Monday, September 21, 2009

Joe Hoeffel Leaps into Governor's Race

So breaketh, and so confirmeth to the Comet one of his campaign consultants.

The latter shared with me a "polling memo" from the internal poll which supposedly convinced the former Congressman, 2004 contender against then-Republican Sen. Arlen Specter, and current Montgomery County Commissioner to take the plunge:

A recent statewide survey of likely Democratic Primary voters finds former Congressman Joe Hoeffel leading a field of candidates in the race for Governor of Pennsylvania. This finding is all the more impressive considering that Hoeffel has not yet announced his candidacy. Despite a field of several announced candidates, Democratic Primary voters are clearly looking for a strong progressive leader to lead the state; Hoeffel is poised to consolidate the sizable progressive bloc of the primary electorate, as well as the all-important swing Philadelphia suburbs.

Of 800 respondents, 15% plunked for Hoeffel, as compared to 12% each for dueling Pittsburghers Dan Onorato and Jack Wagner and 50% undecided. According to the internal poll, the data gets better for Hoeffel around Philadelphia, and even better around the vote-rich Philadelphia suburbs.

While Hoeffel’s voters are solidly in his camp, the same cannot be said for Wagner, Onorato, and Knox – all of whom are sitting on relatively weak, contested bases of support. Fully 68% of Hoeffel’s voters would move to “undecided” if he were not in the race – significantly more than is the case for Onorato’s, Wagner’s, and Knox’s voters; no other candidate would pick up more than 11% of Hoeffel’s initial vote. In contrast, if Knox were to exit the race, Hoeffel would stand to pick up 31% of his vote. Wagner and Onorato supporters are also poised to switch should their first choice exit the field. Fully 37% of Onorato voters would vote for Wagner if Onorato were not running. And more than one in five Wagner voters (22%) would vote for Onorato if Wagner were not running.

Unsurprising for an internal poll, but this all sounds favorable.

Voters who know Joe Hoeffel like him, and he is more popular than most of the candidates, including Onorato.

It's clear which candidate has a target on his back!

The Democratic Primary electorate is looking for a progressive leader – which is good news for Hoeffel, the only candidate with a strong record of accomplishments on progressive issues, and bad news for the rest of the field, to whom few would apply the progressive label. Fully half of Democratic Primary voters (50%) describe themselves as liberal, compared to 29% who describe themselves as moderate and 17% who describe themselves as conservative. This figure is nearly identical to the 2008 Presidential Democratic primary exit poll in Pennsylvania, which showed 49% of Democratic Primary voters describing themselves as liberal.

NEXT UP: Just what the hell is a progressive anyway according to Team Hoeffel, and what makes Joe one exactly aside from several dozen reporters picking up that meme.

Since both the math and the narrative of the primary have just been shaken up, it will be interesting to see if Onorato veers left and insists that he's also a solid progressive, or whether he'll point out that his conservatism and his non-progressively acquired campaign money would make him the electable nominee in the general election. He'll probably find a way to do both at the same time.

Here are what look to me like the strengths and weakness of Candidate Hoeffel all at once, from his fledgling campaign site placeholder:

We also recognize that only government can end discrimination in public life—discrimination against the sick and uninsured in health care, discrimination against poor women and young women in restrictions on reproductive freedoms, discrimination against poor children in underfunded public schools and against poor communities in environmental policies, discrimination against people in love from freely marrying regardless of their gender.

We are all children of God, and we are all equal in Her eyes. Our job is to make sure that our laws reflect and protect that equality.

How do you walk back a female deity? This is Pennsylvania. You know the conventional wisdom.


  1. Amazing. He would be a great candidate on the dem side.

    Year-end filings and petitions always scare candidates out of the race; seperate the weak from the strong. I have a feeling he is the stronger.

    I like Jack, but I would rather see him strengthen his state-wide presence before he runs for governor. At this point, he has no game. Just because he was a former LT Gov. candidate and now the Auditor Gen, doesn't mean you have cred, as Bob Casey saw. There has to be more and Onorato can point to that as being a sort of Governor of the County.

    I hear Onorato has a team of people that has been out there all over PA for MONTHS meeting with state committee mbs on their home turf, and local dem ward leaders, trying to get them on their side. There will be a lot of catch up to Onorato. True to his style, he is a grassroots guy, through and through.

    But Onorato's opponents will have a ton of his failures to exploit, whereas with Hoeffel, not many if any, failures.

    I really think, though, Corbett is measuring the drapes. Putting away criminals in the legislature? All he needs now are some pedophiles and it's a super whammy!

    No, Whammy, No Whammy, No Whammy, STOP!

  2. The HUDDLER isn't sure that having your ass kicked by senator Arlen Specter by 30 plus percent should be considered a resume highlight.

  3. Dems need someone who can run with Corbett, he is going to be very hard to beat.

  4. The Huddler made me Google. It was 52.6% Specter vs. 42% Hoeffel.

  5. So it was 10.6 points in 2004 -- and I think running against a four-term, 24-year incumbent is a little different than pursuing an open seat.

    Plus back then, Hoeffel had to build his statewide name recognition from scratch. Guess who has to do that this time around?

  6. The latest issue of Campaigns & Elections magazine has a list of big time political media shops and who they've recently signed on as clients. Corbett is listed with three of them, including Brabender. All the Republican money in the state is behind him. He'll be tough to beat, especially with a split Democratic field.

    Hoeffel lost to Specter for Senate by 11 percent in '04. Not sure how that will translate now, but he didn't seem terribly strong or compelling in that race.

  7. That picture looks like Joe...the Plumber!

  8. Anonymous 11:00 AM - It's the same as the GOP and its Christian right / southern Evangelical wing, if you'd like. If you can energize your party's ideological base, you can use that to drive turnout everywhere else. Going to the center meanwhile generates mass but not energy; you're just fighting over the ideosyncratic middle. Corbett does not come off as an extremist (though he does have a partisanship snafu), has a strong narrative and as you say has well-run organization. But if we can draw him into the culture wars...