I got a lot of pushback from John Hanger fans for arguing that weak fundraisers like Hanger, Ed Pawlowski, Max Myers, and Jo Ellen Litz should drop out of the race for Governor sooner rather than later, since they obviously won’t win the primary and a crowded field bodes poorly for Democratic competitiveness against Corbett.
But that’s not just my view. Back in June, my co-blogger Jake Sternberger reported that Hanger himself said he needed to be polling at 15% by December to be competitive in the primary. The last Harper poll had him at 7% – less than half what he said he needed by now:
Hanger was quick to add that he will work hard for Schwartz if she is the nominee. Hanger is beginning a multi-day school bus tour of the state, and said that he needs to reach 15% in the polls by December to be competitive in the primary election.
This wasn’t just a one-off remark, Hanger said it several times in his stump speech during this period. Does he still believe that? And if so, why hasn’t he dropped out of the race yet?
Now, you may be thinking, “What about all the online polls Hanger won? Doesn’t that mean there’s a groundswell of Hanger support the big polls aren’t detecting?”
No. No it does not. The real polls are correct and the online polls capture a self-selected group of white upper middle class progressives who read blogs and care about online polls – not an unimportant group in Democratic politics, but not at all representative of the working class, predominantly female people of color who make up the actual Democratic base and will decide the nomination.
Hanger hasn’t caught on with this group because while his marijuana decriminalization position is popular with them, this isn’t a top tier voting issue for many people. The other position where there’s a legitimate contrast between Hanger and the other candidates – opposition to charter schools – is flat out unpopular with non-white voters.
Basically if Katie McGinty or Rob McCord adopted Hanger’s marijuana positions, neutralizing his advantage on that issue, there’d be nothing to distinguish Hanger from the other Democrats and no policy reason for him to remain in the race. It’s not going to be politically possible for the nominee to be anti-charter because the people who will decide the race are pro-charter. The politically-possible range of Democratic perspectives on the issues is already well-represented among the four top-tier candidates Katie McGinty, Allyson Schwartz, Rob McCord, and Tom Wolf.
It’s time for Hanger and Pawlowski to drop out, and you can help. If you like Hanger for environmental reasons you should start supporting other former DEP-head Katie McGinty and convince her to back marijuana decriminalization. If you’re a labor left voter you should start supporting Rob McCord, who’s been pursuing and racking up labor endorsements, and seems most likely to support teacher union positions against private charters.