Yesterday, the general dynamics of the gubernatorial race were confirmed by the latest Franklin and Marshall poll that showed Wolf with a 25-point lead.
This last week of summer, however, was very much like the rest of the season. By which I mean it focused disportionately on ads, attacks, and the always controversial and ill-defined term “gaffe.”
The Wolf campaign has wisely left most of their negative campaign work to FreshStartPA, the PAC they created after their split with Democratic Party Chair Jim Burn. This week the PAC launched a very successful effort to embarrass Gov. Corbett by spotlighting some comments he made on The Sam Lesante Show last month.
In an attempt to illustrate how the issue of liquor privatization affects PA citizen’s everyday lives, the Governor offered up a hypothetical example.
“I think a lot of people want to be able to walk into the grocery store,” the Governor stated. “Particularly, a lot of the women want to be able to go and buy a bottle of wine for dinner. Go down and buy a six-pack or two six-packs, and go home. Rather than, what I just described, is at least three stops in Pennsylvania.”
Gov. Corbett’s comments received mainstream attention (particularly from more progressive news outlets) as another example of sexist comments coming from a Republican. It was portrayed as the latest chapter in the “war on women”, an effort that has allowed Democrats to be extremely successful at capitalizing on certain tone-deaf statements.
Yet the question remains, was it an actual gaffe? Republicans obviously don’t seem to think so and the nature of the Governor’s comments allow them to be interpreted either way.
The episode does highlight the self-fulfilling nature of politicians who are gaffe-prone. If you’ve committed verbal faux pas in the past, future statements are more likely to be seen in a critical light. This is why, regardless of partisan ideology, the words of some political figures (ex. George W. Bush and Joe Biden) are more highly scrutinized than others (ex. Barack Obama and Dick Cheney).
Unfortunately for the Governor, this generally isn’t a problem that goes away.
Meanwhile, the Corbett camp tried to hit Tom Wolf over what they feel are his own misstatements and gaffes.
The Corbett-Cawley team criticized the Wolf campaign for constantly changing the amount of revenue they believe a 5% severance tax could bring to the state. As the incumbent’s campaign detailed, at various times Wolf or his campaign have said it would be $600 million, $650 million, or $700 million.
“Just as Secretary Tom Wolf’s positions on the issues change with the wind, apparently so do his revenue projections,” said Corbett-Cawley Communications Director Chris Pack. “That’s no surprise given Tom Wolf’s reputation as Revenue Secretary, where projections were so far off they contributed down the road to a $4.2 billion budget deficit and the creation of a non-partisan office to check projections by the governor.”
The incumbent’s campaign also sought to dig up an old perceived gaffe of Wolf’s from a Democratic primary debate, when he answered a question about why the Wolf Organization’s board had no female members by saying his company’s management has “women in spades.”
The Governor’s team sought to contrast the fact that only two of the nineteen managerial members of the Wolf Organization are women to their own candidate’s record of appointing women to governmental posts.
“Governor Corbett’s has the first-ever female chief of staff in the history of Pennsylvania and also has seven women serving at the head of state agencies. Combined, they are responsible for nearly 80 percent of the state budget,” stated Women For Corbett-Cawley Chairwoman Bernie Comfort. “It’s clear that Governor Corbett values the expertise of the many intelligent, hard-working women in his administration.”
If you feel like the accusations that we’ve dealt with this week are too trivial, have no fear. Labor Day is around the corner and the general election is set to begin, so there should be plenty more trivial issues to choose from.