Last night, Jake reported that Jack Wagner has been asking allies and Pennsylvania Democratic volunteers to circulate petitions for him without officially announcing his bid for governor — but it looks all-too obvious that it is official at this point. This is bad news for Pennsylvania Democrats — in that it looks like we may [again] have eight candidates running for the Democratic nomination to choose from this May, and we’re not gaining anything from the new choices.
Don’t get me wrong — I understand why Jack Wagner wants to run. He thinks he has a shot this time (mostly based on geography); he also doesn’t have a job and he really wants to be governor.
But there’s something that Jack Wagner knows just as well as we do: Jack Wagner tanks after people [re-]get to know him. He starts off strong because of statewide name recognition, then Democrats realize that he’s the kind of Old Democrat most are trying to get away from, and he falls hard. I give you the 2010 Democratic Gubernatorial Primary, where he lost to Dan Onorato, 45-24%:
And though it’s not quite as pretty as the Pollster graphic above, here’s a graph of Wagner’s polling from his last race, where the drop is even harder — and he ended up losing to Bill Peduto, 51.8-39.6%:
Noticing the pattern? Strong entrance, poor finish. And that’s only two examples: He also lost his primary big for Lt. Governor in 2002 and his first primary bid for Pittsburgh Mayor in 1993. Jack Wagner has been openly “considering” a bit for governor since this past August — and his circulating of petitions essentially confirms it.
Wagner knows that he’s going to fall after his opening name ID-induced pop in the polls, so he’s trying to make his entrance to the race as late as humanly possible to fight off his inevitable drop-off. He thinks between getting in late and being the only candidate from Western PA, he can sneak through an eight-person primary and win the nomination with less than 20% of the vote. We shouldn’t let that happen.