The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


May 2, 2014

Trailing Dems to rip Wolf

Surveys show biz owner up by 25 in primary, 19 against Corbett

— LANCASTER — Tom Wolf’s nearly 25-point lead has brought out the claws in his Democratic gubernatorial opponents, who are working to “pull Wolf back into the pack,” said G. Terry Madonna, who moderated Thursday night’s debate at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster.

The attack ads and debate-sniping come after what was a relatively friendly campaign, and with just over two weeks until the May 20 primary election.

“The saturation advertising has not closed the gap at all,” Madonna said. “They just can’t make it about the issues, because they agree on 90 percent of the issues.”

A Muhlenberg College and Allentown Morning Call poll released Thursday showed Wolf is the choice of 38 percent of likely Democratic voters, which is 25 percentage points above his closest competitor, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, at 13 percent.

Rob McCord came in with 11 percent and Katie McGinty, with 2 percent, according to the poll results.

Wolf’s lead has not changed much since a Franklin & Marshall survey in March revealed he had a 26-point edge.

That means candidates, who once touted their own accomplishments, will now set their cross-hairs directly on Wolf.

“It isn’t hard to figure out if someone’s got a 25-point lead, you’ve got to figure out a way to deal with it,” said Madonna, a professor of public affairs and director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall.

The Philadelphia Inquirer called the debate “wild” and noted that “at times, Thursday night’s Democratic debate for governor was more like a cable-TV free-for-all than a measured discussion of the issues,” as Schwartz and McCord lobbed attacks at Wolf and Wolf tried to defend himself while also taking his own jabs.

But the debate wasn’t the only place things were heating up.

This week, a series of new attack ads on television targeted Wolf, from his Democratic competitors and from Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, whom all four candidates are vying to compete against in November.

Corbett’s new ad makes fun of Wolf’s Jeep, which Wolf introduced to the state in a previous ad, and shows a car with a “Corbett” license plate pulling ahead of a Jeep with a “Wolf” license plate, while a narrator says, “Tom Wolf’s record on jobs is a car wreck.”

A Feb. 26 poll pitting Wolf against Corbett in a potential match-up showed Wolf with a 52 percent to 33 percent lead.

McCord released an ad attacking Wolf’s business practices, saying Wolf’s company uses a manufacturer in Indiana, as opposed to one in Pennsylvania, and that Wolf’s ads that depict his business as a local-based enterprise “are nice, but they are miles away from the whole truth.”

Schwartz is running an ad criticizing a $4.5 million personal bank loan Wolf took out to fund part of his campaign.

Negative ads may seem like the way to go in a race like this, but candidates must be careful, Madonna said.

“When you run negatives, they have to be perceived as accurate and not overreaching,” Madonna said. “The key question (for voters) is whether they’re credible.”

Madonna said voters can expect more attack ads to come out as the candidates approach the final two weeks of the campaign. Madonna said he expects at least one ad to feature the controversy surrounding Wolf’s support of former York Mayor Charlie Robinson, who was acquitted of the murder of a woman during the York race riots of 1969.

“We’re going to see a commercial on (Wolf’s) York situation by McCord,” Madonna said. “I think it’s just coming.”

Wolf, who released an ad this week calling out his opponents’ attacks and a series of online videos from African-American leaders in the York community defending him, needs to avoid getting howling mad and remain focused in the final two weeks, Madonna said,

“Wolf has to stay on message,” he said. “He has to respond to these charges, particularly if they take hold in the polls.”


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