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Fetterman: Wolf isn't getting credit he deserves

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
“At the end of the day, it’s been disappointing to see the amount of coverage that fringe protests have gotten rather than the steady hand carrying the day," Lt. Gov. John Fetterman told The York Dispatch.

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has called Gov. Tom Wolf a "national model in Democratic politics," especially amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Yet Wolf has been slammed by Republicans and labeled a tyrant by protesters, all while not commanding much media attention — a point of contention for his top lieutenant, Fetterman said on Tuesday.

“At the end of the day, it’s been disappointing to see the amount of coverage that fringe protests have gotten rather than the steady hand carrying the day," he told The York Dispatch.

"Why is there only tyranny if there is a D next to their name?" he asked shortly afterward.

More:Thousands protest at Capitol with calls to reopen Pa.'s economy

More:Coronavirus-linked deaths jump nearly 500, no new deaths in York County

Most of the gripes around Wolf's governing style have been pointed at his closure of the bulk of the state's economy and his slow reopening of it.

Nearly all states have stay-at-home orders and business closures in place to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

States have been using a blend of guidance from the White House's Coronavirus Task Force, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and their own health departments to tailor the shutdowns.  

On Friday, Wolf is expected to announce that some regions will transition to the "yellow stage," which will ease some of the restrictions, though schools will remain closed and restaurants will still be restricted to curbside or delivery service.

Thousands rally to reopen Pennsylvania in front of the Capitol Building in Harrisburg, Monday, April 20,2020.
John A. Pavoncello photo

Complaints from lawmakers and residents throughout the state culminated in a massive protest to "reopen" the state last week, which brought in thousands to the state Capitol, many of whom flaunted apparel and flags in support of the president.

Protests started in Michigan, promptly spreading through other states such as North Carolina and Kentucky. There have also been protests in states with Republican governors, such as Ohio.

But despite all the hype, poll numbers suggest broad support for the efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19.

An early-April poll by Quinnipiac University, for example, found that 81% of adults support stay-at-home orders such as the one in Pennsylvania.

In addition, Wolf's poll numbers remain strong — 69% approve of how he's handling the pandemic, versus President Donald Trump's 44% approval, according to a Fox News poll released last week.

And those results regarding Wolf came leading up to — and the day of — the protest in Harrisburg.

Fetterman has dropped emoji-ridden notes on Twitter about the treatment of Wolf from media and "fringe activists."

Perhaps the most notable format typically praises the governor's focus on stockpiling ventilators, while others focus on television appearances. 

"Keeping ventilators in their boxes >> Being on TV," Fetterman tweeted Monday.

A tweet from Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.

But there may be a reason Wolf hasn't become a national figure like New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, said G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College.

“He’s not given to temperamental outbursts, he’s not given to hyperbole, and he doesn’t attack his opponents personally,” Madonna said.

But that also comes at a price.

“It gives folks who want to get into the media a more ample chance, because it’s coronavirus nonstop,” Madonna added. “Politics have been pushed off the front page.”

Republicans have channeled the anger from protesters and others amid pushes to reopen the government more swiftly, more in line with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp's plans, which have been condemned by the president.

Wolf has vetoed legislation that passed through the upper and lower chambers on party-line votes that would have reopened businesses throughout the state as long as they abide by federal safety regulations.

Wolf also has promised to veto another bill awaiting a concurrence vote in the state House that would give counties the ability to create their own mitigation plans — allowing businesses to open if they were to comply with the same guidelines. 

“We live in a highly polarized political environment where Democrats and Republicans are further apart on issues than any time in modern history,” Madonna said.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.