My Harrisburg colleague Angela Couloumbis helmed a story in today’s wood pulp editions of The Philadelphia Inquirer about Pa. Gov. Tom Corbett’s day on Tuesday, when a series of unfortunate events illustrated concisely the dilemma of being a poll-challenged chief executive trying to push a big agenda through a balky legislature while at the same time reinforcing his flanks for a reelection campaign.
The most pressing problem is the agenda and the lawmakers. The lousy poll that greeted his Tuesday does not necessarily mean he’s in deep trouble when it comes to re-election (more on that later). Next week, Corbett his annual budget speech to the legislature, during which he will also introduce a plan to rein in skyrocketing public pension costs as well as find the billions needed for roads, bridges, and mass transit (gas-tax increase possibly required). Oh, and he also wants to privatize the state’s antiquated system of state liquor stores.
As to reelection, now 21 months away – sure, Corbett’s approval numbers are in the danger zone, and a slight majority of Pennsylvania voters in a Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday (51 percent) said he does not deserve reelection. And a whole bunch of Democrats are salivating at the possibility of winning the nomination to run against him. But 2014 is going to be an off-year election, without the Democrat-turnout-boosting presidential race atop the ballot. And other polls have shown that very few voters actually know much about the potential Democratic contenders. Remember, nobody has dropped a book of opposition research on any of them yet, nor run a single comparative or attack TV ad against any of them.
In other words, Pennsylvania’s 2014 gubernatorial race will probably be competitive, but Corbett has several advantages. Incumbency doesn’t suck. It is noteworthy that, since 1968, when the state constitution was changed to allow governors to have second terms, all five men who have sought reelection have won.