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Wolf leads Corbett by 20 points in first poll since primary

| Monday, June 2, 2014, 1:12 p.m.

HARRISBURG — In the first public poll since the May 20 primary, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf holds a 20-point lead over Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, an independent New Jersey polling firm found.

Rasmussen Reports of Asbury Park, a media company specializing in polling, said Wolf holds a 51 to 31 percentage-point lead over Corbett. A company spokeswoman said Rasmussen does not do “commissioned” polls paid for by clients.

The poll, based on responses from 750 likely Pennsylvania voters, was conducted May 27 and 28 and has an error margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

“Rasmussen is a Republican pollster, but he's very even ... a legitimate pollster,” said Moe Coleman, director emeritus of the University of Pittsburgh Institute of Politics. “If I were the governor, I'd be worried right now.”

As an incumbent, Corbett has built-in advantages, and Coleman said he would not be surprised to see the race tighten before November.

Wolf, 65, defeated three opponents in the Democratic primary, in large part because he spent $10 million of his money and cash he borrowed for a TV advertising blitz that went unchallenged by opponents for nine weeks.

The owner of a York County furniture distribution company, Wolf won in a landslide over seasoned pols Rob McCord, the state treasurer, and U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, both from Montgomery County. Former environmental regulator Katie McGinty of Chester County finished last.

“I'm surprised pretty much by everything that happens,” said Wolf, who would be a newcomer to elected office. He said he takes nothing for granted. “A lot can happen between now and November.”

Corbett, 64, of Shaler has trailed in numerous polls for more than a year. He faced no opposition in the primary; the Republican Party of Pennsylvania knocked conservative Bob Guzzardi off the ballot.

The state's former attorney general and a former U.S. Attorney in Western Pennsylvania, Corbett is considered one of the most vulnerable governors in the country by national analysts.

Corbett's campaign expressed confidence the race will swing into his column.

“When you have special-interest groups and four Democratic opponents spending over $30 million, blatantly lying about Gov. Corbett's record for over three years, of course some backlash is expected,” said Chris Pack, a Corbett campaign spokesman. He was including political nonprofits with Democratic ties that ran ads against Corbett.

Pack said Corbett “has a great story to tell, and it's a story we've just begun telling. And the story is that under Gov. Corbett's leadership, unemployment has gone from 8.1 percent the day he took office to 5.7 percent today. He's also helped to create over 150,000 new private-sector jobs and closed a $4.2 billion deficit — all without raising taxes.

“As we continue telling that story to Pennsylvanians, we have no doubt that Gov. Corbett will be re-elected in November,” Pack said.

Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter. Reach him at 717-787-1405 or bbumsted@tribweb.com.

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