Governor Corbett, We Hardly Know Ya

So Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has replaced his chief of staff. As if one top aide can rehabilitate the image of a politician uncomfortable with the image-making part of the job.

Political foes love to villainize Corbett for what he does, but I've long been as fascinated by all he doesn't. John Street suffered from shyness, but could still charm and churn. Corbett seems biologically incapable (or emotionally unwilling?) to utter a word that would remind voters why they've given him the keys to the commonwealth. He doesn't even hold sway over the legislature, which is controlled by his own Republican party.

As ably reported this week by my colleagues, Angela Couloumbis and Tom Fitzgerald, Republican powerbrokers have their boxers twisted by the prospect that the Governor of Few Words may be silencing himself into early retirement. No one expected Corbett to be another Ed Rendell (God help us), but surely a former prosecutor would have more stage presence than this.

He is being picketed almost daily by demonstrators in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh - a tin man without a heart, they call him. His Facebook page teems with complaints from angry Pennsylvanians. And his poll numbers have started to sag...

Their quarrel is not over policy, but with what some senior state Republicans see as political clumsiness: an inability or unwillingness to sell his agenda and his successes to the public, while at the same time allowing a tense or even dysfunctional relationship with the Republican-controlled legislature to fester unchecked.

If nothing changes, said one senior GOP figure, this is the fear: "He'll be a one-term governor."

First step: Cleaning house, starting with William F. Ward, who will segue from the chief of staff position to a vacancy on Allegheny County Common Pleas Court. Ward's replacement? Chester County lawyer Stephen Aichele, currently Corbett's chief counsel.

The governor made his announcement in a prepared statement that gave no hint of the political turmoil that was said to have preceded the moves, Couloumbis follows up today.

Ward's departure from his $154,000 post comes as Corbett has faced increasing pressure to address what some in top state Republican circles believe is the governor's growing image problem.

Low image? Or no image? Time will tell if Corbett cares enough to define the problem and seek a solution beyond blaming staff for what ails him.

-- Monica Yant Kinney