With polls showing him the most endangered of any governor seeking re-election in 2014, Pennsylvania's Republican Gov. Tom Corbett will attempt to secure a second term by making his campaign a referendum on Obamacare.
Both supporters of the embattled governor and Corbett said over the weekend that attacking Obamacare will be part of his strategy. The occasion was the 115th annual meeting of the Pennsylvania Society, held at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York.
In remarks before a group of Keystone State participants at the event, combative Corbett declared that "a Washington plan won't work for each of the 50 states."
Corbett contrasted Medicaid and the shift of patients to it required by Obamacare with his own "Healthy Pennsylvania Plan," which, Corbett predicted, "is an affordable healthcare plan for all Pennsylvanians."
Corbett and the Republican-controlled state legislature were able to bring about this program, the governor told the audience, "Because we didn’t raise taxes." He went on to emphasize that he not only erased a $4.25 billion deficit but was able to cut $385 million in taxes annually.
Many Republicans at the Pennsylvania Society who spoke to Newsmax agreed that public outrage with Obamacare would help the governor's underdog bid for re-election.
"Pennsylvanians are really focused on Obamacare," Republican Rep. G.T. Thompson told Newsmax after Corbett's remarks. "Along with the cancellations; the cost of healthcare under Obamacare is being felt at the hospitals in my district. With an additional $200,000 a year in fees it is facing under Obamacare, the Mount Nittany Medical Center [in State College, Pa.] has some real problems. For some of the rural hospitals, this can be a dealbreaker.
"What Nancy Pelosi said about Congress having to pass the Affordable Care Act in order to see what's in it is coming true now," Thompson said. "And right now, what is happening under Obamacare is in the hearts and minds of Pennsylvanians."
In discussing the strategy of "Corbett vs. Obamacare," some Keystone State Republicans cautioned that it would work best if the governor ends up facing the Democrat he and his supporters clearly want to run: far-left Rep. Allyson Schwartz of Montgomery County, who was an early congressional player in the enactment of Obamacare and wrote several of its key provisions.
"Gov. Corbett will run against Obamacare and that strategy can work if his opponent is Schwartz,” said James Broussard, political science professor at Lebanon Valley College and a veteran conservative activist. "But if the Democrats nominate Rob McCord, the governor will have some problems."
State Treasurer McCord is a Democrat known for securing government reform measures by working with Republican legislators. A graduate of Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania, the 54-year-old McCord has many admirers in the state business community.
Most polls show Corbett trailing any of the eight Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls and, against some of them, he trails by double-digits. A Public Policy Polling survey
released last month showed him 15 points behind Schwartz and 19 behind McCord. The survey put Corbett's approval rating at 24 percent, making him the least popular governor in the 43 states in which PPP has polled.
This is largely due to the fact that the spending cuts Corbett oversaw to balance the state budget have upset many who benefited from government programs. In addition, state sources agree, the scandal surrounding Penn State and now-jailed former Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky has never gone away and Corbett suffers because he seemed to move slowly to prosecute while state attorney general.
But no one writes Corbett off. When Newsmax caught up with him at the Waldorf Astoria Saturday night, we asked whether he was in fact making his re-election race a referendum on Obamacare.
"What this campaign will be about most is getting the voters to know me and what I stand for," Corbett said, adding, "What you say will be a part of the process."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newmax.
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