Wolf, Casey hold early leads over Republican opponents in new poll
Gov. Tom Wolf and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey are polling above potential Republican challengers with big groups of voters remaining undecided seven weeks before the primary election, according to a new poll from Franklin & Marshall College.
Wolf led Republican gubernatorial candidates Laura Ellsworth, Paul Mango and Scott Wagner by margins of 17 to 29 percentage points in the poll, which included responses from 423 registered voters surveyed March 19 to 26. The sample included 201 Democrats, 163 Republicans and 58 independents and had a 6.8 percent margin of error.
A lot could change before midterm elections this fall, but support for Wolf and Casey is tied to enthusiasm among Democratic voters who are looking for a “wave” election in which the party could retake the U.S. House, said G. Terry Madonna, director of Franklin & Marshall’s Center for Politics and Public Affairs, who oversaw the poll.
“There’s a wave coming. We don’t know the size of it,” Madonna said. “Democrats are more likely to vote proportionate to their numbers than Republicans.”
Wolf led Ellsworth, a Pittsburgh attorney, 51 percent to 22 percent with 25 percent undecided. He led Mango, a retired Pittsburgh health care executive, 49 percent to 22 percent with 25 percent undecided. He led Wagner, a state senator and waste-hauling company CEO, 38 percent to 21 percent with 35 percent undecided. Some voters selected “some other candidate” over either option in the comparisons.
Wolf’s job approval was up 5 percentage points, to 43 percent, since the college polled voters in September. Only 18 percent of Republican respondents rated the governor’s performance “good” or “excellent,” according to the results.
Wolf is going into the fall elections without what Madonna called a “big negative,” or any major blunder in office. He said Wolf is “not provocative” and voters weren’t personally affected by last year’s budget standoff in Harrisburg, which lowered the state’s credit rating.
In the U.S. Senate race, Casey led Republican challenger U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, 43 percent to 25 percent, with 30 percent undecided, according to the poll. The poll didn’t include state Rep. Jim Christiana, who faces Barletta in the primary. Casey had a 37 percent job approval rating.
Barletta and Wagner have both campaigned as strong supporters of President Trump’s agenda. Trump’s performance held steady from September with 30 percent approval in the state, according to the poll.
About 62 percent of Republicans rated the president positively, while 25 percent of independents and 5 percent of Democrats did. Among conservatives, Trump’s approval rating was 70 percent, versus 16 percent among moderates and 1 percent among liberals.
The primary is May 15.