Let's talk about Scott Wagner's campaign, since Gov. Wolf's is inert.
Wagner is working it. Even if it's scattergun. Even if it's imitative of Donald Trump in 2016.
Underdogs, after all, try everything.
Wagner recently gave a speech in Wilkes-Barre that included parts of a 2016 screed, supposedly penned by an 80-year-old Trump supporter, comparing Muslim refugees and "illegal aliens" to "rabid, messy, mean raccoons" infesting one's basement.
Not necessarily an analogy appreciated by folks fond (or even tolerant) of diversity — especially people of color.
The story suggests that then-candidate Trump's support came from lots of people who wanted the "raccoons" gone and didn't care a bit about attributes or flaws of any person who could get rid of them.
"It's a great story," Wagner told his Wilkes-Barre audience before sharing it. "Interesting perspective."
And although he toned it down by not specifically mentioning immigrants or refugees, he repeated its assertion that "we are being invaded … becoming a nation of victims" in which every "Tom, Ricardo, and Hasid" gets special rights, to the point we can't recognize our country.
Pretty Trumpy, yeah? Hardly a message of inclusion.
But then, last week, Wagner pitched himself to people of color.
In Philly, he offered a plan to help the city, a minority-majority city, the poorest of America's largest cities. He suggested that Democrats such as Wolf haven't helped. And he sought support, asking Philadelphians: "What do you have to lose?"
Where have you heard that before?
Wagner's campaign also aired a TV ad featuring people of color in Philly backing Wagner's candidacy. One man in a Phillies cap says, "Tom Wolf has definitely failed our community."
Two cities, two audiences, two tailored messages.
Wilkes-Barre is in Luzerne County, which is 90 percent white. Philly is 45 percent white. You can do the political calculation.
The Wilkes-Barre speech appeals to the Trump base. And in the basest manner.
The raccoon story dehumanizes people as invading vermin. And Trump has called some immigrants "animals."
Come on. Invoking the raccoon story anywhere, in any iteration, is tasteless at best, racist at worst, and either way top-drawer Trumpian.
Wagner declined to talk with me about this.
And as to Wagner asking Philly, "What do you have to lose?" That, too, is from Trump's playbook. It was a staple of his pitch to African American voters during the 2016 campaign.
Wagner, it seems, believes that tactics that worked in Pennsylvania two years ago when Trump used them to carry the state can work for Wagner this year.
He does not believe polls showing Wolf with a double-digit lead. Like Trump, he does not believe media (calls CNN "the Communist News Network"). And he chides state media for obsessing over things he says.
His hope, I assume, is that polls are wrong and history repeats.
And one could argue that just as Wagner's campaign can mirror Trump's, Wolf's campaign is not unlike Hillary Clinton's: a favored candidate with lots of money, playing it safe, assuming the polls are right.
Wagner must be frustrated. Wolf's camp maintains constant fire, claiming Wagner is an embarrassment, unfit for office, "the very worst" of Harrisburg. All while Wolf maintains a low campaign profile and refuses to engage in more than one face-to-face debate, scheduled for Oct. 1.
The result is little evident interest among average voters, and a governor's race so far playing out with all the excitement of Tom Ridge versus Ivan Itkin in 1998.