Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Corbett: Good Bet/Bad Bet

A new poll suggesting Gov. Corbett is toast will fire up Dems looking to replace him. But it takes somebody to beat somebody.

Corbett: Good Bet/Bad Bet

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Governor Tom Corbett answers questions during a briefing of his budget proposal to the Philadelphia Inquirer editorial board January 23, 2013.  ( DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer )
Governor Tom Corbett answers questions during a briefing of his budget proposal to the Philadelphia Inquirer editorial board January 23, 2013. ( DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer )

While a new Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday morning strongly suggests that Republican Gov. Tom Corbett is very a bad bet for reelection next year, members of the anti-Corbett crowd would do well to check their own cards before going all in.

The poll says Pennsylvania voters, by a 51-31 margin, don't think TC deserves a second term.

It says women, by a 45-31 margin, disapprove of the guv.

And it says only 52 percent of his fellow-Republicans approve of the job he's doing -- a lackluster endorsement for sure.

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But here's a few things to consider:

The election is more than a year and a-half away, lots can happen between now and then and no incumbent governor in Pennsylvania seeking reelection ever lost reelection.

More importantly, it takes someone to beat someone. And while at this point many will argue, oh, well, anybody can beat a guy with numbers as bad as Corbett's, there is this thing called a statewide campaign that requires a boatload of money, name ID and a strong, smart candidate capable of communicating.

If history is a guide, and in Pennsylvania, it usually is, Democrats will engage in a bitter, expensive, multi-field 2014 primary that will force the winner to move to the left (in what is largely a centrist state), expend resources and emerge with the task of replenishing campaign funds. Meanwhile, the Corbett team will spend some of its certain-to-be-enormous bankroll defining that "winner" in the worst possible light.

Unless Democrats come up with a pact to back a single candidate, say a powerful, self-financing centrist woman from the west who's a Penn State grad with executive experience in big business and a political appetite for the jugular, there's little reason to think the predictable path to the Democratic nomination won't repeat itself.

Also, Corbett's bad numbers today are largely the result of maybe the worst messaging effort of any incumbent in memory which, in my case, goes back to Milton Shapp. A well-financed campaign can saturate the state with positive messages to counter that.

None of this is to say Corbett's a lock for a second term. It is only to suggest that betting on Corbett's electoral demise on the basis of polls so far from Election Day isn't a good idea.

Unless Bob Casey decides to run.

Daily News Political Columnist
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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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