Republican activists in Harrisburg for the largest and most significant gathering of Pennsylvania conservatives explained to Newsmax on Friday why embattled Republican Gov. Tom Corbett is facing an uphill battle for re-election.
Corbett, a former state attorney general who was elected governor handily in 2010, has compiled an impressive record of cutting taxes, attracting more than 150,000 new jobs, and reducing state spending for the first time in 40 years.
But almost incredibly, polls show the GOP chief executive losing to any of the four Democratic hopefuls in the May 20 primary.
A recent Franklin & Marshall College Poll showed likely Keystone State voters saying he does not deserve re-election by a margin of 55 percent to 34 percent. Corbett now faces the unpleasant prospect of becoming the first Pennsylvania governor to lose re-election since the state constitution was amended to permit second gubernatorial terms back in 1970.
Many of the more than 750 participants at the 25th annual Pennsylvania Leadership Conference (PLC), where Corbett was scheduled to speak later Friday, told Newsmax that only recently has Corbett been running an aggressive campaign and predicted his poll numbers would improve.
"He has a terrific story to tell, but he hasn't started to tell it until now," James Broussard, Lebanon Valley College political science professor and longtime PLC participant, told Newsmax, noting that Corbett's campaign began running hard-hitting TV spots touting his record a few days ago.
Charles Proctor, West Chester attorney and leader of Chester County Action, said the Corbett public relations offensive "has not been what it should be. It's been too laid back, but now there has been an improvement. His television spots show the governor to be strong and aggressive."
Proctor added that the governor has not been helped by "a lot of speculation over what he may do with the windfall of revenue coming from the Marcellus Shale that is now the largest gas-producing region in the U.S."
Former Rep. Phil English, R-Pa., who has raised significant re-election funds for the governor, said Corbett "has not always convinced people that the sacrifice that has come from his reducing state spending on certain programs has been necessary for Pennsylvania to revive from the recession. He is starting to make that case and his chances are improving, but he has a distance to go."
English said a critical mission for Corbett and his re-election team will be "to draw some bright lines between the Democratic Party and themselves" in the general election campaign.
With five weeks to go before the primary, signs are strong that the Democratic nominee will be multi-millionaire businessman and former state Secretary of Revenue Tom Wolf. Having deployed more than $10 million of his own fortune on a major media broadside, Wolf has 33 percent of likely Democratic primary voters compared to single digits for all his major primary foes, according to the F&M survey released Thursday.
The poll, conducted by veteran Pennsylvania pollster G. Terry Madonna, showed Rep. Allyson Schwartz with 7 percent, state Treasurer Rob McCord with 6 percent, and former state Secretary of Environmental Protection Katie McGinty with 4 percent.
"I think Gov. Corbett's re-election bid can still work," said former U.S. Attorney David Marston, who sought the Republican nomination for governor in 1978. "The Pennsylvania geography works in his favor against almost all Democratic opponents, and most Democrats will also be on the wrong side of key constituency groups such as the National Rifle Association — and that's just for starters!"
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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