Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Race of the Day- Pennsylvania Governor

42 Days Until Election Day

Status: Republican Incumbent
2012 Presidential Result: Blue State (East)

Outlook: Likely Democrat

While I wish it were not the case, some long-standing political trends seem to be on the verge of ending in the Keystone State. It has been unheard of for an incumbent Governor to lose a reelection bid in the state, but the incumbent this year has been significantly down in the polls from the start of the race. Typically, the Governors get reelected and then the other party is voted in to take a turn when the office opens up, and usually the Governor belongs to the opposite party as the President. Streaks are perhaps made to be broken though.

Republican Tom Corbett ascended to the Governorship from the position of the Commonwealth's Attorney General in 2010 by several points. While people never really considered him as Presidential quality, Corbett had been around public service and politics for a long time and was expected to fare pretty well as Governor. For a variety of reasons though, Corbett has struggled in public opinion during his time as Governor, and his bid for reelection, alongside incumbent Lt. Governor Jim Cawley, looks like an uphill struggle. Criticism of Corbett's role as Attorney General in the Penn State Jerry Sandusky scandal was one of the things that earned him much criticism since taking over as Governor, although an official report has since cleared him of any wrongdoing.

This general election featuring an unpopular incumbent against a wealthy businessman opponent is similar in many ways to the Pat Quinn vs. Bruce Rauner race in Illinois, although the parties are reverse. Current polls show that Corbett is in even more trouble though, and of all the incumbent Governors facing the voters this fall, he might be the most vulnerable. While current Governors from both sides of the aisle, are unpopular across the country, I am somewhat at a loss as to what Corbett did specifically to have the voters sour on him so much. The midterm electorate may favor Republicans, but Democrats have shown they know how to get out their vote in Pennsylvania over the past decade plus as well.

Corbett has faced critics from the left and the right, and might have been very vulnerable to a party challenge. However, one never materialized after a Tea Party candidate was knocked off the ballot due to a financial disclosure error. The incumbent would win renomination unopposed, but many Republicans were probably wishing that he could have seen the writing on the wall and passed on a bid for another term, leaving the GOP in a better position for the fall campaign.

Sensing vulnerability in the officeholder, a bunch of Democrats lined up to run for the nomination, as would another pack in the May primary for Lt. Governor. That victory went to Michael Stack, a State Senator from Philadelphia. He would be paired with Tom Wolf, the somewhat unlikely landslide winner of the Gubernatorial primary in the general election against Corbett and Cawley.

In many ways, Wolf is an unconventional candidate. A former Peace Corps volunteer, he would go on to work in his family's business, amassing much personal fortune, and served as Secretary of Revenue in the Administration of Ed Rendell, Pennsylania's last Democrat Governor. Wolf had wanted to run in 2010 but passed and in 2014 launched his first bid for office.

There were other better known candidates in the field however, and much like Rauner did in Illinois, Wolf would have to spend a tremendous amount of money on television advertising, which generated hard feelings in the primary among all the candidates. Some would eventually withdraw from the race. Philadelphia area Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, who many had expected would eventually be the nominee, would find herself trailing Wolf by a large margin in the polls, once his tv campaign kicked in. She would eventually finish a distant second, not far in front of State Treasurer Robert McCord. Former State Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen McGinty would finish off the medal stand in single digits. By the time of the primary voting, Wolf was considered a heavy favorite, but his overwhelming 40 point win, capturing nearly 58 percent of the vote in a race with four credible candidates was pretty impressive.

As the general election began, Republicans held on to hope that Wolf would eventually begin to falter in the eyes of the votes. While the candidate has campaigned as a mild mannered do-gooder, to many, he definitely is a "Wolf" in sheep's clothing who would bring about higher taxes and a much more expansive and expensive state government. Nonethless, Wolf has continued to lead Corbett in all polls by points outside of the margin of error. Clearly, the incumbent needs something dramatic to happen to save his job.

I do believe it is possible that this race will get closer in the final days, as disgruntled Republicans will find their way home to begrudgingly support Corbett over the uncertainty of a Wolf Administration. It is hard to see a path to victory though for the Republican at this point. Maybe something can happen in a debate to shake things up. Before last night's Chicago Bears Monday Night Football victory, I did watch a bit of a debate between the two candidates that took place at a Business Chamber dinner and it was definitely a pro-Corbett crowd. The Governor seemed to be engaged and forceful in defending his record in trying to win reelection. Wolf seemed a bit subdued and perhaps made a couple gaffes. Time will tell if any momentum is shifting, but there may not be a ton of time left.

Leading in the polls throughout, Wolf has been criticized for a lack of specificity in his plans and proposals for Pennsylvania. It may very well be that he is playing prevent defense and trying to run out the clock at this point. That is always a risky strategy, in sports or politics, but sometimes a candidate is up by enough that it works out for them anyway.

Corbett campaign link:


Gubernatorial races predicted thus far: 13 D (1 Safe, 5 Likely, 4 Leans, 3 Tossup) , 15 R (4 Safe, 5 Likely, 6 Leans)
Overall totals predicted thus far: 20 D, 22 R (Democrat net gain of 1)


At 6:42 AM, Anonymous Conservative Democrat said...

Wolf by 19 points: 57%-38%.


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