Gov. Tom Corbett, left at the podium Tuesday with Frank Noonan, commissioner of the state police, details his law enforcement budget and announces funding for three new classes of state police cadets. Behind the two are, at left, Troopers Greg Brown and Robert Klein and, at right, Cpls. Dave Watts and Chris Murray.
By Timothy McNulty Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Another poll is showing a troubling re-election atmosphere for Gov. Tom Corbett midway through his first term, although he can take some solace in previous incumbents surviving similar numbers.
The latest Quinnipiac University poll shows the governor's approval ratings sliding, with 42 percent of registered Pennsylvania voters disapproving of his job performance to 36 percent approving. That is 2 points worse than a November study, which is a wash statistically but confirms crumbling numbers found by other polls. He had a 38 percent approval rating in a survey released early this month by Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling.
Quinnipiac showed 45 percent of women disapproved of the governor's job performance to 31 percent approving, although men did approve 41 to 37 percent. Fifty-one percent of all voters told pollsters he should not be elected again, to 31 percent saying he should be. That broke down to 54 to 24 percent among women and 48 to 38 percent among men.
"There is no strong base of support for Gov. Corbett among any income or age group or in any region of the state," the pollsters said Tuesday.
In response, Mr. Corbett noted that two predecessors faced similar popularity dips midway through their terms: Tom Ridge and Ed Rendell saw their numbers fade to the 40th percentile in their second years in the governor's mansion. Mr. Ridge pushed welfare reform, and Mr. Rendell faced voter wrath after the legislative pay raise of July 2005.
"We've had very tough choices to make, and the people elected me to make the tough choices," Mr. Corbett said Tuesday. "Sometimes I think that the people that elected me to make the tough choices expected that I would make them against things they were not interested in, and not against what they were interested in."
The poll numbers already have attracted possible Democratic challengers. Former Rendell environmental protection Secretary John Hanger has announced a bid, and others thought to be considering one include state Treasurer Rob McCord, former Delaware County congressman and U.S. Senate candidate Joe Sestak, and current U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz of Montgomery County.
Ms. Schwartz ran fundraising for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the 2012 cycle and has an enticing $2.85 million war chest she could shift into a state campaign.
Another former Rendell administration official, ex-Revenue Secretary Tom Wolf of York County, is studying a run for the Democratic nomination, too, and could announce by March. He planned to run in 2010, when Mr. Corbett would go on to win, but bowed out to focus on his family's construction supply business.
Mr. Wolf, 64, said he brought the company back and could do the same for Pennsylvania.
"We are a great state and could be an even better state," he said. The Corbett administration "is on autopilot and sees politics as a transitional thing that doesn't make much of a difference."
Montgomery County commissioner Bruce Castor plans to challenge Mr. Corbett for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.
"I feel when people take a look at what we have done and the promises I've made, I will survive that [primary] ... and win in November of 2014," Mr. Corbett said Tuesday.
The governor's worst numbers in the Quinnipiac poll came in his home base of Allegheny County, where 27 percent approved to 48 percent disapproved. The Republican's best numbers were in the state's southeast, where the split was 40 to 39 percent. In the home of Penn State University in the central part of the state, 36 percent approved to 38 percent not.
Although 43 percent of voters approved Mr. Corbett's lawsuit challenging the NCAA's sanctions of Penn State to 37 percent against, they still do not like his handing of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky's child rape scandal. Voters disapproved of his handling of Penn State matters 50 to 26 percent, with graduates disapproving 59 to 23 percent.
The state Attorney General's office indicted Sandusky in November 2011. Mr. Corbett, the state's attorney general through 2010, said he was frustrated voters held the investigation against him, arguing that prosecutors didn't learn assistant coach Mike McQueary witnessed abuse until after he was elected governor.
Mr. McQueary alerted coach Joe Paterno and other university superiors in 2002, but not law enforcement.
"I'm not going to change their mind," Mr. Corbett said of voters angry over the investigation. "We didn't get that key witness, which was a tip, until November, after I was elected, in 2010. We were banging our heads against the wall trying to find witnesses ... [McQueary] was the thread that began unraveling the whole thing."
The Quinnipiac survey of 1,221 registered voters was conducted by the university Jan. 22 to Sunday. The margin of error was 2.8 percentage points.