Five thoughts on Wolf-Corbett Debate II

Published by Mike Pound on .

 Gov. Tom Corbett debates challenger Tom Wolf Wednesday in Philadelphia. (Tom Gralish / AP photo)Gov. Tom Corbett debates challenger Tom Wolf Wednesday in Philadelphia. (Tom Gralish / AP photo)

One of the Battling Toms seemed more ready for battle in Wednesday morning's gubernatorial debate in Philadelphia, enough that the outcome was considerably tighter than in debate No. 1. Democratic challenger Tom Wolf was feistier this time out, but under the lights of a Philadelphia television studio, Gov. Tom Corbett still scratched out a narrow victory in their second debate.

  1. Apparently that was actual coffee in the KYW Newsradio mug sitting in front of Mr. Wolf, who seemed much more animated in this debate. Perhaps Mr. Corbett's performance suffered a bit because he was seated – instead of being able to prowl the stage the way he might have worked a courtroom as a prosecutor – but Mr. Wolf definitely took steps to make sure he was more assertive. He landed a few great shots too, like this one about the Corbett administration borrowing money from the treasury last month: "If I had a cash-flow balance like the state does, there's no bank that would give me a line of credit."
  2. Responses to questions about two separate issues prompted testy exchanges, one on the air and one after the broadcast. In the middle of talking about recent state budgets, Mr. Wolf said the Corbett administration had cooked the books so it could claim having a balanced, timely budget. Mr. Corbett responded instantly:" You're accusing me on a criminal act?" "I'm accusing you of overestimating revenue," Mr. Wolf answered. And when asked about the pornographic emails alleged to have been passed around by current or former Corbett administration officials, Mr. Wolf said he was concerned about a permissive culture that "starts at the top." Mr. Corbett fired back after the debate, accusing Mr. Wolf of leveling a cheap shot.
  3. Mr. Corbett seems to still struggle with the notion that he's not running against his predecessor, and it came back to bite him at least twice during the forum. On two different occasions, Mr. Corbett challenged Mr. Wolf on a fiscal policy or decision made by Mr. Rendell; twice, Mr. Wolf was able to respond by saying he wasn't revenue secretary at the time. In one instance, Mr. Corbett persisted, pointing out that his opponent was a friend and colleague. No matter what Mr. Corbett says, Mr. Rendell was a popular guy; in 2002, he beat Attorney General Mike Fisher 53 percent to 44 percent and in 2006, he thumped former Steeler Lynn Swann 60-40. If Mr. Rendell had been legally able to run for a third consecutive term, would Mr. Corbett be governor today?
  4. Mr. Wolf's weak spot continues to be his unwillingness to give us specific examples of what he would do if elected; in fact, he answered one question about the lack of specifics on his proposal to raise income taxes by initially refusing to answer the question ("I'll be specific when I understand what kind of hole this governor has left."). We know that he would levy a 5 percent extraction tax on the gas industry, but the fact is that we know very little else, beyond some broad plans, about what Mr. Wolf has in mind.
  5. The bottom line? With a few more details and a couple of solid counterpunches, Mr. Corbett beat Mr. Wolf for the second-straight debate, albeit in a squeaker this time. But with polls continuing to show the Democratic challenger with a double-digit lead, the onus is on Mr. Corbett to do better – much better – than a narrow victory when the candidates meet in Pittsburgh Oct. 8.

Voter registration deadline is a week away

Published by Mike Pound on .

greentree early voting 1

If you don't want to miss out on voting in this year's gubernatorial election, you've got a week from today to make sure you're registered.

Deadline to register for the Nov. 4 election is Monday, Oct. 6, our friends at the state remided us today. And they have some advice for those who need to register before next week's deadline.

Before we begin, make sure you meet these requirements:

  • You're a citizen of the United States for at least a month before the election.
  • You're a resident of Pennsylvania and your local voting district at least a month before the election.
  • You're 18 or older on or before Election Day.

Good to go so far? The only other thing is to compete a registration form and make sure it's in the state's hands by next Monday. You can pick up and fill out the forms at your county voter registration office -- we have links in the sidebar on the left -- PennDOT offices or many other federal, state or county agency locations. You can also download and print a form at and drop it off at those locations.

The VotePA site is good for other stuff too. You can verify your registration there, get info on your polling place or go through a resource center, complete with information about alternative ballots, absentee voting and emergency provisions. You'll also find a complete list of places that will accept your registration form.


Polls: Wolf maintains lead, GOP lines up behind Corbett

Published by Mike Pound on .

Gov. Tom Corbett and his wife Susan announce a $5 million Economic Growth Initiative Grant for Point Park University last week. (Lake Fong / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)Gov. Tom Corbett and his wife Susan announce a $5 million Economic Growth Initiative Grant for Point Park University last week. (Lake Fong / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)


Is there a better way to kick off the final month before the general election than diving into the numbers of three new polls assessing the state's race for governor? Perhaps that depends on which campaign you ask.

Actually, there is some good news tucked within the results of three new polls for the campaign of Gov. Tom Corbett, which has been hammered by double-digit deficits in nearly every poll taken since the primary election in May. Let's take a look:

Franklin and Marshall College: The latest poll by Terry Madonna's outfit has a little bit of good news for everyone. For Tom Wolf, Mr. Corbett's Democratic opponent: a lead of54-34 percentage points among likely voters, the same kind of double-digit spread that F&M pollsters have come up with since May. For Mr. Corbett: a tighter race. An F&M poll in August showed only 24 percent of likely voters picking Mr. Corbett. The governor is also getting more backing from his base; 62 percent of Republicans say they intend to vote for Mr. Corbett, as opposed to 48 percent in the August poll.

Mercyhurst University: The school's Center for Applied Politics weighed in for the first time and the results were rough for Mr. Corbett. Among registered voters polled, 43 percent said they would vote for Mr. Wolf if the election was held today, while 28 percent would vote to re-elect the governor. One glimmer of hope for the incumbent? Twenty-two percent of those polled said they had yet to make up their minds.

Keystone Report/Magellan Strategies BR: The right-leaning news site commissioned Republican polling firm Magellan Strategies BR to update its numbers for the first time and, perhaps without too much surprise, it came up with Mr. Wolf holding a lead of just 9 percentage points. That's an improvement over Keystone's July poll, which showed Mr. Corbett trailing by 12 percentage points. That change is attributed to the same factor that F&M noticed: Republicans are finally lining up behind the governor (76 percent support in July versus 83 percent in the new poll.

A word about Pennsylvania's pollsters: When F&M released its August poll, it drew open hostility from the Corbett campaign, which accused Mr. Madonna of trying to influence the election, perhaps because Mr. Wolf's wife sits on the college's board of trustees. But no matter what you think about that tiff, Madonna and F&M have a solid reputation behind them. Nate Silver's last week released rankings of major polling outfits across the country, and F&M earned the second-highest ranking of the Pennsylvania-based groups. We urge you to take a look at Mr. Silver's explanation, but if you're interested in the grades, they're right here:

  • Muhlenberg College: A-
  • Franklin & Marshall College: B+
  • Commonwealth Foundation: C+
  • Harper Polling: C+
  • Philadelphia Inquirer: C+
  • Temple University: C+
  • Susquehanna Polling and Research: C
  • Millersville University: D-

Economy takes center stage in Wolf ad

Published by Mike Pound on .

With the recent spate of shaky economic news -- the state's tax anticipation loan to itself, falling debt ratings and climbing unemployment figures, for example -- it was probably just a matter of time before one or more of them appeared in a Tom Wolf ad. Which one is it? DING -- it's unemployment.

Tom Wolf: Not Even Close

What's new: The state's unemployment rate has risen over the last two months, and we see headline clippings from Philly's NBC affiliate and the P-G (which includes an odd typo if you watch the video and take a look at the text). A snippet of Gov. Tom Corbett promising to make Pennsylvania No. 1 in job growth is followed by stats that show we've fallen to 47th in the state in job creation -- a stat attributed to federal Bureau of Labor Statistics -- and the words "Not even close." Ominous piano music has been dumped in favor of something that sounds kind of like the start of Eminem's "Lose Yourself," before an abrupt transition into happy candidate music.

What's not: There should be an Instagram filter called Grainy Evil Politician, so we can all shoot our own political ads.

Bottom line: "Tom Wolf -- a proven job creator."

Random things we noticed: An ad smacking Mr. Corbett on the economy was probably inevitable, and the real-world timing -- especially the unemployment rate creeping up over the past two months -- probably made it inevitable now. Will the Wolf campaign continue the to emphasize the economy for a while? Or will we veer back to education funding for the home stretch?


Harrisburg rolls on

Published by Mike Pound on .

Gay beating arrestPhilip Williams, right, accompanied by attorney Fortunato Perri Jr. walks to a police station Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014, in Philadelphia. Williams, Kevin Harrigan and Katherine Knott are being charged with conspiracy, aggravated and simple assault, and reckless endangerment in the Sept. 11 beating of a gay couple during a late-night encounter in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

While we were digesting the first debate between Gov. Tom Corbett and opponent Tom Wolf, business in Harrisburg continued to roll. What did we miss? Here's a look:

  • Medical marijuana about to hit a wall: The state Senate is set to vote on a bill that would allow the use of prescription medical marijuana in the state, after the bill made it through the Senate Appropriations Committee on a 21-5 vote. It's expected that the bill would pass a vote by the full Senate, but even with strict limitations on how it could be used – no smoking allowed, boys and girls – the leadership in the House appears to be much more skeptical. Still, moving the bill out of committee provided a bit of home for people like Sen. Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson; the Senate's president pro tem, told our Karen Langley he hopes medical marijuana could help his daughter, who has to cope with multiple seizures each day: "Do I know if medical marijuana will lessen the intensity of those seizures? Do I know if it will shorten the length of those seizures, or have her more relaxed? What I do know is the medications they give her now, the concoctions of very, very strong anti-seizure medicine, just puts them out, put these kids out and adults out. So it's a bit about a little bit of hope of quality of life."
  • This one you can smoke: The Philadelphia School District is about to get a financial boost, thanks to a $2-per-pack tax on cigarettes about to be signed into law by Mr. Corbett. Between the cigarette tax and an extension of a local sales tax, the struggling district will now have a recurring revenue stream of about $170 million – good news for a district that almost didn't open this fall.
  • Debt downgraded again: For the fourth time in two years, a financial ratings firm has downgraded Pennsylvania's debt rating. Fitch Ratings dropped the state's grade to AA-, its fourth-highest ranking. Fitch said recurring budget deficits and growing pension costs were behind the downgrade – and that was music to the ears of Mr. Corbett, who has been pushing for pension reform all summer: the downgrade "underscores the need for pension reform," said Jay Pagni, spokesman for the governor. Naturally, the folks running the campaign of Mr. Wolf had a different view: "Plain and simple, Tom Corbett's failed policies are decimating the state's economy," spokesman Jeffrey Sheridan said in a statement.
  • And this is why: State Sen. Jim Ferlo came out on Tuesday at a news conference to push for adding protections for lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender people to the state's hate crimes laws. Ferlo's announcement might have overshadowed the push for the legislation at that moment, but we got a reminder about why it is necessary: three people, all Bucks County residents, surrendered to Philadelphia police this morning to face charges in a Sept. 11 attack on a gay couple in Philly's Center City area. The attack, which resulted in hospital stays for both victims, cannot currently be prosecuted as a hate crime.