Amid COVID spike and Kabul crash, Biden & Wolf hang steady in new poll | Monday Morning Coffee

Pa. voters also are largely undecided in the marquee fight for an open U.S. Senate seat

August 23, 2021 7:17 am

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf speaking with the press. Governor Tom Wolf visited Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Cumberland County Friday, July 31, 2021 to highlight the importance of outdoor spaces to our well-being during the pandemic and announce a plan for Pennsylvania’s state parks of tomorrow (Commonwealth Media Services photo).

Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

There’s something very appropriate about Franklin & Marshall College releasing its latest poll during the dog days of summer.

Just like the weather, which has been steadily humid and marked by severe storms, job approval ratings for Gov. Tom Wolf and President Joe Biden are holding steady as both weather challenges of their own.

Wolf, who’s term-limited out of office in 2022, saw his popularity climb nominally among Pennsylvania voters in the new canvass, from 39 percent to 41 percent since the last F&M poll in June.

The York County pol has faced some criticism among fellow Democrats of late for his refusal (so far) to impose a statewide mask mandate for Pennsylvania public school students who have been making a steady return to class over the last two weeks or so (more return this week).

And while the administration has made repeated appeals for the unvaccinated to get the jab, the state saw its highest, one-day total in new cases in several months last week, adding to the unease as the Delta variant rages.

Concern about the pandemic was similarly reflected in the poll, with 17 percent of respondents listing it as the state’s most important problem, up from 7 percent in June. It’s still lower, however, than the 31 percent who put it at the top of the list in March, according to the poll. But that’s a worrying increase.

President Joe Biden was in La Crosse on Tuesday to sell his infrastructure plans. (Screenshot | White House)

Meanwhile, 41 percent of poll respondents said Biden is doing an “excellent” or “good” job as president, down a tad from 44 percent who answered the same way in June. Biden’s approvals on the handling of the pandemic also shrank a bit, from 49 percent in June to 44 percent in the new poll. For the completists among you, the RealClear Politics average had Biden at 48 percent at the end of last week.

For historical purposes, Biden’s popularity among Pennsylvania voters is at the same point as former President Barack Obama was at the same point in his presidency, according to F&M’s tracking. But he’s doing better than ex-President Donald Trump was doing at the same point in 2017.

(Image via Franklin & Marshall College Poll )

Franklin & Marshall sampled the opinions of 446 registered voters from August 9 – 15, 2021, with a margin of error of 6.4 percent. The sample includes 207 Democrats, 173 Republicans, and 66 independents.

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman [Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller]

In other horse race news, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is the nominal first choice among Democratic primary voters in the Keystone State’s nationally watched race for U.S. Senate in 2022.

Fetterman is the first (or second) choice of about a third of Democratic respondents (30 percent), followed by U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, D-17th District, who takes 14 percent support among primary voters, the poll showed. With months to go before the primary, and the field crowded with other candidates, including Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Philadelphia, a little more than a third of Democrats (37 percent) say they’re undecided.

Jeff Bartos in his campaign-opening ad. (Bartos campaign)

Matters are a bit more muddled on the Republican side of the ledger. Three GOP hopefuls: ex-congressional hopefuls Sean Parnell and Kathy Barnette, along with ex-lieutenant governor candidate Jeff Bartos, are running in a pack, taking 10 percent,  8 percent, and 7 percent support respectively, according to the poll.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents (63 percent) say they’re undecided, according to the poll.

The Pennsylvania Capitol building. (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

Our Stuff.
Of those under age 30 in the U.S., drowning is one of the top three leading causes of death by unintentional injuryCassie Miller reports in this week’s edition of The Numbers Racket. So with a little bit of summer left to us, that should underline the need for continued vigilance.

In a must-read, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune catalogue the tragic — and lasting — toll that Philadelphia’s epidemic of gun violence is taking on the city’s children.

Once considered unusual, proxy voting has become business as usual in the U.S. House, Capital-Star Washington Reporter Ariana Figueroa writes.

On our Commentary Page this morning, opinion regular Dick Polman says if you were expecting an alternate ending in Afghanistan, you weren’t paying attention. And the nationwide opioids settlement overlooked two key factors: pain management care and research into the smarter use of addictive drugs, a University of Michigan expert writes.

En la Estrella-Capital: Dos legisladores de Pa. están trabajando en una reforma electoral bipartidista. Esto es lo que han propuesto. Y el Servicio de Parques Nacionales renueva el mandato de máscara para todos los visitantes.

(Image via The Philadelphia Gay News)

The Inquirer has what you need to know about the limited number of medical exemptions for the COVID-19 vaccines.

Mask debates are raging in western Pennsylvania schools as students return to class, the Tribune-Review reports.

New COVID-19 treatments now available in central Pennsylvania may help to blunt the impact of the Delta variant, PennLive reports.

Speed cameras in Pennsylvania have been used to levy nearly $3 million in fines so far this year, the York Daily Record reports (paywall).

child care staffing shortage could make it tougher for working parents to return to their jobs, the Morning Call reports.

In Luzerne County, the new college term is starting with masks and vaccinesThe Citizens’ Voice has the details.

And goes deep on the debate over mask mandates and vaccine passports in states nationwide.

Climate activists are pressing Gov. Tom Wolf to appoint people to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission who support ending environmental racism and other progressive reform causes, WHYY-FM reports.

WESA-FM looks at the impact that the death of an overtime regulation had on some 190,000 workers statewide.

City & State Pa. takes a look at a broadband expansion bill now before the state House that would leverage $500 million in American Rescue Plan money.

PoliticsPA rounds up last week’s winners and losers in state politics.

Roll Call takes a look at the progressive goals that U.S. House Transportation Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., is trying to include in the budget reconciliation package.

Here’s your #Harrisburg Instagram of the Day:


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What Goes On
9 a.m., Aliquippa, Pa.: House Democratic Policy Committee
12 p.m, Harrisburg Hilton: Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon            12:30 p.m., Hearing Room 1 North Office Building: The Senate Aging & Youth, the House Aging & Adult Services, the Senate Health & Human Services, and the House Human Services committees hold a joint hearing   2 p.m., Pittsburgh: Depts. of Health and Education hold a back-to-school school safety event

Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out to Geoff Morrow, in House Democrats’ communications, who celebrates today. Congratulations and enjoy the day.

Heavy Rotation
Let’s go old school today. Here’s ‘Can I Kick It?,’ from the wonderful A Tribe Called Quest. Spoiler alert: The answer is always, ‘Yes, you can.’

Monday’s Gratuitous Baseball Link
So I could have written this one of two ways. First, the Atlanta Braves won their 13th straight road game on Sunday, sweeping Baltimore, with a 3-1 win. Or, I could have noted that, in truly depressing news, Baltimore logged their 18th consecutive loss as they were swept by the Braves. Well, at least hockey season is only a couple of months away …

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.