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One great thing about being a political writer is that you get paid to highlight the obvious. For instance, there’s been a spate of stories lately that could all carry the same headline: Corbett Re-Election Bid Faces Obstacles.
In head-to-head polls, Gov. Corbett loses to all of his major Democratic opponents. His job approval rating, according to the latest polls, is in the low 20s. Every time he leaves his office in the Capitol crows perch near his car.
That last part I made up, but the rest is all too true for the Republican governor. I would argue, though, that comparing Corbett to his potential opponents isn’t a good enough test.
Memo to pollsters: in your next poll, try these:
If the election were held today, I would likely vote for…
Tom Corbett….or Hannibal Lecter
Tom Corbett… or Benito Mussolini
or how about
Tom Corbett…. or Charles Manson.
Not to highlight the obvious, but he could beat Manson. Mussolini would lose the rural vote because his name is a turn off. I am not so sure about Lecter. The name sounds like he could be an elder in an evangelical church, which is a plus in swaths of Pennsylvania.
Think of Corbett as a spaceship losing contact with home base. Every day it drifts farther and farther into deep space. Meanwhile, back at ground control, they are furiously trying to reposition him so he remains in proper orbit. It seems a day doesn’t go by where the governor isn’t trotted out to either (a) repudiate with vigor earlier statements he himself made or (b) support programs that have a decidedly centrist appeal.
The repositioning hinges on him being able to correct his rightward tilt and get centered, always a tricky maneuver in deep space. Those sounds you hear are his on-board retrorockets in action.
Just the other day, the governor came out and announced that he was abandoning his long-sought deal to privatize state lottery operations by handing over the multi-billion-dollar enterprise to an English firm in a no-bid contract.
Bad mojo on that one. Off-shoring our lottery? No bid contract? The idea raised a stink when first disclosed. Attorney General Kathleen Kane effectively put a kibosh on it by ruling that such a deal required legislative approval.
Sent to the legislature, the deal was DOA. No one would touch it. It just sat there, rotting, just like Norman Bates’ mother in Psycho. Like Bates, Corbett pretended it was alive. But, Harrisburg knew that when they heard those voices in the upstairs bedroom it was really Corbett just talking to himself.
In addition to its off smell, the proposal came close to hitting the third rail in Pennsylvania politics: Never, ever, do anything that even hints at harming our beloved senior citizens. They may need walkers to make it to the polls, but damnit they vote!
Along those lines, Corbett recently came out in favor of a bill to forbid discrimination against gays when it came to housing, jobs and public accommodations.
“I’ve had people come and talk to me about how they were discriminated against,” Corbett explained. “The federal government has anti-discrimination laws. I believed they covered it.”
That statement strains credulity, Major Tom. The bill in question has been introduced every year for the past 10 and never made it out of committee. The man was attorney general for eight years. And he doesn’t know Pennsylvania lacked an gay anti-discrimination law? Whew.
What’s next on this journey of personal discovery? Perhaps he will find out about poverty.
“I’d had people come and talk to me about how they don’t have enough money to buy food or a decent place to stay,” he will say. “I have to tell you I was shocked. I thought society covered that.”
The retrorockets went into overtime for this one. Polls show most Pennsylvanians favor gay marriage. So, it’s unlikely they are going to support discrimination based on sexual orientation. While Corbett was in orbit, things at home changed. Suddenly, anti-gay is so yesterday.
Besides, since he couldn’t erase the tape, he had to do something to erase that October appearance on Harrisburg TV. Here is the USA Today account of that televised moment:
The Republican made his comment in an interview that aired Friday, responding to a question about a statement made by state attorneys in court documents this summer. In the filing, Corbett administration lawyers compared gay and lesbian couples to children, noting that neither may legally marry in Pennsylvania.
“It was an inappropriate analogy, you know,” Corbett said. “I think a much better analogy would have been brother and sister, don’t you?”
Well, no, actually we don’t.
Corbett’s major problem is that while clearly off course, he lacks the skills to right himself. He’s hopeless at the controls. In the summer, as his approval numbers continued to tank, the mantra among some Republicans was: Let Corbett be Corbett. Send him around the state to explain his policies. It will rebuild his support amongst the people.
Every time he does that he strays into the danger zone called extemporaneous speech and nearly every time he does that it’s Katie-bar-the-door time. His advisers must cringe every time they think of a gubernatorial debate in prime time. Can you imagine what Hannibal Lecter could do in one of those settings? On second thought, maybe we shouldn’t.
The real danger here is that Corbett, realizing his peril, may try to govern. And governing is not his forte.
Stop me before I analogize again. I could try to explain what that looks like. Better, I think, just to show it.