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Politics & Government

Campaigns Hit the Home Stretch, Bracing for Low Turnout

Call it a “prebuttal” — a chance for the state GOP to respond to President Barack Obama’s visit to Pennsylvania before it happens.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf is scheduled to appear with Obama in Philadelphia at a rally on Sunday, and Republicans are treating it as an opportunity to make some of the president’s low poll numbers stick to Wolf.

Most polls show Wolf has a wide lead over Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, but indicate the president is far less popular.  

Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Perry of York County homed in on Wolf’s proposals to raise certain taxes and his support of the federal health care overhaul.

“Obama’s coming to Pennsylvania. He’s here to support Tom Wolf,” said Perry. “If you don’t agree with President Obama’s policies, there’s a very real chance that you will not agree with Tom Wolf’s policies.”

Obama’s visit rounds out a campaign season that’s featured cameos from a bunch of political all-stars. Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has stumped for Corbett a few times. But the Democrats have leaned heavily on phone-a-friend, with visits from First Lady Michelle Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden and former President Bill Clinton.

Republicans have said the string of high-profile stumpers shows the Democrats are nervous about voter turnout on Tuesday.

“I don’t think that’s a fair read at all,” said Diane Bowman, deputy executive director of the Pennsylvania Democrats. “The difference is, we have those connections to those people that bring interest to a race. Why would we not make use out of our best assets?”

Both parties are bracing themselves for low voter turnout, using absentee ballot applications as their best gauge. Absentee ballot requests are down between 32 and 37 percent this year from the last midterm election in 2010. The decline is fairly evenly distributed between Republicans and Democrats.

“That tells you something about turnout because those are actual real voters,” said Bob Bozzuto, executive director of the Pennsylvania GOP. “So I think we can see a slight downtick for everybody.”

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