So guess who I ran into last night? A few minutes before his first joint appearance with his newly minted fall rival Democrat Tom Wolf, here in Philly at the Crystal Tea Room, there was Gov. Corbett and, give him credit: Unlike, ahem, some governors who blow in and out of events at 110-mph, Pa's commander-in-chief was relaxed, not surrounded by security, and willing to chat with all comers.
Another reporter, freelancer Laura Goldman, and I had time for one question and we both wanted to know the same thing: Whether Corbett is trying to dodge those who disagree with his controversial policies, especially in light of reports of a "decoy" scheme to make Philadelphians think Monday's Republican Governor's Association was at the Union League when in fact it was about six blocks away at the Comcast Center.
NBC10 reported Monday -- as more than 600 Philly parents, teachers and others protested for more state education dollars -- that the Union League had been booked for the RGA event and only learned at the last minute that were a decoy. But Corbett flashed a look of surprise and said "I don't know what you're talking about." He added a moment later, "We were always going to the Comcast Center."
But what of the broader perception that he's trying to dodge dissent, especially after the event he moved from Central High School at the last minute, because of a planned protest?
Regarding Central, he repeated his earlier defense: "That was one time and I did not want children who were trying to work and study in school be affected by what was going on outside;" He noted, correctly, that protests "happen all the time" at his appearances, so I asked him if he'd be willing to engage the demonstrators.
"I would invite some of them in," he said, " because what I've found when people try to scream over you...I believe in polite discourse, but I believe in discourse."
I think opponents should take the governor up on that -- although I admit I'm not sure how, logistically -- and that Corbett should keep to his word. He should realize that protests "happen all the time" for him not just because a majority of voters say they don't like his policies, especially education cuts, but because he's done such a poor job engaging voters and explaining just what exactly his plan for Pennsylvania even is. I've been in Pennsylvania long enough to see that voters really respect pols who engage in give-and-take, even when they don't agree with the answer.
When you're down by 20 points in the polls, what have you got to lose?