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The Most Vulnerable Governor in America in 2014

Why Pennsylvania's Once-Popular Prosecuror Has the Toughest Re-Election Climb


Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett is widely believed to be the most vulnerable governor up for re-election in the 2014 elections.

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

The governor most likely to lose his re-election bid in the 2014 election is widely believed to be Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican who enjoyed broad popularity as the state's top prosecutor but whose job approval has been sliding almost nonstop since his first day in the governor's mansion in 2011.

RelatedList of Primary Dates in 2014

Of the 36 gubernatorial elections in the 2014 election, Pennsylvania's is considered the most likely to result in a change in office-holder. Four Democrats are running for the party's nomination in the May primary. They are Katie McGinty, Tom Wolf, Allyson Schwartz and Rob McCord. Wolf led in public opinion polls conducted in the months leading up to the primary. 

Why Corbett is Having Problems

Since becoming governor in January 2011, Corbett has been described as being out of step with voters on issues they consider to be important: from the economy to fixing the state's crumbling network or roads and bridges and taxing natural-gas drillers operating in Pennsylvania's booming Marcellus Shale region.

But Corbett has also made several critical communication mistakes as both a candidate and governor that appear to have alienated him from moderates and out-of-work Pennsylvanians alike. He has compared same-sex marriage to incest, for example, and claimed during the nation's protracted economic downturn that there were plenty of job available for those who just wanted to work.

On the campaign trail in 2010, Corbett said: "I've literally had construction companies tell me, 'I can't get people to come back to work until … unemployment runs out. The jobs are there, but if we keep extending unemployment, people are going to just sit there."

As recently as 2013, however, Corbett has made a crack about the unemployed.

"The other area is, there are many employers that say we’re looking for people but we can’t find anybody that has passed a drug test, a lot of them. And that’s a concern for me because we’re having a serious problem with that," Corbett said.

These sorts of comments about out-of-work Pennsylvanians have continued to haunt the governor.

Corbett and the Penn State Sex Abuse Scandal

Another big reason Corbett remained unpopular in 2014 is the continued scrutiny of his attorney general office's lengthy investigation into allegations of children being raped by a former Penn State football coach, Jerry Sandusky. 

The investigations into the sex-abuse claims was ongoing when Corbett was the state attorney general running for governor in 2010, and critics have suggested he didn't file charges against Sandusky before the election because the case was certain to envelop a charity whose board members contributed to his campaign as well as the university's legendary and popular football coach, Joe Paterno.

Corbett, however, has said it took 33 months to charge Sandusky - who was eventually convicted of 45 counts of child abuse - because investigators initially had only one accuser willing to testify and they were trying to win a sure conviction.

The attorney general elected after Corbett ascended to the governor's mansion launched an investigation into his office's handling of the case.

Corbett Poll Numbers

Most public opinion polls show Corbett trailing each of his potential Democratic opponents. In a January 2014 poll conducted by Franklin & Marshall College, 62 percent of registered voters indicated they felt Pennsylvania was headed in the wrong direction and only 23 percent felt Corbett deserved re-election.

Voters indicated the state's most important problems were unemployment and the economy, followed by schools and school funding. These finding are also troubled for Corbett's re-election campaign because he has been portrayed as unfriendly to higher education institutions and public schools in the state.

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