Tom Corbett’s poll numbers are epically bad


Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) speaks at Dow Chemical's research-and-development facility in Collegeville, Pa., in 2013. (Matt Rourke/AP)

It's not easy being Tom Corbett.

The Republican Pennsylvania governor is basically being left for dead in his reelection campaign, kneecapped by poor approval ratings and the surprisingly strong campaign of businessman and political newcomer Tom Wolf (D). For months now, Corbett has been The Fix's No. 1 most vulnerable governor.

The latest indignity: A new Franklin & Marshall College poll shows Corbett winning the support of just 24 percent of Pennsylvania voters. That's right, an incumbent … at 24 percent. That's just not something you see — like ever.

Now, that actually sounds a little worse than it is. F&M polling routinely has many more undecided voters than most polls (about one-quarter in this poll), which means Corbett is at just 24 percent but only trails by 25 points (only!), 49-24. That's not quite the same as being down 70-24 or something like that.

But that's still 25 points. And as we have written, it's pretty uncommon for a sitting governor to lose reelection, much less get swamped.

A look at the crosstabs shows just how bad it is for Corbett:

  • Among Republicans, he leads Wolf just 48-24.
  • Among single people, he trails 51-15.
  • Among moderates, he trails 59-13.
  • Among non-white voters, he trails 58-2. (And that includes a relatively significant amount of Hispanics.)
  • Forty percent of non-whites and 43 percent of Philadelphians are undecided. Those voters are quite simply not likely to vote for a Republican governor. For example, 86 percent of Philadelphians voted for Democrat Bob Casey in the 2012 Senate race.
  • While nationwide, Republicans are clearly more enthusiastic about the 2014 election, in Pennsylvania the Democrats are four points more likely to say they are certain to vote.

We have already seen an incumbent governor -- Hawaii's Neil Abercrombie (D) -- lose his primary by 35 points this year.

It seems unlikely Corbett will give that number a run for its money, given the inherent partisanship in today's general elections. But this poll suggests it can't be ruled out.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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Aaron Blake · August 28, 2014