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How Corbett could still win

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The federal government approved a plan by Gov. Tom Corbett that provides health coverage to at least 500,000 Medicaid-eligible Pennsylvanians.

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Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

HARRISBURG — It runs against the grain, no question. But here's how Republican Gov. Tom Corbett could be re-elected in November and make a historic comeback.

It's a theory, of course. Nine of 10 Capitol insiders would tell you Democrat Tom Wolf will win. Despite tightening of late, statewide polls show it's Wolf's race to lose.

Since governors have been able to seek two terms, every governor since Democrat Milton Shapp has been re-elected. If Corbett loses, he'd be the first incumbent to do so in more than four decades.

For one, there needs to be low voter turnout statewide, especially in Philadelphia, where the most Democrats in the state live. Republicans are good at getting out the GOP vote even in unexciting elections like this one. There's no presidential race, no big draw other than Wolf-Corbett (yawn).

President Obama's unpopularity continues to play out on health care and the “war on coal.”

Corbett needs to define Wolf before Wolf really defines himself further.

Yes, Wolf spent more than $10 million in the primary. People really liked his TV ads because he's a nice guy, seems real smart, drives a Jeep despite owning his own furniture distribution company and declined perks as Revenue secretary. But it was superficial and Wolf will be portrayed as a guy who will raise state taxes at every turn.

An unforeseen Wolf implosion would help.

Incumbency is a huge advantage for Corbett, said Joseph DiSarro, chairman of the political science department at Washington & Jefferson College. Asked if Corbett can still win, DiSarro said, “Yes. Without question.”

You will see Corbett announce some bold legislative reform proposals, calling for term limits and per diem reform, his campaign says.

This is the same guy who promised a legislative reform proposal his first day in office and never delivered a substantial one. The same guy who, as a former federal and state prosecutor, squandered what may be the best chance this century for legislative reform.

Nonetheless, it worked in 2010 and may work again now because voters hate the Legislature (collectively) despite usually loving their local guy. They have short memories.

This will go much further than Corbett's 2010 yapping about the “ridiculous” number of state cars and the big spending in Harrisburg.

He actually did take action to chomp a piece of the Legislature's obscene $150 million surplus, vetoing about $65 million from legislative accounts. That forces it to spend down its surplus.

And he did refuse to go along with WAMs (walking around money) for legislative discretionary spending. A couple things in this and past budgets and legislation would still fit some people's definitions of WAMs, but Corbett cut out a lot of the nonsense, which hurt his ability to get things done.

But he had three and a half years to really take on the Legislature and now, in the midst of a campaign, he is doing so.

And despite prosecuting lawmakers for using state tax money for campaigns, he allowed top campaign advisers in the governor's office in meetings with top state aides, creating an appearance problem.

Still, a win is not out of the question.

Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter (717-787-1405 or

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