To mask or not to mask?

That question is a reliable indicator of political beliefs almost five months into the pandemic, with partisanship as contagious as the coronavirus itself.

Two in three — 64% — of the registered voters in a new Franklin and Marshall College poll of Pennsylvania said it is “extremely important” to wear a mask when they leave home. The other third? No so much.

Liberals (88%) and moderates (84%) see masks as important, but just 42% of conservatives agree.

This comes as the political messaging emitted from Harrisburg and Washington has been consistently inconsistent. Conservatives in the Assembly are still railing against efforts to quell the virus, while President Donald Trump equivocates between supporting and attacking medical advice and advisers.

Pollster G. Terry Madonna delved into the partisan split, finding that most conservatives (78%) and moderates (63%) don’t expect to contract COVID-19, while 45% of liberals see it as possible.

Overall, Madonna found that 26% of voters said it is very or somewhat likely they will catch the virus in the next three months, sentiment he attributes to a surge of infections across the country.

Just 1% of the 667 registered voters in the poll — 324 Democrats, 271 Republicans and 72 independents — said they had been diagnosed with the coronavirus, while 22% said an intimate family member or close friend had contracted the virus. Seven percent said a family member or friend had died from it.

About two in five (43%) said it was extremely important to stay home to avoid the virus.

Gov. Tom Wolf, cast as a tyrant by those elected officials and residents who don’t like wearing masks or avoiding large gatherings, received high marks for his job performance from liberals (90%) and moderates (65%), but flunked with conservatives at 13%.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, leads Trump 50% to 41% in the poll, in which the pandemic ranked as the most pressing issue in the state.

Voters were not impressed with Trump’s handling of the crisis — 49% said he was failing, and 8% ranked him as below average. Just 29% said he was doing an excellent or very good job.

Minister Rodney Muhammad, president of the NAACP in Philadelphia, is facing calls to resign for posting an anti-Semitic image on Facebook.
MICHAEL BRYANT / Stafff Photographer
Minister Rodney Muhammad, president of the NAACP in Philadelphia, is facing calls to resign for posting an anti-Semitic image on Facebook.

The NAACP wants to talk about anti-Semitism in Philly

The NAACP says its national president, Derrick Johnson, is coming to Philadelphia to “meet with community leaders and faith leaders to open a dialogue and continue the educational conversations needed to strengthen our communities.”

Minister Rodney Muhammad, leader of the NAACP in Philadelphia, will participate, since he caused those conversations.

Muhammad sparked a controversy last Friday by posting an anti-Semitic image on his Facebook page. He later deleted it and claimed not to have noticed the incredibly difficult-to-miss caricature of a hook-nosed, yarmulke-wearing figure on the sleeve of an unseen person who is crushing a mass of people with a ring-bedecked hand.

The national organization is buying Muhammad’s claim that the image “unbeknownst to him has a history of anti-Semitic propaganda,” according to an unsigned statement the group issued Thursday. That statement said national leaders were “saddened and deeply disappointed” in Muhammad, but also incorrectly claimed he “apologized for his error in judgment.”

Muhammad did issue a statement Monday that it was “never my intention to offend anyone or cause any hurt.” That’s not an apology.

Elected officials and community leaders have called on Muhammad to apologize. Some want him to resign or be removed from his post. Critics also note the Facebook page for Muhammad Mosque No. 12, which he leads, has a continuing history of anti-Semitic posts.

Sounds like they’ll have plenty to talk about when Johnson comes to town.

U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, left, a Bucks County Republican, is accusing his Democratic challenger, Christina Finello, right, of being "afraid to debate" because she did not agree to participate in a radio station's candidate forum in September.
TOM GRALISH / File Photo, Courtesy: Finello for Congress
U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, left, a Bucks County Republican, is accusing his Democratic challenger, Christina Finello, right, of being "afraid to debate" because she did not agree to participate in a radio station's candidate forum in September.

Finello declines radio debate with Fitzpatrick in PA-01

Political cycles have a usual rhythm. Challengers, needing a platform to build name recognition, demand debates with incumbents, who engage as little as possible.

That beat has been disrupted this year, as the Washington Post recently noted in a story about Republican senators seeking to debate Democratic challengers early and often.

We’re hearing the same music in the 1st Congressional District, where U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a Bucks County Republican, is complaining that Democratic nominee Christina Finello will not participate in a radio debate in September.

WBCB-1490, in a story Monday, reported that it tried to set up the debate for August. Fitzpatrick agreed. Finello wanted to wait until October. The station tried to meet in the middle, offering dates in September. Finello declined.

A poll commissioned by Finello in June found 71% of voters in the district didn’t know enough about her to offer an opinion. A poll by the Democratic group House Majority PAC that month found the race essentially a tie, with 8% undecided, Politico reported.

Fitzpatrick is using all this to raise money, telling supporters Finello is “afraid to debate.” Finello’s camp says she “can’t wait to hold Brian Fitzpatrick accountable” for his record. She has committed to two other debates in October.

President Donald Trump on Thursday complained on Twitter about mail-in ballots and suggested postponing the Nov. 3 presidential election.
Twitter, via @ReaiDonaldTrump
President Donald Trump on Thursday complained on Twitter about mail-in ballots and suggested postponing the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Quotable:

The 2020 General Election in Philadelphia will be held on November 3rd, 2020. Whether in person or by mail, it will be accurate and fair.”

— Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt, a Republican, responding to a tweet Thursday from President Donald Trump, complaining again about mail ballots and asking if the election should be postponed.