GOP candidate Scott Wagner makes a pitch to West Philly

Written by Dave Davies/WHYY | Jun 25, 2018 4:32 AM

FILE PHOTO: Scott Wagner, center, Republican candidate for Pennsylvania Governor, and lieutenant governor candidate Jeff Bartos, left, campaign at a diner in Imperial, Pa. Monday, May 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

(Philadelphia) -- Gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner has posted a new internet video featuring him a setting not typically associated with a Republican candidate.

In it, the former state senator from York County appears in Malcolm X Park in West Philadelphia, talking exclusively with black people - hugging, shaking hands, high-fiving a little girl speaking with a woman wearing hijab.

His message is that Democrats have let Philadelphia schools and neighborhoods down.

"I don't care what political party you're from, or your background or anything," Wagner tells people in the ad, "you have to say to yourself, there's something here. What's wrong with this picture?"

A campaign statement announcing the video says Wagner "is on a mission to be the first Governor in generations, Republican or Democrat, to make the people of Philadelphia a priority and run a campaign focused on helping them."

Democrats will of course note that Wolf has long sought more education funding than he could get from the Republican-controlled legislature, and that Wagner is campaigning on reigning in government spending.

Wagner will counter that smarter management, not more money, will improve schools and neighborhoods.

Probing the message

Does Wagner really think he can get African-American votes?

Republicans in Pennsylvania haven't had much luck in communities like West Philadelphia.

Philadelphia-based political consultant Mustafa Rashed said Wagner's message appears to be a version of candidate Donald Trump's 2016 message to black voters: "What do you have to lose?"

Rashed said he doubts the message will sell, because blacks haven't gotten much from the Trump presidency.

Muhlenberg College political scientist Christopher Borick offered another take on the video.

Borick said the ad may not be about getting black votes, but about reassuring moderate whites that Wagner's not a bad guy.

"Sometimes when ads are done like this, they're not really aimed at the people that might be in the ad, but folks that might be watching them in more suburban or swing parts of the region," Borick said.

A truer measure of Wagner's commitment to campaigning for urban votes in Philadelphia will be whether he puts significant sums into broadcast TV buys for ads like this one in the fall campaign.



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