Corbett weakest incumbent gov, U.Va. says

Pennsylvania Gov. Corbett (R) is the “incumbent likeliest to lose if he makes it to November 2014,” Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a leading political newsletter, predicted on Thursday.

The newsletter, produced by the scholars and analysts of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, also downgraded its rating of Corbett’s electoral health. A few months ago, the Pennsylvania governor race was considered a “toss-up.” Now, it “leans Democratic.”

As readers of Big Tent know, Corbett has horrible, sub-basement level poll numbers. A recent Quinnipiac Poll, for instance, put his job-approval at 35 percent; generally, strategists start shaking and sweating when an incumbent going into a reelection year sinks to the high 40s.

Corbett’s been prone to some perceived gaffes, including a remark last month that some interpreted as blaming the state unemployment rate in part on the inability of job candidates to pass drug screenings.  He also faces unpredictable drag from the fallout of the sexual-abuse scandal that led to the dethroning of Penn State football coach Joe Paterno; Corbett ran the investigation as attorney general. And of course as the state digs out of a recession, Corbett has made some deeply unpopular budget cuts while declining to tax the booming shale gas exploration industry. (thus keeping a campaign pledge)

Meanwhile, a startling report by Daniel Denvir of Citypaper, how obtained a private GOP poll done by the prominent firm Public Opinion Strategies, shows Corbett getting hammered. A polling memo suggests that Corbett use the Philadelphia teachers’ union as a “wedge” to turn the city schools-funding crisis to his political advantage.

The poll, commissioned by a self-styled reform group that supports school vouchers, was taken April 30 to May 2. Results are subject to a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points, and of 4.9 percentage points for an overlay of results from registered voters in the Philadelphia suburbs.

Corbett has indeed taken the tack that the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers must cough up  contract concessions to avert the district’s “doomsday” budget cuts, as a condition for any state aid to help bail out the schools. He also said Wednesday that he would help the district.