Ed Rendell has been dogged for months by rumors of a possible romantic relationship with a 40-year-old aide. A Philadelphia magazine reports on the rumors in an issue hitting newsstands Friday, but apparently finds no one who will go on the record, and no real concrete evidence.

In other words, if the subject were a Republican running for president, you'd call this piece New York Times quality.

Rendell's response is, shall we say, audacious:

"Do I have some flaws? Absolutely!" Rendell tells the magazine, which will hit newsstands on Friday. "For all of the rumors, has any woman ever said that I have had sex with her? Other than my wife?"

Then, the I'm-an-unromantic-schlub defense, also known as the "Who am I, Mark Sanford?" defense:

In the magazine, Rendell responded to rumors that he's been telling people Snow is "the love of my life" and his "soul mate."

"Do you think I would ever use the words 'soul mate' or 'love of my life?'" he asked. "Ed Rendell would never enunciate those phrases. That's like Romeo and Juliet."

Next, the unorthodox but compelling argument in which Rendell ponders aloud exactly which women he should be having affairs with, if he were indeed having affairs:

"I do not have affairs with women," the governor told the magazine, "and it's really unfair. It's particularly unfair to attractive women. I should go out and find an unattractive woman to have an affair with."

Gov. Rendell demonstrates his herculean restraint by talking about all the portly-politico-loving skirts he's turning down:

"You know, like a lot of people in politics, I get hit on by women all the time," he said. "There are political groupies just like there are sports groupies. I got hit on when I was 260 every bit as much as when I'm 200."

And, finally, we have the ringing endorsement of Rendell's wife when she was faced with speculation that he had a dalliance with Eliot Spitzer's paid paramour:

"Midge knew it wasn't me," Rendell told the magazine. "I have my failings, but she was pretty confident that I didn't go to a prostitute."

It's all so comically frank and unflattering, I think I'm forced to believe him.

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