Pennsylvania businessman Tom Wolf is poised to become the official Democratic Party nominee based on two key Democratic bellwethers, according to a Suffolk University poll of tightly screened Democratic voters in Susquehanna and Wayne counties.

The bellwethers showed Wolf ahead by between 18 percent and 34 percent over the other three Democratic candidates, Treasurer Robert McCord, former state environmental protection secretary Katie McGinty and Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz. The winner will face incumbent Republican Gov. Tom Corbett in November.

“Votes are breaking to Tom Wolf in a consistently similar pattern,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston. “Voter turnout will ultimately determine the outcome, but given what we know now, even if any one of the three Democratic opponents were to win all of the undecided votes, it wouldn’t be enough. It appears that Wolf himself could get around 50 percent, while his three opponents combined will take the remaining 50 percent.”

A bellwether is an area of a state that closely mirrors a statewide electoral outcome using similar election types from previous elections and other data. The Suffolk University Political Research Center has used the bellwether model nationally since 2002 and is 85 percent accurate in predicting winners, but it is not designed to predict margins of victory over runners-up. All bellwether analyses carry a margin of error similar to a statewide poll.

Democratic primary

In the 2010 Democratic primary for governor, these two counties – Susquehanna and Wayne – reflected the statewide order of finish (1-2-3-4) exactly and were within 5 percent of the statewide vote percentages for each of the four candidates running in that Democratic gubernatorial primary. The following chart indicates how each county compared to the statewide vote in the 2010 Pennsylvania Democratic primary for governor:

Chart of 2010 Penn. gubernatorial primary bellwethers

Lieutenant governor

Nearly half of likely Democratic primary voters remained undecided on the lieutenant governor candidates. In this five-way primary, State Sen. Mike Stack led former Congressman Mark Critz, Harrisburg City Councilman Brad Koplinski, Bradford County Commissioner Mark Smith, and State Rep. Brandon Neuman in both counties but with so many undecided voters that the race is still up for grabs and much more fluid than the Democratic primary for governor.

“The emergence of Stack may explain why he has come under fire from the other Democratic opponents recently,” said Paleologos. “The bottom line is that the more organized candidates will try to get a greater share of all those undecideds, and the race could hinge on whether their supporters show up on Tuesday.”

Methodology

Using party primary good-voter lists, the bellwether IDs were called using a tight screen. All respondents indicated that they were likely to vote in the Democratic primary on Tuesday, May 20. All other respondents were screened out. The field was conducted Monday, May 12 through Wednesday, May 14. The margin of error for the Wayne county bellwether is +/-5.65 percent at a 95 percent level of confidence. The margin of error for the Susquehanna county bellwether is +/-6.93 percent. Bellwethers are designed to predict winners, not margins or runners-up. Results are posted on the Suffolk University Political Research Center website. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310.