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In Franklin & Marshall College poll, Gov. Corbett's numbers are down

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Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013, 11:51 p.m.

HARRISBURG — Arlene Miller is a Republican but has reservations about GOP Gov. Tom Corbett.

Miller, 76, of Punxsutawney says Corbett is “wasting a lot of time,” getting sidetracked on proposals such as privatizing the state lottery by giving a British firm a 20-year management contract. He wants to privatize the state liquor stores.

“Privatizing everything? I don't know,” she said. “They keep turning things over to another country.”

Only one in five Pennsylvania voters believes Corbett has performed well enough to warrant a second term, a statewide poll found. The Franklin & Marshall College poll showed Corbett's performance rating lower than former Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell and ex-Republican Gov. Tom Ridge at this point in their terms — even lower than President Obama, whose popularity hit an all-time low of 41 percent unfavorability in an NBC/Wall Street Journal national poll this week.

The Pennsylvania poll of 628 registered voters, conducted last week, revealed one in three Republicans rates Corbett's performance “excellent” or “good,” said G. Terry Madonna, the poll director.

“We're confident (voters) will support him for re-election,” said Corbett's campaign manager, Mike Barley. “He said he was going to reduce taxes and create jobs, and he's done that.”

Corbett hasn't formally announced his candidacy.

“He's got to change the narrative,” Madonna said, “and that means doing something in a major way that's positive.”

Wes Leckrone, a political science professor at Widener University, agreed: “Barring any change to the status quo, I don't think he can pull out of the tailspin to win next year.”

The poll's error margin is 3.9 percentage points. Madonna said he “weighted” it to approximate voter registration: 50 percent Democrats, 37 percent Republicans and 13 percent independent. Barley disagrees with the poll's use of registered voters instead of likely voters.

Republicans appear divided on Corbett in the poll: By a 44-42 percent margin, they said he should not run again. Fourteen percent are undecided. That question used a smaller sample of 231 registered voters, putting its margin of error at 6.4 percentage points.

Despite dissatisfaction within party ranks, Corbett will garner most Republican votes, Leckrone said.

“The question would be, who would really challenge him in the primary? It doesn't seem like anyone wants to run against him. At the end of the day, Republicans still fall in line behind their candidates,” Leckrone said.

Another potential hurdle is whether an anti-incumbency mood from the federal government shutdown continues next year. Corbett and other state candidates could suffer voter backlash even though they have nothing to do with what happens in Washington, Leckrone said.

The national poll found 63 percent of voters want to replace their own member of Congress.

In Pennsylvania, Obama rates better than he did in the NBC poll: 50 percent of voters have a favorable view of the president and 44 percent, unfavorable. Five percent are undecided.

Obama's signature health care law could help Corbett even though, as a former attorney general, Corbett sued to block the law.

“Perhaps Medicaid reform, if that goes through, will help him,” Leckrone said.

The Supreme Court last year upheld the law but allowed states to decide whether to expand Medicaid. Corbett is seeking federal approval of his plan to use federal money to provide privately purchased insurance to hundreds of thousands of uninsured residents and require recipients to pay a premium and seek work or job training.

A plan similar to Corbett's won approval of 72 percent of voters in the Franklin & Marshall poll; 18 percent oppose it and 10 percent are unsure.

If approved, the idea might give Corbett a campaign argument that he's a bipartisan governor who tailored a plan for Pennsylvania based on “free-market principles,” Leckrone said.

Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter.

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