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Tom Corbett is suddenly alone

| Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

It is often said that it is lonely at the top, and suddenly it has gotten a whole lot lonelier for Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett. If he looked to his left and then to his right, he would no longer see Ohio and New Jersey buttressing the Keystone State on two of the great social issues of our times.

Corbett has rejected the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion plan, offering his own version that critics say will delay much-needed care, even if eventually approved. He could count on Ohio for moral support — until last week. But John Kasich is the latest in what is now nearly a dozen Republican governors to lead his state into the ObamaCare plan.

Kasich defeated the far-right tea party elements of his own party, contending that it was good for Ohio, based upon the economic growth it will bring and his own Christian compassion. He called it “a matter of life and death” for the 300,000 Ohioans who now will receive care under Medicaid.

In Pennsylvania, instead of accepting Medicaid expansion as offered, which is free to the state for the first three years, the Corbett administration added its own twists. This means that health care will not be available to as many as 500,000 Pennsylvanians starting Jan. 1, pending negotiation of these changes.

And one proposed change requires Pennsylvanians making as little as one-half the federal poverty level — under $6,000 per year — to pay premiums. This might be a political bone thrown to the far-right, being just the kind of mean-spirited message that crowd salivates over, but it is beneath the good citizens of the commonwealth.

Looking in the other direction, New Jersey is suddenly gone in the battle against same-sex marriage. Last week, Republican Gov. Chris Christie abandoned the fight after the state Supreme Court denied his attempt to put gay marriage on hold pending his appeal.

In Pennsylvania, the same-sex marriage issue has gone from bad to worse. The governor's lawsuit opposing gay marriage has been compounded by incendiary public misstatements, raising the ire of a powerful voting bloc that includes gay voters and their families, friends and supporters.

As his re-election approaches, Corbett faces low poll numbers but a scattered Democrat field. Those self-serving threatening voices from the radical right could keep him from moving toward the center, inviting doom, blocking his path to survival.

With Ohio and New Jersey and their Republican governors refusing to cave to the demands of the extreme minority, and abandoning divisiveness, it is getting awfully lonely for Pennsylvania. But the governor can change that and possibly his political fortunes.

Joseph Sabino Mistick, a lawyer, law professor and political analyst, lives in Squirrel Hill (SabinoMistick@aol.com).

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