- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 26, 2014

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Democratic candidate Tom Wolf distanced himself from the pack in two polls released Wednesday in Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial race, making him a target for critics in both parties.

Wolf’s favorable showing followed a monthlong blitz of television ads.

Previous polls have produced no clear front-runner.

But in a statewide survey by Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University, 52 percent of Pennsylvania voters said they would support the York businessman compared to 33 percent for Republican Gov. Tom Corbett in a general election race.

The poll showed five other Democratic candidates also outpolling Corbett - U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, state Treasurer Rob McCord, former Auditor General Jack Wagner and former state environmental protection chiefs Katie McGinty and John Hanger. But none received more than 44 percent in the hypothetical matchups, and Corbett’s support was in the high 30s.

“Today, Gov. Tom Corbett might tie a few possible Democratic challengers, but he beats no one,” said Tim Malloy, assistant direct of the university’s Polling Institute.

A poll by Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster said 48 percent of registered Democratic voters were undecided. Among those who have made up their minds, Wolf led with 36 percent support of party members, Schwartz had 9 percent, McCord had 3 percent, and McGinty and Hanger each had 1 percent.

The poll did not include Wagner, who threw his hat into the ring on Thursday, midway through the survey, which was commissioned by several Pennsylvania newspapers and TV stations. And neither poll included Jo Ellen Litz, a Lebanon County commissioner who also is seeking the Democratic nod.

The primary is May 20.

Wolf, who contributed $10 million to his campaign and served briefly as state revenue secretary under Gov. Ed Rendell, has been airing TV ads statewide since Jan. 30. The Franklin & Marshall poll cited the ads as the likely reason for his popularity in the poll.

Among the two-thirds of the Democrats who have seen a TV commercial for governor, 88 percent recalled seeing a Wolf commercial, the poll said. Fifty-six percent of those who had seen a Wolf commercial said they support his candidacy, it said.

Reaction was swift from the Schwartz and McGinty campaigns, who both noted Wolf’s TV campaign was airing before any of them had put up TV ads. They predicted the race would tighten now that their ads are running. McGinty began airing her first TV ad Saturday.

While the Democrats debated the significance of the latest polls, Corbett’s campaign touted a new radio ad attacking the Democratic primary contestants for the first time, tagging Schwartz as a tax-increasing liberal, Hanger as the marijuana-legalization candidate and Wolf and McCord as “multimillionaires.”

On the Democratic side, both McCord and Schwartz have sought to make Wolf’s personal wealth a campaign issue.

Corbett’s campaign manager, Mike Barley, said polls based on hypothetical races are meaningless.

Once the Democrats choose their nominee, “you’re going to be able to start to see some polling numbers that we can draw some conclusions from and we can start to see where the race is,” Barley said.

The Quinnipiac telephone survey of 1,405 voters was conducted between Feb. 19 and Feb. 24. It had a margin of error of 2.6 percentage points.

The Franklin & Marshall poll included telephone interviews of 548 Democratic voters between Feb. 18 and Feb. 23. Its margin of error was 4.2 percentage points.

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