Human Events/Gravis Polls

Corbett in trouble shows Keystone State poll

Corbett in trouble shows Keystone State poll
Republican Pennsylvania Gov. Thomas W. Corbett at the 2013 Gettysburg Memorial Day Parade. (Courtesy)

The Republican governor of Pennsylvania faces a challenging political environment as he campaigns for reelection this year, according to two Jan. 22 Human Events/Gravis polls of Keystone State voters.

In the poll of 956 registered Republican voters, 41 percent said they would prefer a new GOP candidate for governor and 38 percent said they prefer Gov. Thomas W. Corbett, said Doug Kaplan, the president of Gravis Marketing, a Florida-based polling company. The poll has a 3 percent margin of error.

Kaplan said when the governor was put head-to-head with conservative businessman Robert R. Guzzardi, Corbett came out ahead 42 percent to Guzzardi’s 23 percent and 35 percent unsure.

Guzzardi has not announced his candidacy, but he is a well-known figure among conservatives running against the state’s GOP establishment. His current effort to ensure that incumbent Republican state legislators have Tea Party-linked primary challengers has the makings of a turn-key campaign organization for a run for governor.

Billy Pitman, a spokesman for the Corbett campaign said he is confident the voters will reelect the governor.

“Pennsylvanians will again choose Governor Corbett’s ‘More Jobs, Less Taxes’ agenda over the failed tax-and-spend policies our opponents are adopting out of Washington, D.C.,” he said.

“The Democratic ticket is unknown and they have the wrong vision for the future of Pennsylvania, openly calling for tax increases and more government spending,” he said.

Pennsylvania National Guard Capt. Thomas W. Corbett getting some chow in the field. Corbett served 13 years in the National Guard's 28th Infantry Division. (Courtesy)

Pennsylvania National Guard Capt. Thomas W. Corbett getting some chow in the field. Corbett served 13 years in the National Guard’s 28th Infantry Division. (Courtesy)

Corbett is the most fiscally conservative governor in Pennsylvania history, who eliminated a $4.2 billion budget deficit and balancing three budgets, without raising income taxes, he said.

The governor has also delivered historic tort and prevailing wage reforms and reduced unemployment by using our vast natural resources in the Marcellus Shale to spur private sector job creation, Pitman said.

Guzzardi said, “I have met Tom Corbett and he is not dynamic or energetic. He has no ideas and a very bland personality.”

Robert Guzzardi

Robert R. Guzzardi

When Corbett first ran for governor, he was looking forward to good things, he said.

“There were high hopes in 2010 with a Republican governor and a Republican General Assembly,” he said. “The Republican base was fooled: ‘Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice; shame on me.’”

In 2013, Corbett signed a multi-billion dollar highway construction bill paid for by increases in traffic ticket fines, driver license fees and an additional 28-cent per gallon tax, he said.

“Tom Corbett has broken his promises on ‘No New Taxes; No New Fees,’ which is what he said to the grassroots base to get elected in 2010,” he said. “The gas tax was bigger than anything Ed Rendell ever thought of proposing.”

Guzzardi said the governor failed to deliver on any grassroots issue, including Voter ID, which Republicans in other states have figured out how to implement and he failed to confront the unions on pensions funding , which will impact every school district and every municipality.

In a separate poll of 717 both Democrat and Republican registered voters, 60 percent said Corbett did not deserve reelection, compared to his 53 percent approval rating among GOP voters, he said.

Both Corbett and Guzzardi lose to each of the three leading Democratic candidates for governor, Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz, state Treasurer Robert M. McCord and former state secretary of revenue Thomas W. Wolf.

Against Schwartz, who represents wealthy liberal suburbs north of Philadelphia, Corbett was at 35 percent to her 44 percent. The congresswoman beat Guzzardi 42 percent to 33 percent.

Against McCord, who was just endorsed by the union representing Hershey workers, Corbett was at 36 percent to McCord’s 48 percent. The state treasurer beat Guzzardi 43 percent to 31 percent.

Against Wolf, a graduate of both Dartmouth College, the University of London and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Corbett was chosen by 34 percent of respondents versus 41 percent choosing Wolf. Guzzardi was the choice of 30 percent of the respondents to 38 percent for Wolf.

Charlie Gerow, the CEO of Harrisburg-based Quantum Communications and a member of American Conservative Union board of directors, said Guzzardi or any other challenger will have a difficult time defeating Corbett for the nomination.

Corbett’s decision to increase revenues put the state on sounder financial footing, but there would be short-term political cost, he said. “The important thing is that Governor Corbett did what he said he would do: cut state spending, or at least get it under control.”

When the Republican State Committee meets in early February, it will unanimously or nearly unanimously endorsed Corbett, the former aide to President Ronald W. Reagan said.

“There will then be a primary in May, if this person, who is talking about running can actually get the signatures to get on the ballot, and Governor Corbett will win that primary handily,” he said. The GOP primary is May 20.

Corbett will then beat, the Democrat, who survives that party’s difficult primary contest, he said.

Although, the state has a history of electing Republican governors, it is never easy, he said. There are one million more Democrats than Republicans in the state, where the GOP relies on the ‘T’ formation, the conservative concentrations in the middle of the state combined with the state’s northern border.

Gerow said that in the four decades, since Pennsylvania has allowed governors to serve more than one term, no governor has ever been defeated for reelection.

Chris Stigall, who hosts a morning drive talk show on Philadelphia’s WPHT 1210-AM, said Corbett is the most sincerely apolitical politician he has ever met. “That should be a compliment. That should be refreshing.”

stigall-chris-dl

Stigall said his listeners are the governor’s most motivated supporters, but for reasons he cannot figure out, Corbett has stayed off his show and off his station.

The problem is that Corbett inability or unwillingness to play the political game hurts his agenda, he said.

“Democrats are foaming at the mouth to take him on,” he said.

“Polls are all over the board.  It’s such a crowded Democrat field, you have to bet on the money candidate, in my view,” he said. “Schwartz is the monied favorite right now, but there’s a huge business community in Philadelphia behind McCord.”

Corbett’s best bet is if Schwartz gets the nomination, he said.

“The woman is a flame-throwing liberal with a rich history in the abortion industry,” the talk show host and former intern for David Letterman said. “In a non-presidential election year, turnout in the cities will be low. Moderate Democrats, if there’s such a thing anymore, and certainly Republicans have no appetite for Schwartz.”

Professor John Johannes, who teaches political science at the Villanova University, said Corbett’s problem is the perception that he is disconnected from regular folks.

“Corbett did little, probably close to nothing, to break free from the popular view, documented in the polls, that Republicans are not sympathetic to the common person, are extremist and uncompromising, and are unduly influenced by interest groups,” he said. “That’s like a wet blanket hanging over most Republicans, especially those in unsafe districts and states.”

Corbett lack of political acumen to take up with popular issues and it will hurt him, the professor said.

“Image matters a lot: is an incumbent or a candidate strong, decisive, empathetic, active, and competent.  Corbett failed to project those images,” he said.

“Republicans can do so with clever conservatively-based policy proposals, but for some reason Corbett never got that message – not unlike many Republicans on Capitol Hill in Washington,” he said.

“It’s like standing on the shore and watching the tidal wave coming in. Corbett stood there, and when he did act, it was in the name of fiscal responsibility,” he said.

Johannes said 2014 will not be a wave election, so Corbett will have trouble taking advantage of any national trends in favor of Republicans.

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