Monday, September 1, 2014
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Some polling perspective

A new statewide poll showing "anybody but Corbett" needs a little bit of political perspective.

Some polling perspective

Governor Corbett talks about his budget proposal to increase funding for rape crisis services and prevention education at a press conference held at the offices of Women Organized Against Rape as Kristen Houser (left) and Ralph J. Riviello (right) listen. February 28, 2013. ( MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer ).
Governor Corbett talks about his budget proposal to increase funding for rape crisis services and prevention education at a press conference held at the offices of Women Organized Against Rape as Kristen Houser (left) and Ralph J. Riviello (right) listen. February 28, 2013. ( MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer ).

Yet another bad polling day for incumbent Republican Gov. Corbett needs a little bit of political perspective.

A new Quinnipiac University poll released Monday morning shows that if the election (which is 18 months away) were today, any one of three Democrats (only one of which is actually an announced candidate) would beat Corbett with relative ease.

Announced candidate U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz would win by 13 points (47-34); potential candidate and former U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak would win by 14 points (48-34) and potential candidate state Treasurer Rob McCord would win by nine points (44-35).

There's no way to make any of that sound like good news for Corbett.

But. All polling at this stage is a name-ID game in the absence of an actual campaign. Such polling cannot by its nature consider certain critical political factors.

Such as: Democrats are far from settled on a candidate (the poll says 59-percent are "undecided"); none of seven possible candidates listed in the poll has more than 15-percent support; one candidate, Tom Wolf, who has says he'll spend at least $10 million of his own money, hasn't begun to do so; and a Democrat who could be very competitive in a primary and who says she's running, former state Enivronmental Protection secretary Katie McGinty, isn't even mentioned in the poll.

Plus, the basic rule of politics is you need someone to beat someone. Right now Democrats have no one. There isn't even a settled field of Democratic candidates. And there is no campaign in which past records and future promises can be measured, evaluated, debated and judged.

Again, nothing here can cheer Corbett (well, okay, one thing can; the poll says 60 percent of Republicans believe he deserves reelection, which could mean Republicans aren't looking for an alternative such as, for example, Bruce Castor).

But it's important to remember the "anyone but Corbett" suggestion of the poll must be tempered by the fact that it's far from clear who the "anyone" will be, what resources the "anyone" will have after what's shaping up as a long, expensive Democratic primary, and what happens in the state over the next year -- which is multiple lifetimes in politics.

Polls are fodder for fundraisers and media. Just remember past polls suggested at various times the GOP presidential nominee in 2012 would be Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich or Herman Cain.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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