Suburban Philadelphia congresswoman Allyson Schwartz leads the little-known pack of Democrats seeking to knock off Gov. Tom Corbett next year, according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll, as the incumbent Republican's numbers remain in the muck.
The pollsters found Ms. Schwartz, of Montgomery County, would beat Mr. Corbett in a November 2014 matchup 45 percent to 35 percent. Fellow Philadelphia-area Democrat Rob McCord, the state treasurer, would fare similarly against Mr. Corbett at 43 percent to 35 percent.
Quinnipiac found that 52 percent of voters said Mr. Corbett should not be re-elected to a second term, with 32 percent in favor. They also disapproved of his job performance 48 percent to 35 percent, which is just two points better than his all-time low in the survey a year ago.
Democrats are eager to challenge the wounded incumbent, although a bit less than a year until the 2014 primary, the party's voters know little about their candidates. Nearly two-thirds of voters had no opinion of the candidates while 18 percent favored Ms. Schwartz, to 5 percent for former Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen McGinty and 4 percent for Mr. McCord.
A spokesman for the state Democratic Party, Marc Eisenstein, said, "Gov. Corbett is one of America's most unpopular governors because he has cut funding for education, ignored thousands of Pennsylvanians without health care and presided over an economy that has gone from 7th to 41st in job growth all while giving massive tax breaks to donors and special interests."
Responding to the poll, Mr. Corbett's campaign manager, Mike Barley, said the incumbent "is very comfortable running on his record. The governor's record of fiscal stewardship has resulted in the closing of a $4.2 billion deficit, has created 125,000 private sector jobs, has shepherded the growth of the natural gas industry all while shrinking the size of state government and keeping taxes low for citizens in the commonwealth."
In Quinnipiac's last gubernatorial study two months ago, Ms. Schwartz was tied with former congressman and admiral Joe Sestak, but he has since announced he was studying another U.S. Senate run against Republican Pat Toomey. Quinnipiac found the incumbent currently leading Mr. Sestak 42 percent to 37 percent.
Ms. Schwartz leads Mr. Corbett among women 51 percent to 28 percent, while men were close to evenly split. The congresswoman -- as well as Mr. McCord -- led the Republican in almost every demographic breakdown from education to income to region of the state. Mr. Corbett led Ms. Schwartz in only the central part of the state and the increasingly conservative southwest (not including Allegheny County).
Pointing to those findings, Quinnipiac's assistant polling director Tim Malloy said, "Election Day is 17 months away, but Schwartz is in a strong position to become Pennsylvania's first female governor."
Tim McNulty: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1581. Follow the Early Returns blog at earlyreturns.sites.post-gazette.com or on Twitter at @EarlyReturns.