This is the second in a series of reports on the 2014 gubernatorial elections in purple states and how the presence of Barack Obama in the White House may loom over these top of the ticket statewide races. (The first report featured Scott Walker’s reelection bid in Wisconsin).
With approval ratings well under water, Pennsylvania Republican Governor Tom Corbett has not only been a top target for Democrats in the 2014 cycle, but has also been feeling the pressure from some in his own party to bow out of the race.
Smelling blood, Democrats are flocking to join the field, led by U.S. Representative Allyson Schwartz and a bevy of current and former legislators and executive officials.
But while the numbers may look grim for Corbett and the GOP, it seems the political environment in D.C. may yet give them hope for 2014.
A Smart Politics review of Pennsylvania election data finds that the state has voted against the party of the sitting president in 18 of the last 19 gubernatorial contests dating back to 1938.
Keystone State gubernatorial voters have not elected a candidate from the party of the sitting president since Dick Thornburgh eked out a 2.7-point reelection victory over Allen Ertel in 1982.
Since then Pennsylvanians have chosen nominees of the opposing party of the White House in seven consecutive cycles with Democrat Bob Casey (Reagan, G.H.W. Bush), Republican Tom Ridge (Clinton twice), Democrat Ed Rendell (G.W. Bush twice), and Corbett (Obama).
Prior to Thornburgh’s win in 1982, Pennsylvania rattled off a 44-year, 11-cycle streak of electing governors who did not share the partisan affiliation of the president going back to the Election of 1938.
Delving further into history, Pennsylvania Democrats have been particularly ineffective in translating presidential political currency into gubernatorial victories.
Since 1860, with the Keystone State’s own James Buchanan in office, Democrats have lost 16 of 17 Pennsylvania gubernatorial races with a sitting Democratic President in the White House.
The only Democrat to prevail under such circumstances was George Earle in 1934.
Earle, former U.S. Minister to Austria, was elected by 2.3 points over Republican William Schnader in the middle of Franklin Roosevelt’s first term.
Democrats failed to win gubernatorial elections in Pennsylvania during the administrations of Democratic presidents in 1860, 1866, 1886, 1894, 1914, 1918, 1938, 1942, 1946, 1950, 1962, 1966, 1978, 1994, 1998, and 2010.
Put another way, Republicans are 16-1 since 1860 in sending a victorious nominee to Harrisburg when a Democrat serves in the White House.
(The GOP is 11-11 in gubernatorial races with a Republican in the White House during these 150 years and just 1-8 since 1932).
This presidential curse over the last 75 years is a bit curious considering Pennsylvanians have served up a bounty of competitive gubernatorial and presidential races that could have gone either way: 13 of 19 gubernatorial contests have been decided by single digits during this span along with 15 of the last 19 presidential races.
And so, while Corbett may have dug himself quite a hole with 2014 around the corner, if he (or whomever wins the GOP nomination) makes the race close, it appears, at the margins Pennsylvania voters tend not to reward the president when voting for governor – even a president for whom they voted.
Smart Politics is a non-partisan political news site authored and founded in 2006 by Dr. Eric Ostermeier, a Research Associate at the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance (CSPG) at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. If you have any questions about Smart Politics please contact the author.
Originally posted here. Republished with permission.