Because campaigns are always with us, so is political chatter — some of it salient, some of it silly.
The New York Times last weekend reported on Republicans, including Vice President Pence, lining up in case President Trump (for whatever reason) isn’t a candidate or an incumbent come 2020.
Pence, naturally, invoked “fake news” and called the story, as applied to him, “categorically false.”
I get the story and retort. There’s reason to wonder about Trump, given his Twitter-finger and Robert Mueller’s grand jury. And the story let Pence submerge what he’s thinking, likely some version of, “Baby, I’m licking my chops.”
So be it.
But in Pennsylvania, chatter around 2018 reelection bids of Democrats Gov. Wolf and Sen. Bob Casey is already getting silly.
For example, the state Democratic Party last week hit Republican U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, who’s considering challenging Casey, with an official complaint filed with the House Office of Congressional Ethics. (Don’t you dare smirk at the title “Office of Congressional Ethics.”)
Why the filing? Because Barletta, during a TV interview on health care, answered a reporter’s question about maybe running against Casey (he said he might). But he did so standing in one of his congressional offices — with the seal of the U.S. House visible on a wall behind him.
Oh, brother. Abuse of office. Abuse of tax dollars. Abuse of being abusive.
This is the same state Democratic Party that for years provided a parade of elected officials charged with actual crimes, most of whom were frog-walked from public service at rates that should make party leaders blush.
There’s not enough space here for the ever-growing list of Democratic abusers.
Also, a Casey-Barletta contest, if it happens, will offer clear contrasts on major policies, from health care to immigration and other Trump priorities.
If Dems want to attack possible opponents early, they should do so with something weightier than standing in front of a government symbol.
Speaking of which, the Wolf campaign (under the guise of the state party) is working a drip-drip effort against possible GOP opponent Paul Mango. He’s the Pittsburgh biz whiz running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination against, so far, State Sen. Scott Wagner (R., York).
The Harrisburg Patriot-News last week reported on a Mango campaign web ad with three GOP county commissioners touting Mango’s acumen in creating jobs. But the report notes Mango‘s longtime and recent employer, global consultant McKinsey & Co., has a reputation for downsizing clients, causing job loss.
So, state Dems, a.k.a the Wolfies, put up a clever little website, JobsMangoCreated.com, which when clicked shows “This Page Does Not Exist.”
Cute. They also pushed the story and started a day-count on the Mango campaign’s inability to name specific Mango-made jobs.
(Mango’s campaign offers testimonials from big-time health care execs in other states praising Mango’s help in growth efforts, but also notes Mango is contractually bound from speaking about past clients.)
A couple things: This could become an issue if Mango is the GOP nominee, and job-creation claims get mired in detail and legalese.
But if Wolf goes after McKinsey, he might have to explain why he spent $1.8 million in tax dollars hiring McKinsey for advice on getting a sustainable state budget, which (at this point) isn’t looking like a sound investment.
Also, the incumbent doesn’t have lots of latitude to argue jobs.
U.S. Labor Department data show Pennsylvania is 33rd among states in job creation, lower than New Jersey, New York, and Maryland. And financial website WalletHub’s 2017 “Best and Worst States for Jobs” ranks Pennsylvania 40th (lowest among northeastern states).
I know campaigns get antsy. I understand urges to stake early ground. But questionable complaints and witty websites are neither arguments for reelection nor avenues to inspired campaigns.