A day after winning all 67 Pennsylvania counties in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, York native Tom Wolf showed up at the Manchester Diner wearing that yellow Dartmouth raincoat — the same one Bobby Simpson from Crispus Attucks describes as an "old, yellow, ugly-looking jacket" in one of Wolf's campaign videos.
But an ugly jacket might serve as a beautiful example of the Everyman accessibility analysts consider as they dissect Wolf's win and assess his potential for a victory against incumbent Republican Gov. Tom Corbett in November.
That race started in the moments it became clear Wolf had blown past the three other Democratic candidates Tuesday night, and it's already manifest in Corbett's speaking about Wolf, said non-partisan analyst Christopher Borick, a professor of political science and the director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion.
"You'll see (the Corbett campaign) trying to convince the public he's Ed Rendell reincarnated," Borick said, referencing Wolf's 19 months as Gov. Ed Rendell's secretary of the Department of Revenue about five years ago. "The idea is, you make a case, start calling him 'Secretary Wolf.' It sounds respectful, but it's in every talk, linking him to government. Linking him to (Rendell), who left office in fairly poor standing. You try to make (Wolf) more of a creature of government than he may have actually been."
The win: The Yorker steered the primary from the moment he first hit the air with commercials and took a commanding lead in January, Borick said.
"Everything, after (Wolf) established himself, was in response to Tom Wolf," he said. "There was nothing (Rob) McCord and (Allyson) Schwartz did that wasn't a reaction to Wolf after that. If you can dictate how others are reacting, that's really being in a good place. McCord and Schwartz were caught off guard. (Wolf) was never caught off guard."
Wolf's responses to attack ads were timely and positive, and the attack ads — particularly a McCord ad that seemed to imply Wolf was a racist — were untenable, Borick said.
"How many people do you know who served in the Peace Corps who are racist?" Borick asked.
The attacks seemed to fortify Wolf, said G. Terry Madonna, professor of public affairs and director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College.
"He has already gone through the rigors of a tough primary. He's battle tested," Madonna said. "He has been through having attack ads thrown at him. This is going to be a tough campaign, but Corbett's team is experienced and they know how to campaign."
November strategy: Both analysts said Corbett's camp will be working to convince voters of the success of the Corbett administration while attempting to discredit Wolf.
"You can call him 'millionaire Secretary Tom Wolf,' make him an elitist," Borick said. "You gotta keep reminding people this isn't an average guy. He's a millionaire. He's different. And it's not easy to do that."
Wolf's lifestyle decisions, from sending his two daughters to public school to driving an old Jeep every day, don't reflect elitism, Borick said. There are also too many people "corroborating his normalness ... saying he's not some kind of removed elite guy.
"It poses lots of challenges for the governor," Borick said.
Corbett could also try to "proactively steal" some of Wolf's agenda, making decisions that are against Corbett's stated beliefs just to try to deflate Wolf's plan.
Corbett's Wednesday decision not to appeal a federal judge's ruling lifting the gay marriage ban in Pennsylvania serves as an example, Borick said. While it will appeal to moderates and it checks an item off Wolf's game plan, it will anger social conservatives, he said.
"Corbett's problems start at home, with his own party," Borick said.
Despite his resistance to an extraction tax on shale gas, Corbett could also realize the inevitability of it given the statewide support for taxing drillers, Borick said.
"He could get out in front of the extraction tax and ... pass something in summer or fall to tax shale," Borick said. "At the end of the day, it's going to take a great campaign from Corbett to make (his re-election) happen. His work is cut out for him."
No gaffes: Polls show Wolf entering the race with a double-digit lead over Corbett, so the incumbent needs to "play catch-up" by making Wolf seem less favorable, Madonna said.
The Corbett campaign is likely to paint Wolf as a "tax and spend" liberal, possibly pursuing attacks related to Wolf's business, headquartered in York but chartered in Delaware.
But Wolf has already been vetted by his same-party opponents, and it's not clear what could slow his momentum, short of some major gaffes, Madonna said.
"He was gaffe-free, which a lot of people found pretty astounding, that a rookie candidate could be free of gaffes," Madonna said. "In the debates, he came across as well-spoken and cautious. Not shrill. He's not a table pounder."
— Reach Christina Kauffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.