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McNickle: A nose-holder re-election for Corbett?

| Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013, 7:22 a.m.

The good news for Gov. Tom Corbett as he officially bows his re-election campaign this week is that because so many Democrats are running (at last count it was 735; ahem), the eventual nominee will be battered, bruised and quite possibly broke for the general election campaign.

The bad news for Mr. Corbett, the Republican of Shaler, is that Democrats might just be the least of his worries as he begins the yearlong slog to win a second term.

Oh, indeed, there are some polls indicating Corbett should be a one-term Tom and not even bother embarrassing himself by running again. The Franklin & Marshall College poll, released Friday, suggests a plurality of Republicans (44-42 percent with 14 percent undecided) think the governor, a former federal and state prosecutor, should hang it up.

But the numbers, under prosecutory scrutiny, simply aren't credible. It's a quite small sample (231) of registered voters (versus the more accurate cohort of likely voters) with a very high margin of error (6.4 percentage points). More astute political analysts throw out such results.

Still, things are far from hunky-dory for Corbett among his base. The chatter on the street can be incredibly unflattering. And that's among folks who backed Corbett with not only their votes but their wallets.

There's a “tone-deafness” about him, one stalwart Republican keeps telling me. He was elected to effect fundamental change but the result pretty much has been “a mish-mash of mush,” he says.

Another wag regularly engaged goes even further: “Is Pennsylvania doomed to suffer from wimpy Republican governors?”

It's a direct reference to Corbett's unwillingness to broach, let alone mount the bully pulpit for, such basic and necessary reforms as right to work, barring teacher and transit strikes and fixing Pennsylvania's absolutely abysmal business tax climate, which by one measure has a business tax rate more than 45 percent higher than the national average and pretty much dead last among the 50 states.

And there's the prevailing wage, which over the last half century has needlessly inflated the price of public projects costing in excess of $25,000 by hundreds of millions of dollars by paying above-market wages (i.e., union-dictated wages).

A proposal now wending its way through the Legislature to “reform” it — by raising the project threshold to $100,000 — amounts to what one organization calls a “fig leaf” — and what Mr. Wag calls a “wimp-out” over “an egregious money waster (that) should be eliminated altogether.”

And while allowing it to be tied to passage of Corbett's proposed 28-cent-per-gallon tax hike on the wholesale price of gasoline and diesel fuel, a surefire economic retarder, might be the convivial road to “compromise” to pols, it's the kind of conniving larceny that conservatives should not abide.

All that said, and given that Democrats are such a fractured mess, Corbett might just win re-election, paced by a base holding its nose with one hand and pressing the touchscreen with the other, hoping the tiger changes its stripes but, in its heart, resigned to continued disappointment.

Colin McNickle is Trib Total Media's director of editorial pages (412-320-7836 or cmcnickle@tribweb.com).

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