Poll shows Wolf's campaign ads for governor working Commercials boost Wolf in governor's race
York County businessman Tom Wolf's weeks of unchallenged television commercials have boosted him to a wide lead in the Democratic race for governor three months before the primary election, according to a new Franklin & Marshall College poll released Tuesday.
Wolf had the support of more than a third (36 percent) of Democrats polled compared to fewer than 1 in 10 (9 percent) for U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz and fewer than 1 in 30 voters (3 percent) for state Treasurer Rob McCord. Only 1 in 100 voters (1 percent) backed former Department of Environmental Protection heads John Hanger and Katie McGinty.
The poll of only Democratic voters registered no support for Lebanon County Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz, who remains in the race, or Cumberland County minister Max Myers, who dropped out Monday.
The poll did not ask about support for former state Auditor General Jack Wagner, whose announcement Friday that he would enter the race came after the poll began.
Schwartz led previous polls matching up the Democratic candidates.
The poll showed almost two-thirds of Democrats (65 percent) have seen commercials for governor candidates and almost nine in 10 of those (88 percent) saw Wolf's commercials. The other candidates have aired no or a minimal number of commercials on television.
"The contours of this race, for the moment, have changed largely because of the television commercials," said Dr. G. Terry Madonna, the poll director.
"There isn't any doubt the commercials have been the game, at least for the moment," Madonna added. "They put Wolf into a lead, they raised his name recognition. They've done just about everything you want to do in an introductory commercial."
The poll interviewed 548 Democratic voters between Feb. 18 and Sunday, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.
Madonna cautioned against assuming Wolf would win the nomination at the May 20 primary because of his huge lead.
For one thing, Wagner's entry into the race could alter the political terrain. Second, none of the other candidates have aired substantial amounts of their own advertising. Third, about half of voters (48 percent) remained undecided, Madonna said.
"So this does not mean Wolf's a winner," he said. "You can lose an election with a lot of money on television, but you can't win a governor or a Senate election without it (money). Having it doesn't guarantee a win, but you can't win without it."
Wolf has the money. He raised $13.3 million last year, $10 million of that his own money, and ended 2013 with $11.8 million. He began airing commercials across the state on Jan. 30, shortly after a much smaller TV ad buy by McGinty.
Wolf's fundraising dwarfs that of the other candidates.
Schwartz raised $6.5 million in 2013 and had $4.6 million left; McCord reported raising $6.3 million and having $6 million on hand; McGinty, who the first TV ads in a small but unsustained buy just before Wolf hit the air, raised almost $2.4 million and had almost $1.8 million on hand.
Hanger raised about $1 million and had about $839,000 left.
The winner of the primary will likely face Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, who is so far unopposed in his bid for renomination as his party's candidate.
Corbett has suffered from poor polling numbers in previous polls. Though the new F&M poll focused solely on Democrats, it contained some more bad news for Corbett: he will likely have difficulty attracting Democratic voters.
Almost two-thirds of Democratic voters (64 percent) said they would favor a Democrat with only one in 20 (5 percent) saying they would back Corbett. This is unsurprising, but in a state with one million more Democrats than Republicans, Corbett will need to attract some Democratic voters to win.