This week I received two expensive-looking glossy 4-page mailers (two attached 8.5 X 11″ pages printed on both sides) urging me to vote against Tom Wolf in the May 20 Democratic primary election. You may have gotten those too?
I don’t know to whom the mailers are directed, but I am betting: to Democrats who vote regularly in primaries.
Both mailers are “paid for by the Republican Party of Pennsylvania.” Why?
They could have winked at one of their super-rich friends (including corporations and PACs, now that those are human beings too) and gotten the job done by dark money. But they must have wanted the Republican name on the mailer.
They can’t be so naive as to think a regular Dem voter is going to vote for Tom Corbett this year. Even a lot of Republicans aren’t likely to do that. The plan could be to disrupt the Democratic primary. This is why, though I know many disagree, I favor the current PA system of closed primaries. If R’s and I’s could vote in this year’s 4-way Dem gubernatorial primary, they could throw the victory to the candidate perceived as the weakest, or the one least likely to garner real Dem support–if they can figure out who that is; the four still in the race are the ones with the most staying power of a good field of nine.
Of course, the Republican Party of PA knows Corbett is considered the most endangered governor in the country and could take down other R candidates with him, and presumably the strategists are trying to reduce the danger by whatever desperate means they can find.
One’s first line of thought is: as a businessman, Wolf has the money to spend and he can appeal to business owners in a way that Corbett (who can’t appeal to anyone but the oils and gas industry) can’t; and Wolf, unlike his rivals, can’t be described as having a lengthy political background (he was Secretary of Revenue for a year and a half, April 2007 until November 2008).
For several months Wolf has been, as it were, far at the head of the pack. But actually, all the Dems have consistently beaten Corbett in polling so far. It’s not clear to me which candidate the Republicans would prefer. Their two mailers don’t tell me whom they’d like me to vote for. Maybe that one will come soon.
Actually, the PA Republican party has also explicitly attacked Rob McCord. So would they rather their guy run against a woman (McGinty or Schwartz) than a man? I suggest they better be careful what they wish for.
The premises of the mailers are so stupid as to make one wonder if it’s all more subtle than first appears. One ad blames Wolf for raising taxes when he was Secretary of Revenue. By that reasoning, who is the mighty titan who currently determines budgets and taxes in Harrisburg? Dan Meuser that’s who.
But note that his department, of course, is purely administrative:
The Department of Revenue’s mission is to fairly, efficiently and accurately administer the tax laws and other revenue programs of the commonwealth to fund necessary government services. In addition to tax collection, the department administers the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program, researches and develops revenue projections for the state budget and oversees the Pennsylvania Lottery, which generates funds for programs that benefit older Pennsylvanians.
It doesn’t take much political savvy to know that the General Assembly, not cabinet officials, makes laws and set budgets and tax rates. That’s what it means to have separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches.
The other mailer attacks Wolf for making a profit in selling his company. That’s odd: isn’t that what businessmen do? Why is the party of big business attacking a businessman for making money from business? Very perplexing.
For more considerations, see Jake Sternberger, “PA Republicans: We Accidentally Lost $87M Dollars. But Here Are Some Lies about Tom Wolf,” Keystone Politics, May 13, 2014.
Wolf could now get a bounce from saying: “The other side is really afraid of me, so vote for me.” Often, in politics, nasty flashy stupid ads generate a backlash. And note that the second ad has a powerful and rather attractive image of a wolf (three times, actually). I like the looks of that wolf better than a bulldog I saw the other day. Wolves have a lot of appeal now among conservationists, as a symbol of the way nature used to be, the balance of powers in the natural world.
Back in February, a neighbor told me: “I really like those ads by that Paul Fox guy.” Foxes, today, are fairly well received animals too (except by chicken farmers). We’ve had foxes (and a coyote) in my neighborhood in the borough of West Chester; they help keep down the four-footed pest population.
Now there’s a potential campaign icon: voters sending Wolf (or fox, terrier, whatever) in to clean up the Harrisburg hen coop. I can see the ads now, the feathers flying, Corbett and the R operatives flapping out the door.
On consideration, I think the Republican Party of PA really handed one to Fox, I mean Wolf.
Perhaps the Republican strategists don’t really care who the Dem candidate is and have given up on Corbett? Perhaps they are just trying to confuse Dems ideologically in order to hold on to the R majority in the PA House and Senate? Perhaps they are really more afraid of McCord, McGinty, and Schwartz and actually want to generate sympathy for Wolf? Do they have something on Wolf they aren’t talking about yet?
Such subtleties, like the apparent preference for Corbett to face a woman, could backfire.
Whatever the case, one can certainly conclude that the Republican party has more money than it knows what to do with. And they are running scared, very scared.
Wolf or no Wolf, Dems should get out to the polls on Tuesday and show that, whoever they vote for, they aren’t intimidated.