Republicans linking their campaigns for statewide office in Pennsylvania to President Trump's political fortunes will receive mixed messages — at best — from the latest Franklin & Marshall College Poll.
The poll released Thursday shows Trump lagging in popularity across the state, even as his support bumped up among his most loyal backers. And the Republican nominees for governor and the U.S. Senate trail Democratic incumbents by double digits.
Former state Sen. Scott Wagner of York County, the Republican nominee challenging Gov. Wolf's bid for a second term, started his campaign touting his strong support of Trump in 2016.
U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta of Luzerne County, the Republican trying to defeat U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr.'s bid for a third term, was co-chairman of Trump's campaign in Pennsylvania and an early supporter.
Thirty-five percent of the voters in the poll said Trump is doing an excellent or good job as president while 65 percent said he is doing a fair or poor job. That showed improvement from F&M's last poll in March, where 30 percent said Trump was doing an excellent or good job and 70 percent said he was doing a fair or poor job.
Wagner and Barletta are likely to be defined by their relationships to Trump, since the poll shows they don't hold strong statewide name recognition with less than five months until the Nov. 6 general election.
Nearly half of the voters in the poll — 47 percent — said they didn't know enough about Wagner to offer a favorable or unfavorable opinion about him while two out of three — 66 percent — said the same of Barletta.
"They're going to define themselves as Trump supporters," predicted poll director G. Terry Madonna. "They're not going to run away and hide from the president."
Wolf and Casey do not emerge as strong candidates in the poll so far.
Forty-five percent of voters say Wolf, also from York County, is doing an excellent or good job as governor while 49 percent say he is doing a fair or poor job.
For Casey, 42 percent say the Scranton native is doing an excellent or good job while 43 percent say he is doing a fair or poor job.
Still, the Democrats hold healthy leads on the Republicans. Wolf led Wagner 48 percent to 29 percent, with 23 percent undecided. Casey leads Barletta 44 percent to 27 percent, with 28 percent undecided.
Madonna cast the Casey-Barletta election as a "clear referendum on Trump" likely to draw national attention.
"By and large, you've got one of the most staunchest critics of Trump opposing one of the president's biggest supporters," he said.
Trump's most significant domestic accomplishment, congressional approval of tax cuts, does not seem to be registering as a victory for many Pennsylvania voters. Fifty-nine percent of those polled said they have not seen an increase in their household income due to the tax cuts while 33 percent said they had and 8 percent did not know.
"Right now, you have to say the Democrats in our state have an advantage going into the midterm elections, with the emphasis on 'right now' because anything could change," Madonna said.
The poll of 472 registered voters was conducted from June 4 to June 10 and has a sample error of +/- 6.5 percent.