Politico: Corbett’s Vulnerability Has Created a Democratic Frenzy

How Pennsylvania's unpopular governor can win re-election: If Democrats carve each other up before challenging him.

One paradox of Tom Corbett’s deep, deep unpopularity with Pennsylvania voters is that vulnerability has enticed a great many Democrats into next year’s gubernatorial race—creating a “free for all” that could destroy the party’s chances to capture the seat.

At least, that’s what Politico suggests today:

With no clear front-runner in the crowded field and one candidate pledging to drop $10 million on the primary, the May contest to choose Democrats’ challenger to Corbett has the potential to become the most competitive, costly and contentious Democratic primary of 2014. If the eventual nominee emerges from the free-for-all damaged and short on cash, it could be Corbett’s only hope of survival.

Already on the long list of candidates are Rep. Allyson Schwartz; state Treasurer Rob McCord; businessman Tom Wolf; former state environmental protection secretary Katie McGinty; Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski; John Hanger, another former state environmental protection secretary; Lebanon County Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz; and businessman Max Myers.

A contentious and costly Democratic primary would play into Corbett’s hands. The governor plans to raise $30 million for his reelection, and his team is hoping he’ll face a bruised — and broke — Democratic nominee come the end of May.

Observers say the race will pick up in January, when end-of-year financial reports will help sort out the field. At the moment, Schwartz and McCord are seen as the two to watch, given their fundraising prowess and record of winning elections.

This still seems an unlikely scenario. Right now, Corbett doesn’t even have the support of most Republicans. That probably will change when a Democratic nominee comes into view; a fair number of Republicans will fall in line. (Though some may just stay home rather than bother.) But where’s the evidence that Corbett can pick up any independent votes at this point? It seems impossible that any Democrats would cross party lines to vote for him.

We’re believers that a tough nominating process can benefit a candidate: If he or she has been tested during the primary process, that will make them much more effective during the general election. Anybody who wins the nomination will have an army of open checkbooks behind them, no matter how bruising the primary. Instead of getting a broken opponent, Corbett’s unpopularity may create the opportunity for that rival to be battle-tested when the real fight begins.