Rendell, on the stump for Biden, says he’ll consider moving to New Zealand if Trump wins

Former Vice President Joe Biden looks on at left as then-Pa. Gov. Ed Rendell speaks during a news conference at the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2009.  (Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo)

Former Vice President Joe Biden looks on at left as then-Pa. Gov. Ed Rendell speaks during a news conference at the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2009. (Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo)

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell says that if President Donald Trump wins the election, he may consider moving to New Zealand.

“I want to look into moving to New Zealand,” Rendell told WHYY News and StateImpact Pennsylvania. “They have a nice woman president, she seems to be very able. New Zealand, I saw ‘Lord of the Rings.’ New Zealand’s a beautiful country.”

On the stump for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, Rendell said he wants to set the record straight when it comes to the issue of fracking, something that continues to come up on the campaign trail.

“Fracking was good for Pennsylvania,” said Rendell, who ushered in the state’s shale gas boom with great enthusiasm when he was governor. “I knew it would do wonderful things for the economy.”

Biden agrees, Rendell said, and has always been a big supporter of fossil-fuel development, despite President Trump’s claims that his opponent wants to ban fracking.

“[Trump] lies all day, every day,” said Rendell.

Trump has made the outsized claim that 900,000 fracking jobs in Pennsylvania will be killed if Biden is elected. The state puts the figure at about 26,000 jobs in the oil and gas sector. That’s less than 1% of all jobs in the state. And the gas industry estimates there are 300,000 fracking-related jobs.

Biden has said he wants to stop all new oil and gas leases on federal land as part of his effort to tackle climate change. All but just a tiny fraction of gas drilling in Pennsylvania occurs on private or state-owned land. And even if he wanted to, a president can’t actually ban drilling on private land — that requires an act of Congress.

But as Trump continues to pound Biden on fracking, Biden is in the odd position of defending himself on an action he would have no authority to take should he become president.

It’s a tactic Trump hopes will rally his base, using fracking as a symbol of American economic success in an effort to drive a wedge with voters.

“He’s focused on it because he’s making it a wedge issue among rural voters,” said Democratic political consultant Neil Oxman.

Oxman said Trump needs to replicate what he did in the state’s rural counties four years ago, when he used coal mining jobs as a wedge issue, even though there were only about 5,000 people working as coal miners in Pennsylvania at the time.

“Wedge issues are those things that people are clearly yes or no about,” Oxman said. “And with fracking, you’re either for it or against it. So that’s why he uses it, he uses it as a way to define him and define Biden. He does it about manufacturing in Ohio, he does it about coal in West Virginia or Kentucky, he does it about abortion in the South. Trump is very good about bringing up wedge issues and trying to make the campaign about wedge issues.”

Meanwhile, in New Zealand, fracking is legal. But the country’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, banned all new oil and gas wells last year.

Which way will Pa. vote?

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