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Wednesday Brings Second Of Three Corbett-Wolf Debates

Gov. Tom Corbett heads into his second debate with Democratic challenger Tom Wolf with renewed energy, after a strong performance in the candidates’ first debate last week.

But Wednesday morning’s debate will air on radio and TV stations in the Philadelphia area, where most of the state’s Democratic voters reside.

“The geography of this certainly favors Wolf,” said Terry Madonna, director of the Franklin & Marshall College Poll and a political science professor.

It’s not clear how much debates can shake up a statewide gubernatorial election in Pennsylvania.

“Overall, debate performances in Pennsylvania have not been transformative,” Madonna said. “Not a single one of them has changed the nature of the outcome of an election.”

But others think the race is going to tighten up even more than expected if Wolf doesn’t explain more about his plans to raise certain taxes.

“He’s going to have to come up with some detailed answers to significant policy issues that are facing the commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” said Joseph DiSarro, professor of political science at Washington & Jefferson College.

A new Corbett TV ad uses sarcasm to slam Wolf for proposing an income tax increase. A campaign spokesman says the spot is airing statewide beginning this week.

Wolf insists he wants to raise taxes for the wealthy, but he has not said who would fall into that category, or what the higher tax rate would be.

Pundits agree it would take a deus ex machina for Corbett to catch up with Wolf, who leads by 17 points according to an averaging of recent statewide polls.

“For Governor Corbett, he’s got the same problem,” Madonna said. “He’s double digits behind. He needs to find some message in the debate, some theme, if not a specific issue, that will begin to resonate with the voters.”