Pennsylvania's Democratic gubernatorial primary appears to be Tom Wolf's to lose with just six days left to Election Day, a new Franklin and Marshall College poll released Wednesday shows.
The York County businessman leads his closest Democratic challenger, Rep. Allyson Schwartz, 33 percent to 14 percent. Roughly one quarter of respondents remained undecided heading into the final week, but if asked to pick a candidate, Wolf would lead Schwartz 43 percent to 26 percent. Rob McCord and Katie McGinty received 12 percent and three percent of the vote, respectively.
“It would be surprising if anyone else but Wolf won at this point from the latest poll results I have seen,” said Philadelphia-based Democratic strategist Michael Bronstein.
“No gap of this size that I know of in this state has been closed a week out,” pollster Terry Madonna said.
Tom Wolf built an early lead at the beginning of the year by releasing a barrage of television ads across the state months before his challengers did. The Franklin and Marshall poll shows that 83 percent of registered Democrats have seen TV ads and 93 percent of those people have seen ads for Wolf.
The perceived front-runner at the beginning, Schwartz has never been able to make up the ground Wolf gained at the beginning of the year. The poll shows that 61 percent of registered Democrats have seen an ad for Schwartz.
Another reason Wolf has been able to hold onto his sizable lead is because the four Democratic candidates have done little to separate themselves from the pack. All four want to tax the natural gas industry for increased funds for education, increase the state's minimum wage and expand Medicaid.
“They agree on 90 percent of the issues that matter to the voters,” Madonna said. “They have struggled to make distinctions that matter, hence going to personal narratives, their backgrounds and experiences.”
Education still remains the top issue for Pennsylvania Democrats and is shaping up to be the main issue the party can rally around in its attempt to defeat Republican incumbent Gov. Tom Corbett in November.
Corbett, who is continually sinking in the polls, was hurt by his 2011 education cuts that he made shortly after taking office. Democrats have used these cuts as a way to energize the base leading up to the November election.
Corbett "is already airing ads talking about how great he has been" on education, Bronstein said. “He is trying to gloss over his $1 billion in education cuts that is going to sink him."
In what was once seen as a Schwartz vs. Corbett election, state Republicans have since turned their attention to Wolf. The Corbett campaign has already released ads and mailers attacking the York businessman for his 18-month job as the state’s revenue secretary under former Gov. Ed Rendell.
Pennsylvania residents can expect to see a lot of money spent throughout the summer and fall. Wolf has said he’s willing to spend $10 million of his own money to finance his gubernatorial bid, and the Corbett campaign’s latest numbers show the incumbent with more than $6 million cash on hand.