Alan Novak and T.J. Rooney are analyzing Campaign 2014 for Currents. This week they discuss the state of the campaigns and what moves to expect between now and Election Day.
Novak: In the state legislative and congressional races, there is this discernible uptick in Republican intensity. Most campaigns are projecting that Republican turnout is going to be better than Democratic turnout. How to maximize that and what kind of extra effort can be made to encourage those voters to come vote is the primary focus of all the campaigns. The challenge for Gov. Corbett's campaign is to harness that national tide in his race, but I also see real opportunity here in the state House and Senate races.
Rooney: When we talk about turnout mechanisms, the story behind the story is the use of surrogates. What we are not seeing with Gov. Corbett are high-profile national surrogates coming to campaign on his behalf. Make no mistake, if Tom Wolf weren't maintaining a sound, solid, and comfortable lead, we would not see people like Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, and Barack Obama campaign in this state. There is a reason for that. Anyone who wants to be president doesn't want to be tarred and feathered with a loss.
Novak: Overlay on top of that the fact that there's not one congressional race that anybody has any doubt about in Pennsylvania. It's no wonder the magnetic force is pulling national figures to the hot U.S. Senate races and margin-of-error governors' races in states like Wisconsin, Florida, and Michigan. Of course, the flip side of that is, with President Obama's approval numbers so low, it's little wonder that he is coming to Pennsylvania - presumably Philadelphia - where it is perceived to be safe.
Rooney: There are two factors that will be potently determinative in how big a victory might be on Election Day: organized labor and the Democratic field operations. Organized labor's get-out-the-vote effort began the week after the primary. And the way Democrats identify voters these days is far more sophisticated than when I ran the state party. They have bottled up and put to good use the lessons learned by the Obama campaigns and other technological advancements. At the end of the day, people will be incredibly impressed with how sophisticated turnout models are, but more importantly their success. Democrats know the best way to shrink an enthusiasm gap is in the field.
Novak: I think it is interesting when T.J. talks about organized labor, because they are being more selective. Sure, organized labor is still predominantly Democratic. But we are seeing examples of organized labor supporting Republicans that are aligned or at least sympathetic on certain issues. In Philadelphia some of the trades, at least initially, were supportive of Corbett because of the Marcus Hook refinery, the transportation bill, and the fact that a robust energy industry in Pennsylvania means a robust job climate. But labor also likes to bet correctly. While they are going to be predominantly for Wolf in the governor's race, I am seeing labor support Republicans in some state legislative and congressional races in some interesting ways. I think labor is looking to win some friends in this election, particularly since nothing seems to be that close in Pennsylvania. This year they have the luxury of being strategic in their support.
Rooney: We can't talk about the dynamic of outside organizations without talking about the Pennsylvania State Education Association and the Pennsylvania Federation of Teachers. In my political lifetime, which only spans two decades, I have never seen the educational establishment so unified and so intent on working on behalf of Wolf. Whether that is because they are wildly enamored with Wolf, or they have just completely had it with Corbett, is irrelevant. What is relevant is that they are going to have unprecedented resources and they are organized for the singular purpose of defeating Corbett.
Novak: As I look back on other races, and even the first Corbett election, we all knew where the teachers' unions were, but this is much more intense, much more focused, and much more persistent.
Rooney: The lines in the sand, especially among educators, were drawn from Corbett's first budget on, and the lack of voter intensity we have been talking about isn't among educators. That's going to play a role on Election Day because teachers aren't all Democrats.
Novak: It's a shame the way the education issue is being laid on the governor without anyone paying attention to the facts. The other thing I am watching is geography. Wolf comes from the middle of the state. Areas that traditionally produce good pluralities for Republicans, like York, Lancaster, and Dauphin County, may not be as reliable for the GOP. Add to that anecdotes about polling up around State College, and we are talking about a sizable portion of the bread-and-butter part of Pennsylvania for statewide Republican candidates that may prove to be a more challenging sell in this election.
Rooney: That does a few things. It bodes well for Wolf's victory and eradicates whatever enthusiasm gap may exist, but it also provides hope and promise for down-ballot candidates running for the state legislature. If they run good campaigns in their own right, the additional resources that will be brought to bear on Election Day may very well be the difference between a victory and defeat.