Poll reports falling support for Corbett

Corbett trails two Penn affiliates in his campaign for re-election

· December 5, 2013, 7:55 pm

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Tom Corbett’s re-election prospects just keep getting worse.

A poll released last week by a Democratic polling firm indicates that the current Pennsylvania governor now trails every major Democrat challenging him for the statehouse by double digits. The poll was conducted between Nov. 22 and Nov. 25, just before Corbett signed a transportation funding bill that some have called a major achievement for his administration.

Both 1989 Wharton MBA recipient Rob McCord and 1984 Law School graduate John Hanger lead Corbett by 19 points in the poll’s hypothetical general election matchup.

That gives them the two highest spreads among any declared candidates thus far. Former Pennsylvania Auditor General and state Sen. Jack Wagner leads Corbett by 20 points, though he has not declared his candidacy. Wagner said last month that he would decide whether or not to run by the end of 2013.

When the firm, Public Policy Polling, last polled state voters in March, Corbett trailed various Democrats by up to 11 points.

Popular resentment of Corbett makes McCord an appropriate choice for voters, McCord spokesperson Mark Nevins said.

“Out of all the candidates in the race or rumored to be in the race, only one of them has actually been taking on Governor Corbett on a regular basis,” Nevins said. “All the other candidates are talking about it, but Treasurer McCord has taken on Governor Corbett on a range of issues.”

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Nevins pointed to McCord’s role as Pennsylvania treasurer, where he opposed liquor and lottery privatization, and refused to authorize payments to contractors that he viewed as irresponsible.

“Probably the biggest contrast in the campaign is between Treasurer McCord and Governor Corbett,” he said. “At the end of the day what voters really want is a change in the Governor’s office.”

The view of the 2014 election as a referendum on Corbett is bolstered by the relative anonymity of many current challengers. Though 74 percent of Pennsylvanians indicated that they are “not sure” if they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Hanger, he still wins a matchup with Corbett by nearly 20 points.

Name recognition among the Democrats competing in the May 2014 primary ranges from 25 percent to 42 percent for the most recognized candidate currently in the race, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.).

Hanger leads Corbett among independent voters by 39 points, the most of any candidate. Hanger cited the fact that he is the only candidate who received over 50 percent of support in a hypothetical matchup with Corbett, calling the poll “good news for our campaign.”

“The goal of any campaign is to be above 50 percent,” he said. “You can’t fool the people all the time, and Governor Corbett has done so many things over the last two-and-a-half years that have just failed.”

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Hanger pointed to Corbett’s job-creation record and cuts to education and healthcare spending — specifically his refusal to expand the state’s Medicaid program as part of Obamacare — as reasons he has lost support among voters.

Hanger also touted his pledges to reform the state’s marijuana laws and crack down on failing public charter schools as advantages for his campaign.

“The marijuana issue is becoming really transformative,” Hanger said. “Election day is hiring and firing day for politicians. And these unjust laws were put in place by elected officials, and the only way to change them is to change the elected officials or make it clear to those who are in office that they must change these laws in order to keep their jobs.”

Corbett’s unpopularity has led some to call for another Republican to challenge the incumbent for the party’s nomination. The PPP poll tested several other Republicans, such as U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.), who performed better than Corbett against several current Democrats in the race.

Though some Pennsylvanians have called for a competitive GOP primary, a successful primary challenge to an incumbent governor is a rare occurrence.

“Tom Corbett’s situation just keeps getting worse when it was already pretty darn bad,” PPP President and CEO Dean Debnam said in a press release. “It may be that the only chance Republicans have to hold onto this office next year is for him to step aside.”

However, Corbett’s campaign feels that the poll does not tell the whole story.

The poll demonstrates “how concerned our Democratic opponents are about the momentum Governor Corbett has received after his big legislative win last month,” Corbett’s Campaign Manager Mike Barley said in a statement. “I assume that is why they had their Democratic polling firm release this survey as they desperately attempt to change the narrative.”

However, Barley added that polls will have more meaning when “each campaign has an opportunity to actually discuss their opinions on the differing issues and their vision for moving Pennsylvania forward.”

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