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Corbett campaign ramps up, touts drop in Pennsylvania unemployment rate

| Tuesday, June 25, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett gives a graduation address at Shady Side Academy’s 2013 commencement in Fox Chapel on Friday, June 7, 2013.

Pennsylvania's biggest job growth since 1983 in May is a sign that Gov. Tom Corbett has put the state's economy on the right track, his campaign told supporters on Monday.

An emailed newsletter, titled “Making Progress,” tees off a Department of Labor announcement that last month's unemployment rate dipped to 7.5 percent. That's great news for the state and people who are out of work, campaign manager Michael Barley wrote. He acknowledged the governor “realizes the job is far from over.”

“He is fully committed to ensuring Pennsylvania's future by making our commonwealth a destination for job creators,” Barley wrote. He thanked supporters and said Corbett has “restored fiscal discipline and security to our commonwealth.”

The email is the campaign's second, said John Brabender, a senior strategist for the campaign. Despite Corbett's low poll numbers, it's silly to think he won't run again, Brabender said.

“We are going to be ramping up in the next couple of weeks,” he said of politicking. “We did not want to interfere with the legislation session,” which recesses for summer on June 30.

Corbett has not officially announced his re-election bid. Yet among governors up for re-election in 2014, Corbett probably is the Republican most likely to lose, said Kyle Kondik, a political analyst with the University of Virginia.

“Public polling shows him trailing his possible Democratic opponents by at least high single-digit margins, and even a Republican internal poll from a few months ago showed him losing by double digits,” Kondik said.

A Quinnipiac University poll in early June put Corbett's job approval rating at 35 percent. It showed he would lose to Philadelphia-area Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, who announced her candidacy in April, and to state Treasurer Rob McCord, an unannounced potential candidate.

In a March survey by Public Policy Polling, Corbett received low marks from Republicans and Democrats, primarily for his handling of education funding, the Sandusky child sex abuse scandal at Penn State University and his attempt to privatize the Pennsylvania Lottery.

Other Democratic challengers include York County millionaire Tom Wolf, former Department of Environmental Protection Secretaries John Hanger of Derry Township and Kathleen McGinty of Chester County, and Cumberland County pastor Max Myer.

Yet the Quinnipiac survey found only 27 percent of respondents knew enough about Schwartz to form an opinion (19 percent favorable) and 14 percent knew McCord, who drew a 10 percent favorable rating among them.

Pennsylvania for decades has alternated having one party in the governor's mansion for eight years and then the other party for eight years, Kondik said.

“That's one big historical point that argues in favor of Corbett's re-election. That said, the long line of Democrats seeking to run against Corbett tells us that they think he's highly vulnerable,” he said.

Jeff Brauer, a political scientist with Keystone College, isn't convinced Corbett is in trouble for re-election. The Democrats “have to find a worthy opponent and no one is emerging as that person,” Brauer said.

Salena Zito is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at szito@tribweb.com.

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