Ain't no mountain low enough for Tom Corbett
William J. Green is a veteran Pittsburgh public relations consultant and onetime aide to former Pennsylvania Gov. Dick Thornburgh. Green spoke to the Trib regarding Gov. Tom Corbett's re-election prospects.
Q: You've made it clear recently that you believe Gov. Corbett has an uphill climb ahead of him to be re-elected. Do you still feel that way in the wake of the Legislature approving the $2.3 billion transportation funding bill he backed?
A: (The transportation legislation) wasn't just him. There was the construction industry, the asphalt industry, anyone involved with roads, you had the mass-transit agencies and labor behind it. You had (former Gov. Ed) Rendell come in and back it. I'm not saying the governor didn't earn (the legislative victory). He wanted it, he worked hard for it. I just don't think it mitigates (his re-election chances) all that much.
Q: The transportation legislation is too little, too late?
A: I don't think it's too little but I do think it's too late. Had he done this in his first year, he would be paving roads this year. If you pass it in the first year you get the money, you do the planning in the second year, you do construction in the third year and in the fourth year you cut ribbons. Every governor I know has done it this way.
Q: What positives can Corbett take from the transportation legislation that might help his re-election bid?
A: He will have the ability, the bragging rights, to say, “You know of the three major issues I wanted in the fall, I got infrastructure.” That is not insignificant. There is money from the gas tax that goes to local municipalities for roads and bridges, so everybody gets some of this. The problem is that you are going to have the opposition saying he broke his no-tax pledge. I would argue that a lot of Democrats supported (the transportation bill) and that it's (not a tax), it's a user fee. You can say that's nuance, Green, but it isn't. I mean, if you have a car you are going to pay. And if you don't have a car and you don't need gasoline, you won't pay. So it's truly a user fee in that regard.
Q: Considering that Corbett essentially has delivered on his initial campaign promises, how surprising are his consistently low polling numbers?
A: I've never seen a governor hit the skids like this on anything you can't cite. If you screwed up “X” or “Y” you could say his numbers are down because of those things. But there hasn't been anything like that.
Q: Out of the many potential Democrat challengers, who would represent the greatest obstacle to Corbett's re-election chances?
A: In my mind, that would be either (state Treasurer Rob) McCord or (former state Revenue Secretary Tom) Wolf. Wolf, he has business experience and he's got sufficient money to put up his own campaign. McCord has run statewide and is probably a party favorite. Whichever one of those two emerges as the strongest candidate, if they play on (Corbett's) weaknesses, I'm not optimistic about him getting re-elected. I wish I was. I don't want to come off here as the anti-Tom Corbett. I've known Tom for 25 years probably, and I like him. But I think he has a very large mountain to climb.
Eric Heyl is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7857 or firstname.lastname@example.org