Barring some disastrous circumstances, I can’t really see myself voting for Tom Corbett’s re-election in November.
Then again, you probably can’t either. Polls consistently show the Republican governor down about 20 points or more to Tom Wolf, his Democratic challenger, and while there’s plenty of time to narrow the gap, it’s hard to imagine that Corbett has any news up his sleeve that will suddenly make him attractive to an electorate that’s found him so unattractive for so long.
Understanding Corbett’s predicament is easy: He didn’t prioritize education the way he should’ve — in Philly, he seemed more interested in breaking the teachers union than in educating kids.The state economy is anemic, even by the anemic standards of post-recession America. His fracking policy seems designed to serve energy companies instead of the people of his state. It’s not a great record.
And then there’s this:
Still, it’s easy to imagine scenarios under which the last four years could’ve been worse. My home state of Kansas, for example, has been getting an example of what happens when the GOP id is unleashed — and it’s left almost nobody happy.
So in the interest of fairness — and just to see if I could — I've scrounged up five reasons Tom Corbett might deserve re-election. Maybe.
• PENSIONS: Now, Corbett’s insistence on slashing public sector pensions is probably just another way of trying to, you know, slash public sector unions, which tend to offer political muscle to Democrats. Still, there’s plenty of evidence that those pensions are as unsustainable as he says. If we want a state government capable of acting in the public interest, we’re going to have to get that situation resolved. On this issue, at least, Corbett has been on the side of angels.
• THE TRANSPORTATION BILL: A state’s economy is sometimes only as strong as its ability to get goods to market and employees to work. But Corbett’s signature on last year’s transportation bill — which funds SEPTA, and spends billions on rebuilding roads and bridges across the state — wasn’t a given. He’s taken a hard hit inside the Republican Party, in fact, because the bill raises gasoline taxes. Which is too bad, because the bill was a good thing for Pennsylvania. Sometimes you have to spend money to fulfill the state’s duties properly.
• HE DOESN’T STAY COMMITTED TO LOST CAUSES: We are, admittedly, getting into “backhanded compliment” territory here. But in an era of remarkable political polarization, Corbett has proven he knows when it’s time to walk away from a fight. He shouldn’t have supported Voter ID or resisted gay marriage — but when judges ruled against the state’s stance on each issue, Corbett chose not to appeal, saving the state a ton in legal bills, and sparing us unending debate when pretty much everybody was ready to move on.
• HE’S NOT DARYL METCALFE. Quick: Name one other Republican in Harrisburg. If you can, it’s probably Metcalfe, the GOP’s designated Smug White Christian Warrior. Whatever his faults, Corbett didn’t seem like he was trying to exploit the divisions among Pennsylvanians for mean-spirited fun and profit.
• WHEN HE GOES, THE HOUSE GOP WILL SHARPEN ITS KNIVES FOR THE DEMOCRATIC GOVERNOR: This comes from my colleague Patrick Kerkstra, who points out the D.C. Republicans have set the blueprint for dealing with a Democratic chief executive: Obstruct, obstruct, obstruct. Tom Wolf’s a nice guy, and he seems to have a lot of the right priorities, but even he will need to get bills passed. The House GOP — filled with characters like Metcalfe — is already oppositional in nature: If Corbett loses, it will actually get to be the opposition. It’s not going to be fun.
So there you are. Five reasons to vote for Tom Corbett, and three of them amount to: “He’s not the worst Republican in Pennsylvania.” When you’re down 20 points in the polls, that is sometimes the best anybody can say.
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