TribLIVE

| Politics

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Corbett banks on reversal in governor's race

Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review - Gov. Tom Corbett listens to questions from reporters at a goundbreaking ceremony to mark the start of a $550 million, 13-mile expansion project on the Turnpike's Southern Beltway in Bulger, Washington County on Monday, May 12, 2014.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Justin Merriman  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Gov. Tom Corbett  listens to questions from reporters at a goundbreaking ceremony to mark the start of a $550 million, 13-mile expansion project on the Turnpike's Southern Beltway in Bulger, Washington County on Monday, May 12, 2014.
- Christopher Borick, political science professor at Muhlenberg College in Allentown
Christopher Borick, political science professor at Muhlenberg College in Allentown
- Michael P. Federici of the Mercyhurst University Department of Political Science
Michael P. Federici of the Mercyhurst University Department of Political Science

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Saturday, May 17, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
 

HARRISBURG — Republican Gov. Tom Corbett since March has shifted his position on key issues, possibly to garner support among Democrats and independent voters in the November election, analysts say.

The governor “appears to be taking some opportunities to soften his (conservative) positions on an array of issues,” said Christopher Borick, a political science professor at Muhlenberg College in Allentown.

Corbett opposed medical marijuana but now supports a pilot program. He dropped an appeal of a court ruling against the state's voter ID law and moved from a mandatory to a voluntary work-search requirement for recipients in the state's expanded Medicaid plan.

The shifting positions are not coincidental, said Michael Federici, chairman of the political science department at Mercyhurst College in Erie.

“They are calculated efforts to improve his position in the election,” he said.

Corbett's campaign spokesman, Billy Pitman, countered that these were not campaign-based decisions “but were made in the best interest of the people of Pennsylvania.”

The governor is running unopposed in the GOP primary on Tuesday. The state Republican Party waged a successful legal battle to knock ultra-conservative challenger Bob Guzzardi off the ballot. Among four candidates vying for the Democratic nomination, York businessman Tom Wolf remains the front-runner in a Franklin & Marshall College poll released this week.

No Pennsylvania governor has lost a re-election bid since a constitutional change allowed two terms and voters re-elected the late Gov. Milton Shapp in 1974. Political strategists across the country have pegged Corbett as one of the nation's most vulnerable governors in 2014.

Corbett's turnarounds on Medicaid and limited forms of medicinal marijuana “allow him to be portrayed as more flexible and compassionate,” said J. Wesley Leckrone, a political science professor at Widener University in Chester. The changes appear to be aimed at swing voters, he said.

“Other pivots, such as his proposal for increased education funding and more aid for middle-class college scholarships, allow him to make the case he's not a Tea Party clone,” Leckrone said.

Corbett has not shored up his Republican base, Federici said. Two years of poor performance in public opinion polls suggest he has “a minimal chance of getting re-elected,” he said.

But Alan Brink, a Republican committeeman in Delaware County, believes Corbett is “grossly underrated.”

“When the Democrats sort out their candidates and we know the nominee, he'll look a lot stronger,” said Brink, president of a manufacturing company.

He's not sure Corbett's shifts on issues will make much difference.

It's not clear whether the governor has improved his odds of winning re-election by changing stances, said Jack Treadway, author of a book on state elections who taught political science at Kutztown University.

“Will it work? That is another question. Voters will say, ‘Look at what he did in the past,' ” Treadway said.

Asked whether Corbett has won her over, voter Carol Messinger, 63, a Northampton County Democrat, said: “One hundred percent no. I just think he is one of the worst governors we've had in a very long time.”

Messinger said Corbett's reduction of education funding is a major reason. Then, she said, there's his “horrible handling” of the nearly three-year investigation of child molester Jerry Sandusky, who was convicted in 2012. Corbett began and supervised that investigation as attorney general until January 2011.

If Wolf wins the nomination, Democrats will need to unify to negate attacks on him by challengers Rob McCord, the state treasurer, and U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, said Chris Nicholas, political director for the Pennsylvania Business Council.

Most unions have endorsed McCord, Nicholas said. The fourth Democrat running is former Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Katie McGinty. Wolf might be hurting for campaign money after spending most of his own $10 million on the primary, Nicholas said.

Not according to Corbett, who in a fundraising appeal to Republicans this week said that “President Obama and his special-interest supporters (will be) funding my opponent to the teeth.”

Corbett's best course is to “improve his standing among moderates,” Borick said, “but of course he runs the risk of disappointing conservatives who have mixed feelings about his commitment to their issues.”

Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter. Reach him at 717-787-1405 or bbumsted@tribweb.com.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Stories

  1. Pirates trade for Dodgers 1B/OF Morse, Mariners LHP Happ
  2. Steelers OLB coach Porter teaches as passionately as he played
  3. Marte’s 2 fine defensive plays rescue Pirates in victory over Reds
  4. Inside The Steelers: LB Williams dominates backs-on-backers drill at Latrobe Memorial Stadium
  5. Rossi: Nothing huge, but Huntington helped Bucs
  6. 2014 showing has Steelers RB Harris confident he belongs
  7. Pittsburgh Police motorcycle officer seriously injured in crash
  8. 2 killed in single-vehicle crash in Pittsburgh
  9. Red Onion reunion possibly the last for Hempfield coal mining village
  10. Steelers notebook: Officials discuss new game ball procedures
  11. Proposed 8-story apartment complex called too tall in North Side’s Garden Theater area