Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett's last political battle may be the toughest of his career. Since being elected four years ago, Corbett has fought dwindling approval ratings. In fact, he now stands at the lowest job approval rating for any Pennsylvania incumbent at this time in his term.
Since Pennsylvania adopted a new constitution in 1968, the Governorship has traded parties every eight years. Prior to 1970, Governors were limited to one four year term. After the adoption of the constitution, Governors were allowed to seek re-election for an additional term, and the voters of Pennsylvania have re-elected every Governor since then, starting with the late Milton Shapp. The trend has also involved the switching of parties every eight years.
Shapp, a Democrat, was first elected in 1970, then re-elected in 1974. Republican Dick Thornburg won in 1978 and 1982, Democrat Bob Casey was successful in 1986 and 1990. He was followed by Republican Tom Ridge, who was elected in 1994 and 1998 and served until being appointed Homeland Security Secretary in 2001. Ed Rendell, a Democrat was elected in 2002 and then re-elected in 2006.
Corbett, a Republican and incumbent Attorney General won easily in 2010 over Democrat Dan Onorato in a Republican wave election. Since that time, Corbett has seen his approval ratings drop. He has also lagged well behind in theoretical match ups with a generic Democrat for at least the past year. Currently, he trails Democrat Tom Wolf by an average of 21.7 points in the latest Realclearpolitics.com average.
Wolf is a former Pennsylvania Secretary of Revenue and small businessman from York who accumulated a small fortune running a cabinet making business. He spent in excess of $10 million of his cabinet making money to defeat three other high profile Democrats in the May, 2014 primary.
Wolf primed the pumps of his campaign coffers and came out with folksy, common sense television advertisements, wherein he drop around in a Jeep explaining how he could fix Pennsylvania's problems. The ads took him from nowhere to a lead in the polls which never diminished through the May primary.
One of the major issues which is seen as Corbett's Achilles' heal is his failure to impose an extraction tax on the Marcellus Shale natural gas production. Corbett has argued that if Pennsylvania places even a five percent extraction tax on natural gas that it would cost jobs. Every other state has some percentage extraction tax on natural gas.
Corbett has argued that he has been a fiscal conservative, and that his policies have created in excess of 150,000 new jobs in Pennsylvania. He has touted his economic record throughout the primary and until now, but he has also taken shots at Wolf and the other former Democratic contenders. We expect that this campaign will not stay positive as long as Corbett is down by double digits in the polls.