Oh, the games that get played in campaigns.
Take Gov. Wolf's campaign's constantly calling Scott Wagner "the very worst of Harrisburg."
Doesn't really sound like something Pennsylvania's "Mr. Nice" would say, eh?
So, I ask him.
Ran into him right outside the Capitol. Just me, him, a plainclothes trooper.
"Do you really believe Wagner's `the very worst of Harrisburg'?"
He smiles and asks, "Don't you?"
"No," I say.
"Well, you've been here how long?" he asks.
"A lot longer than you," I say. (FYI, I've been here forever.)
"Well," he says, still smiling, "In my 3½ years, he's the worst I've seen."
C'mon, man. He's not. I've written about this.
This is gamesmanship. It's playing to a campaign that greatly exaggerates, as almost all campaigns do. He knows it. They know it. You should know it.
And now, Wolf's hammering Wagner for saying he'd consider signing legislation to ban same-sex marriage. Wagner said so answering an audience question at a town hall in Erie on Monday.
He shouldn't have said it, OK? Because he doesn't mean it. He's an advocate of LGBTQ rights, for which he took heat in the GOP primary. But then, as he once told me, "I should be on 15 [expletive] medications before I speak."
He's right, by the way.
His campaign spokesperson says Wagner was "caught off guard" by the question, and that he'd veto any bill to restrict marriage rights for same-sex couples.
Still, the Wolf hounds were released.
Reminds me of Wagner running down Wolf for saying he wants all state basic education money to go through a formula to help bigger, poorer (i.e. urban) districts, which would, at current funding levels, harm rural districts.
Wolf said it at a Philly news conference. He shouldn't have. Because he doesn't mean it. He should have made clear he supports such a move only when and if there's a ton more education money spent so that no district is harmed.
And because of Wolf's flub, both he and Wagner went at it for weeks, including calling each other liars, because that's how the game is played.
Look, candidates make missteps. Opponents seek to cash in. But to focus on, harp on, fund-raise and run ads about stuff that isn't going to happen keeps campaigns in the kind of politics that keeps voter turnout down.
It serves candidates, not the public.
Sort of like polling from questionable sources backed by partisan money.
My colleague Chris Brennan offered an example. His deep reporting on a poll released this week by the Commonwealth Leaders Fund PAC that shows Wolf and Wagner (and Sen. Bob Casey and U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta) in a dead heat is instructive.
Other polls show both Dems ahead by double digits. The PAC that did the new poll is supported by conservative funders. And it's run by a guy with financial ties to landfills and recycling plants.
I'm thinking it just might have an interest in seeing someone in the governor's chair who's made millions in the waste business.
If only it could find such a person.
Wagner's campaign (and Barletta's) touted the poll. Because that's how the game is played.
Finally, Wolf's looking to make money off a Wagner joke.
His campaign Monday blasted out a fundraising email seeking "urgent" donations under the title "Russia helping Scott Wagner WIN?!"
This after a Huffington Post story about an audio of Wagner joking with a Berks County crowd last Friday: "By the way, the Russians are going to help me with Tom Wolf."
Actually, pretty funny. At least dark humor. The audience laughed. And I hope Wagner waited for a rim shot. His next line was, "If I have to use Paul Manafort, I will."
For the record, Wagner's campaign says Wagner believes Russia interfered in the 2016 elections and, if elected, pledges to work with to ensure fair elections.
But that won't curtail Wolf's fundraising try, because that's how the game is played.
The other development this week is Wagner and Wolf agreeing to debate Oct. 1. The Wolf campaign tells me this will be the only debate. Too bad. But that's the game incumbents play.
Still, the thing about it that works for me? It'll be moderated by Jeopardy!'s Alex Trebek – a game show host. Perfect.