New Castle News

Closer Look

April 5, 2014

John K. Manna: Decyphering results of state Democratic survey

NEW CASTLE — It’s no surprise that Tom Wolf is far ahead of other Democratic candidates for governor, according to a recent poll.

After all, Wolf has been flooding the airwaves with ads, effective ones at that, as evidenced by this Franklin & Marshall College Poll.

Wolf, who served as state revenue secretary in the Rendell administration, leads his closest challenger, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, 33 percent to 7 percent.

If you ever doubted that money has no influence in political campaigns, perhaps this will erase your doubts.

According to the poll of registered Democratic voters, 71 percent of them have seen a commercial for governor. Eighty-five percent of them have seen a Wolf commercial, while 42 percent have seen one for state Treasurer Rob McCord and 39 percent for Katie McGinty.

There is perhaps little difference among the four candidates — something I’m sure Gov. Tom Corbett will pounce on — but name recognition plays a prominent role in political campaigns. And Wolf has more of it right now than his three Democratic opponents.

Looking ahead to November, some may argue that the gubernatorial race could be affected by one person not from Pennsylvania — President Obama. I personally don’t buy into that, although Pennsylvania voters tend to elect governors from the party not occupying the White House. It has little to do with the person occupying the presidency, but more on Pennsylvania trends in gubernatorial elections.

Anyway, for argument’s sake, how is the president doing?

The Franklin & Marshall poll says 17 percent of registered Democratic voters in the state believe Obama is doing an excellent job and 41 percent believe he is doing a good job. Only 17 percent say he is doing a poor job. However, the poor job category has increased by six percentage points since the last poll in February.

Contrast those numbers with an NPR poll of nationwide voters that came out this week. In that poll, 46 percent of likely voters approve of the president and 51 percent disapprove.

It’s certainly no surprise that the president does better among people of his own party here in Pennsylvania than he does among voters from both parties nationwide.

To make a comparison with the NPR poll, a Franklin & Marshall Poll of Democratic, Republican and independent voters was conducted in January. Then, 6 percent said the president was doing an excellent job, 24 percent a good job and 31 percent a fair job. Another 37 percent said he was doing a poor job.

So, Obama fares better in Pennsylvania than he does in the rest of the country. No surprise there, an indication that his ratings will have no negative impact on the governor’s race. That is, if you believe there is any impact at all.

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