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State Republican Party chairman confident Corbett will win re-election

| Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014, 12:04 a.m.

HERSHEY — President Obama's failed policies will be a “millstone around the neck” of Democratic candidates in the November election, and voters will re-elect Gov. Tom Corbett despite his low public approval ratings, state Republican Party Chairman Rob Gleason said on Friday.

“To say the Democrats will beat Tom Corbett, that's a stretch,” Gleason told the Tribune-Review as party members awaited a speech at the annual Lincoln Day Dinner by former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a former Republican National Committee chairman.

At the state party's Winter Meeting on Saturday, Gleason expects members to endorse Corbett of Shaler and Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley of Bucks County, probably by a unanimous vote. Gleason considers a potential challenge to Corbett in the May 20 primary by conservative attorney Bob Guzzardi of Montgomery County as no threat.

“It won't hurt him,” Gleason said. “Anyone can run for office. (Guzzardi) has every right to do what he wants.”

“Jim (Cawley) and I, with your help, are going to win again,” Corbett told Republican committee members.

Guzzardi was at the hotel where the party is meeting, but said he won't participate. He intended to try to garner support.

“I stand against everything the party stands for,” Guzzardi said. “I'm running against the party. If (Gleason) thinks I'm a non-factor, maybe he's right. But we will find out.”

Barbour said, “were here to win in November....Those who seek purity in our candidates forget that in politics, purity is the enemy of victory.”

Among Democrats vying to take on Corbett, Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski is expected to drop out and endorse state Treasurer Rob McCord on Monday. That will leave a field of seven. Pawlowski's spokesman declined to comment.

Obama's signature health care bill and the president's “anti-coal and anti-fossil fuel” policies will hurt Democrats in November, Gleason contended, though he agreed the Democratic nominee will be formidable because of the Democrats' 1.3 million-voter registration edge.

“Tom made the right choice; he rejected (Obamacare,)” Gleason said.

As the former attorney general, Corbett joined an unsuccessful lawsuit to block the federal health care law. He resisted the law's plan to expand Medicaid in Pennsylvania, proposing instead to use additional money for Medicaid to buy private insurance for the poor. The government is reviewing his request.

Democratic Party spokesman Marc Eisenstein said the election is “100 percent about Tom Corbett.”

Voters will reject Corbett for cutting education funding, refusing to fully expand Medicaid and for Pennsylvania's ranking as 48th among the states in job growth, Eisenstein said.

Many national analysts peg Corbett as the most vulnerable incumbent governor, he said.

Gleason said it makes little difference which Democrat emerges from the primary election. But he noted that U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz of Montgomery County has the most experience in elective office; she once ran statewide for the U.S. Senate, and “she knows the issues.”

Schwartz leads the field in numerous polls.

“If the election were held today, a Democrat would win,” said Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills.

Said Gleason: “I wish the polls were higher, and I wish the polls were better (for Corbett).”

Dick Stewart, chairman of the Central Pennsylvania Caucus, the party's largest contingent, said the Democratic candidates for governor are “a blur” to him.

“I can't see a difference between them,” Stewart said. “They are all going to appeal to the radical part of the Democratic Party that they call progressive.”

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

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