now-infamous donor meeting).

Ambition is by no means a bad thing. In fact, too often we reward politicians who seemingly want the office least instead of the other way around. Not to mention the reality that today’s corrosive environment repels some of the our best (and yes, ambitious) citizens from running for office.

Still, this episode proves the consequences of coveting the office more than the opportunity. That blinding ambition can cause good people to do bad things.

11 Responses

  1. At the bottom of all these mistakes lies a fundamentally decent guy who helped the Commonwealth the best he could. His mistake is no different than the others who don’t get caught.

  2. @LancasterWoman

    Lancaster County Democratic Chair Sally Lyall, Vice Chair Joann Hentz and State Committee Member Janet Spleen are among other “Lancaster Women” that should be ashamed and embarrassed for supporting McCord in the primary. Ultimately Lancaster County Democrats rejected their endorsement of McCord and Lancaster County went solidly for Tom Wolf in the primary election. It wasn’t even close. I wonder if Lyall, Hentz and Spleen were involved in a shakedown. Hmm…

  3. @anthony

    Don’t be a fool. Any “good” McCord ever did was a calculated political move to feed his ambition and stroke his ego with praise.

    Rob McCord is the very definition of a narcissist and a douchebag.

    In April and May while shaking your hand and giving fiery speeches he was actively violating federal law. A true narcissist, he thought he could win the primary and never be held accountable for his actions.

    Take the time to read the charges filed yesterday. They reveal a sick, arrogant man who would do or say anything for a vote, and use the hold he held as a weapon against his enemies.

    Don’t be fooled again by believing his phony apology. He took a plea deal.

    He will be forgotten and join the douchebag club with Ernie Preate. Ernie who? Exactly.

    PennLive has scanned the filed documents for your reading pleasure:

  4. Rob McCord’s strategy was to get the party machine support. Tom Wolf’s strategy was to get real information out to real voters early on. When will candidates realize that the old-style, backroom political machine politics no longer works? As an early and avid Obama supporter, I would have expected McCord to understand this new style of politics, but he certainly did not practice it.
    Party machines sit around rooms having meeting. It is people who vote.

  5. Treasurer McCord is a smart capable man who was trapped by a system that demands vast amounts of money as a requisite for election to public service. The irony is that Governor Wolf had a dubious recipe of private sector money (Weston Presidio), his business and his tenure as PA Sect’y of Revenue in a questionable arms length mix. Some of those funds were foundation for his personal wealth that propelled him to the Governor’s mansion

  6. Tom Wolf was running before McCord announced.Tom Wolf immediately put up his $10 million. Tom Wolf ran an excellent race. Tom Wolf stayed on point. It wasn’t a miracle win.
    As far as the McCord announcement- he waited too long.
    Being in a Union I’ll let you in on a little secret. We don’t pay attention to the suits. A suit is someone who lobbies for a union, but never worked a union job. Allison Schwartz popularity stayed in Philadelphia.
    I like Rob McCord and compared to the Republican 2016 Presidential lineup, he manned up and admitted it. Unlike the toupe’ who’s history of lying and deceit makes the Bourgeois look faint hearted. BTW, I liked John Hanger.

  7. McCord (who I supported in the Dem. primary) goes into the John Edwards group of “Thank God we didn’t nominate him” candidates. As in, suppose Obama didn’t run and Edwards got the “not Hillary” vote and was nominated in 2008.

  8. Greed and Ego unchecked ruined this high achiever. Those close to him will have time to second guess their inactions.

  9. Andrew Blum says:
    January 29, 2015 at 11:23 am
    Thank you to Mr. McCord for his service to the Commonwealth, I think we are all in his debt for his stellar service as state treasurer. I for one wish him the best in his future endeavors, whatever they may be.

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