Undecideds a force in Dem Senate polls

Published by Mike Pound on .

John Fetterman (Pam Panchak/Post-Gazette); Katie McGinty (Associated Press); Joe Sestak (Associated Press)John Fetterman (Pam Panchak/Post-Gazette); Katie McGinty (Associated Press); Joe Sestak (Associated Press)

If we were to vote for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination today, a candidate named Undecided would do very well.

Two new polls on the Senate race, from Harper and Franklin and Marshall University, show Joe Sestak with a leads over fellow candidates Katie McGinty and John Fetterman; both polls also show that there are a significant number of potential voters who have yet to make up their minds about the race.

The lead for Mr. Sestak, the candidate the state's Democratic establishment loves to hate, in the Harper poll is slight. Thirty-three percent of likely Democratic primary voters said they support the former congressman over Ms. McGinty (28 percent) and Mr. Fetterman (11 percent). That other 28 percent? Undecided, which offers a wide-open door for Ms. McGinty, the former secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection, and Mr. Fetterman, the mayor of Braddock.

Mr. Sestak also has a lead over his opponents in the F&M poll, but he's losing -- by a wide margin -- to that undecided person. In this poll, 17 percent of registered Democrats said they backed Mr. Sestak, while 13 percent supported Ms. McGinty and 6 percent backed Mr. Fetterman. Four percent told F&M pollsters they supported "some other candidate" and a stunning 61 percent said they didn't know.

The other reason – besides all those undecided voters, we mean – that Mr. Fetterman should be optimistic? Harper included in its poll a question about support for tattoos; among those who said they have a very favorable view of ink, Mr. Fetterman trailed by 6 percentage points to Mr. Sestak, whose tattoo status is not known.


Cal U student to seek nomination in 49th

Published by Janice Crompton on .

er brendan headshot copy


California University of Pa. graduate student Brendan Garay announced today he will seek the Democratic nomination for the legislative seat held by retiring state Rep. Peter J. Daley, D-California.

Mr. Garay, 23, of California, is serving his second term as student government president at Cal U, where he earned a bachelor's degree in business adminstration in May and is now pursuing an MBA.

"It's time for a change in Harrisburg! The great people of the 49th District deserve a representative that is willing to cross the aisle to get the work of the commonwealth done," Mr. Garay said in his campaign announcement. "Our district deserves a representative that will put the needs of our hardworking taxpayers first! I am willing to dedicate 100% of my time to serve our district and its citizens."

Mr. Garay previously worked as an assistant in an accounting office for three years. Currently, he is a building manager for Cal U's student union and he helps operate the college farm.

Mr. Garay has entered a growing field of candidates that includes three other Democrats and two Republicans. Mr. Daley announced recently he will not seek an 18th term in office. He is the longest serving member of the Legislature from Western Pennsylvania.


Marburger will challenge Metcalfe again for House seat

Published by Kate Giammarise on .

Rep. Daryl Metcalfe and Gordon MarburgerRep. Daryl Metcalfe and Gordon Marburger

HARRISBURG -- One of the state House's most conservative members could face a primary challenge from within his own party.

Gordon Marburger also challenged Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry, two years ago, though he had to do so as a write-in candidate, due to an error in filing his campaign paperwork. Even as a write-in candidate however, Mr. Marburger garnered a lot of votes.

On the Democratic side, candidate Christian Rieger, an attorney, is gathering signatures to appear on the ballot.

Tuesday was the first day for candidates to begin gathering signatures to get on the April primary ballot.

Mr. Metcalfe has a reputation as one of the House's most outspoken conservatives. His most recent controversy involved a spat on the floor of the House with another member where he elaborated on the differences between "a white nationalist...and a white supremacist." He is widely viewed as having long blocked potential LGBT anti-discrimination legislation.

The 12th district includes part of Butler County.

Mr. Metcalfe was first elected in 1998; he is serving his ninth term in office.


Breakfast sausage: 5 things about tonight's Trumpless debate

Published by Mike Pound on .

(Gabriella Demczuk/The New York Times)(Gabriella Demczuk/The New York Times)

1) Jeb Bush doesn't have any idea why Donald Trump is skipping tonight's Republican presidential debate, but we have reason to believe that it isn't because of any feud with Fox News host Megyn Kelly:

2) The Fix, which found the clip above, also has a pretty solid hypothesis as to why Mr. Trump will host his own event instead of attending the debate: he knows there isn't a whole lot of upside to participating.

3) Mr. Trump has said his event tonight will raise money for unspecified veterans groups. Several of those groups aren't happy about being used as fodder for "political stunts."

4) Who skips a presidential debate? Ronald Reagan did, and it cost him Iowa in 1980. Richard Nixon did too, in 1968 and 1972, because of that one in 1960 that had a big hand in him losing to John Kennedy.

5) Who benefits from Mr. Trumps' absence? Ted Cruz is the obvious choice; he's the best of any of the GOP hopefuls in a debate setting and he won't have to tiptoe around Mr. Trump like he's done in the previous debates. But watch Chris Christie and John Kasich; they're both shooting for a big day in the New Hampshire primary Feb. 9 and tonight's debate will be a good chance to make an impression.


Trumpless television

Published by Mike Pound on .

Donald Trump speaks at a news conference before a rally in Marshalltown, Iowa, Jan. 26, 2016. After Trump continued to attack Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly here, his campaign manager confirmed that Trump would not attend Thursday's upcoming debate on the network. (Damon Winter/The New York Times)Donald Trump speaks at a news conference before a rally in Marshalltown, Iowa, Jan. 26, 2016. After Trump continued to attack Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly here, his campaign manager confirmed that Trump would not attend Thursday's upcoming debate on the network. (Damon Winter/The New York Times)

If the Republicans hold a debate and Donald Trump doesn't show, does the party make a sound?

That question won't be answered when Fox News holds the final pre-voting GOP debate tomorrow night, although it will be interesting to see what happens to the ratings of a Trumpless debate. We'll start to figure out the answers on Monday in Iowa and on Feb. 9 in New Hampshire.

The escalation of the feud between Mr. Trump and Fox News – and, more specifically, Fox talking head Megyn Kelly, who was proclaimed to be "unfair" by Mr. Trump because she had the nerve to ask him questions he didn't want to hear – resulted in Tuesday's pledge by the Republican frontrunner that he would skip the debate. (It also resulted in an ironic-but-correct lecture on journalism ethics by the network.)

He hasn't made good on threats so far, so if Mr. Trump holds his position, it would be the first time he's stepped outside the mainstream bubble assembled by the Republican National Committee to go it alone. He's pledged in the past to forego a third-party candidacy – and that question hasn't surfaced with this latest controversy ... at least, not yet – but the prospect of the party's leading candidate turning his back on the debate in favor of holding his own event has to make party leaders positively queasy.

Will this split widen? Conservative media outlets don't like Mr. Trump ... and he returns the sentiment. Fellow Republican candidates like Ted Cruz, who had avoided direct confrontations with Mr. Trump, are now calling him out for being "sensitive" and "afraid."

And it's hard to ignore the sense that this is what Mr. Trump wanted all along. 

Whether he takes just this single step away from the Republican Party or he takes several more, Mr. Trump will be counting on one thing: that the angry people he's been courting since last summer will also be angry voters. And no one -- Mr. Trump or anyone else -- will know that until next week.