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.