Gov. Tom Wolf and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey continue to hold solid leads over their Republican challengers, a new Franklin & Marshall College poll of registered voters shows.
Contributing to the incumbents’ strong positions is a motivated Democratic base.
In the race for governor, Wolf leads Scott Wagner 52 percent to 28 percent, with 18 percent undecided, the poll found. A previous poll had Wolf leading 51 percent to 32 percent.
Meanwhile, Casey leads Lou Barletta 48 percent to 30 percent in the race for Senate, with 20 percent undecided. A previous poll had Casey, who is seeking a third term, leading 48 percent to 29 percent.
“The Democrats are more interested in the election and more certain to vote,” said pollster G. Terry Madonna, director of F&M’s Center for Politics and Public Affairs. “That’s the biggest factor. That’s what’s driving the blue wave.”
High unfavorables for Trump
Regarding President Donald Trump, the poll found 59 percent having an unfavorable opinion compared to 40 percent favorable.
The poll from Sept. 17 to Sept. 23 was based on responses from 545 Pennsylvania registered voters, including 256 Democrats, 213 Republicans and 76 independents.
Madonna said the poll is consistent with a Morning Call/ Muhlenberg College poll of likely voters released Sept. 21 that showed Wolf leading 55 percent to 36 percent, and Casey ahead 53 percent to 35 percent.
“We’re still weeks away” from the Nov. 6 election, Madonna cautioned. “This isn’t predictive.”
But he said Wagner’s lagging performance in raising funds will make it harder for the Republican to get his message in front of voters.
“Wolf has spent four times as much” as Wagner, Madonna said. “The pattern here is Democrats have greatly outspent the Republicans, and they have more money in hand as we get into the home stretch.”
Wagner, who owns large trash hauling companies, could narrow the funding gap, Madonna said, if he decides to pull from his personal wealth.
“The Republicans have to motivate their voters, and there’s a big debate on whether the Republicans should focus more on independents versus go hard core on their base,” Madonna said. “You can’t rule out that the Republicans will have a revival. Is it difficult? Yes. Is it possible? Certainly.”
“The real question is can they take advantage nationally of the (strong) economy and somehow shift the focus to that,” Madonna said. “That’s where Trump has to play a role.”
What poll respondents are saying
Poll respondent William Lade, 68, a retired mail carrier in Dauphin County, told LNP he favors Wolf and Casey even though he is a registered Republican.
“I don’t care for the attitude of Scott Wagner, taking care of big business,” Lade said. He said Wolf has shown leadership in working with the GOP-dominated Legislature.
Another poll participant, Steve Weaver, a registered independent in Lancaster County, said he, too, favors Wolf.
“From an ideological perspective, there would be areas of disagreement, but Wolf hasn’t tried to burn Harrisburg down,” Weaver said. “He’s working more constructively with the Legislature, and he also appears to want to work across the aisle.”
Weaver said he’s undecided about the Senate race.
He finds Barletta “personable and very engaging” but doesn’t appreciate what he considers his anti-immigration posturing.
Regarding Trump, Weaver said he told the pollster “he’s a disaster.”
Carmen Gingrich, 47, a home health care aide and registered Democrat who lives in Lancaster County, said she isn’t following the race closely, but favors Wolf and Casey.
A poll respondent, Gingrich said sending an anti-Trump message will motivate her to vote in November.
“I’m not happy with that president,” she said. “I don’t like him.”