“D-Day,” June 6, 1944, was the never-to-be-forgotten day allied forces launched the crucial Normandy invasion that ultimately defeated Adolf Hitler and ended World War II in Europe.
In fact, this year we mark the 70th anniversary of that epic battle.
But a few days before that commemoration, Pennsylvania Democratic primary voters will launch their own D-Day when they resolve the party’s fiercely contested gubernatorial primary on May 20.
What started out as a mundane love-fest has turned into a nasty ad and debate war that has former Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell and Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey calling on one of the candidates to remove a controversial commercial from the airwaves.
How the voters will react to a campaign turned negative remains to be seen. But each of the four remaining candidates envisions a path to victory that might take them to the gubernatorial nomination — or could send them home.
Few virtually unknown candidates have had the kind of meteoric rise in the polls that Wolf has achieved. His media-savvy campaign has successfully portrayed him as a friendly, successful business guy.
Wolf, who holds a doctorate, comes across to voters as mild-mannered, polite to a fault and as a candidate for all seasons. He is campaigning as the nonpolitician in a year when the approval of politicians has plunged to a new low.
The key question now: Can Wolf hold onto his imposing lead while his increasingly desperate opponents try to catch him?
Lately, she has moved aggressively against Wolf in an effort to cut down his lead. Boldly championing the controversial Affordable Care Act, she supports it loudly and often, laying claim as a prime mover in its enactment.
In similarly dramatic fashion, she also has introduced gender into the campaign, reminiscent of Kathleen Kane’s race in 2012 for attorney general, running against the Old Boys in Harrisburg.
Schwartz’s strategy is clear: Win the primary by going after the more liberal vote in Philadelphia, its suburbs and Pittsburgh. Indeed, despite a relatively moderate record in Congress, Schwartz is now running as the most liberal candidate in the race.
His anti-Corbett messages have aided him while he has run an issues-driven campaign, trying to differentiate himself from the other candidates — laying down, for example, a dramatic proposal for taxing the natural gas industry at a 10 percent rate.
McCord has aggressively courted endorsement from traditional party interest groups and unions.
More recently, like Schwartz, he has sharpened his attacks on front-runner Wolf. McCord, like Schwartz, was an early favorite but lost ground when Wolf ran unanswered TV ads in the early part of the campaign.
If the election were decided on congeniality, Kate McGinty would win hands down. Upbeat and enthusiastic, she routinely scores on likeability.
Unfortunately, this is a contest that’s all about money and organization, two resources she lacks.
She can’t make the big media buys or match her opponents’ resources. Worse, in a primary unlikely to set turnout records, McGinty has few ground resources to get her supporters out on Election Day.
Still, in gritty fashion, she continues an uphill battle, adroitly positioning herself as everyone’s second choice.
A sobering postscript: May 20 could be the last race for the losers. There may be no second act in Pennsylvania politics for Wolf, Schwartz or McCord. For them, Democratic D-Day is also do-or-die day.