Q&A with the Answer Man on Pa.’s Senate and governor races | John Baer

Okay, it’s summer and big, influential Senate and Governor contests are upon us. Better call the “Answer Man” for a cool assessment of what’s what.

Q: John Fetterman’s health thing? Big deal or not?

AM: Oh yes. A slowdown in momentum never helps a campaign. Ignoring and hiding heart disease is far from wise. Any hesitation in the future would prove problematic. But we will see. When he’s fighting for the primaries, even most of the time, he’s maintaining and probably expanding on a Paul Bunyan image. Voters like tough guys.

Q: What about Josh Shapiro losing a fight to be elected leader of the state Democratic Party?

AM: Oh please. Looks worse than it is. Sure, a surprising flaw for a precision pole. He wanted a party guy from Delaware County. Philly Sen. Sharif Street received more votes in the state committee. Shapiro should have done what Tom Wolf did in 2014: avoided a party dispute over leadership early in his campaign by forming his own PAC. But long term? Voters don’t care who heads state parties, both of which, by the way, have the clout of a donkey in a thoroughbred race.

Q: Speaking of horse racing, what about that Suffolk University/USA Today poll with Shapiro just 4 points ahead of GOP candidate Doug Mastriano? Surprised?

AM: For many. But what pros call “the structure” of the race actually favors Republicans. Because of inflation, gas prices, GOP enthusiasm and contempt for Democratic leadership under Presidents Biden and Wolf. Still, this race is just beginning. Money usually plays a bigger role in a general than in an elementary school. Shapiro starts at $13.4 million, which is, well, $13 million more than Mastriano.

Q: So you don’t think Mastriano has a chance?

AM: Don’t say that. He was underestimated from the start. Just like Donald Trump was. But Mastriano buckled his spurs and rode a wave of pro-Trump anti-election and anti-wolf pandemic mandates to crush several key opponents while repelling an attempt by GOP bigwigs to stop him on the grounds that he is too far to the right. Depends on who’s voting. You know his basic will. If he makes the race a referendum on Wolf and not a choice between him and Shapiro…

Q. Wait, is this possible?

AM: Everything is possible. This is Pennsylvania. There has never been three consecutive Democratic terms as governor. But elections are usually more about the future than the past. And little noticed in this Suffolk survey? When asked to rate Wolf’s performance as governor, 60% of respondents answered “excellent,” “good,” or “fair.” 38% said “poor”. It could be that most voters have moved on.

Q. What about the Senate race?

AM: The strangest thing in the nation. Neither Fetterman nor Mehmet Oz received support from their party. Or preferred by party regulars. But Trump backed Oz. Trump’s PAC gave Oz $1 million and Oz won a primary. Both candidates are atypical. Fetterman says in one of his ads, “I don’t even look like a typical person.” Oz, a famous TV documentarian who served in the Turkish army, recently moved here from Jersey and misspelled his new hometown on a federal candidate form. Fetterman takes the lead early. National experts consider the race a “toss up”. But expect the unexpected. Heart doctor Oz might even give heart patient Fetterman medical advice.

Q. Why is the race so important? What can a fresh senator do?

AM: First, it could determine Senate control. Second, if you don’t think one senator makes a difference, remember that West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin scrapped Biden’s $2 trillion “Build Back Better” agenda.

Q. And the governor’s race?

AM: Decides the direction of the state. Voting rights, abortion laws, gun laws, LGBTQ rights, almost any issue where there’s partisan disagreement. In other words, almost every edition. So please, dear fellow citizens, pay attention to politics. Not by looking at memes of Biden on a trike, or contemplating former President Trump’s apparent approval of hanging Mike Pence. By learning as much as possible about the candidates – so you don’t need an Answer Man.

John Baer can be reached at baer.columnist@gmail.com

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.