One of the nation’s top political scientists has some bad news for Tom Corbett. Larry Sabato, the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, says Pennsylvania is the state with an incumbent governor most likely to lose in 2014.
He is the only Governor in the country who Sabato rates as likely to lose as opposed to toss-up.
Said Sabato in his “Crystal Ball”:
While it is uncommon to classify any incumbent governor as an underdog at such an early point in the cycle, Corbett is a rare case: His numbers are dreadful, and he seems to us to be a particularly maladroit politician, prone to painful gaffes, who is also probably too conservative for his state. A recent Quinnipiac poll sums up his problems: His approval rating is stuck at an awful 35%, and he trails his largely unknown potential opponents by about 10 percentage points (more on Corbett below). How bad is it for Corbett? Even an internal GOP poll shows him struggling mightily.
Although Corbett’s troubles are well-documented and numerous, Sabato blames the Jerry Sandusky scandal as the igniting factor in Corbett’s likely defeat.
As mentioned above, we believe Gov. Tom Corbett (R) is the incumbent likeliest to lose if he makes it to November 2014. One of the reasons for it has to deal with the state’s flagship university, Penn State. Corbett, who was state attorney general prior to his 2010 gubernatorial election, has been hurt by the horrific abuse case that brought down legendary football coach Joe Paterno, and the story is so awful that we suspect it will remain on many Pennsylvanians’ minds for years. The university’s football team is in the midst of a crippling, four-year postseason ban, which means the team is ineligible to play in the Big Ten’s conference championship game or a postseason bowl game. So imagine if the team is undefeated on Election Day — voters will know that the squad’s sterling record will be for naught thanks to the postseason ban. And imagine if the team is scuffling — wouldn’t that produce a salty mood amongst fans, too? Yes, this sounds almost trivial, but bad feelings about Penn State in fall 2014 may invariably translate to bad feelings about the incumbent governor. Given Corbett’s horrible polling, Democrats are lining up to run for the seat. The two leading contenders are Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D) and state Treasurer Rob McCord (D). Corbett has to hope for a bruising battle, but even that might not matter. The Keystone State has a post-World War II tradition: Each party has exchanged eight uninterrupted years of control of the governorship in that timeframe. Perhaps the best way for the Republicans to keep the streak going would be for Corbett to step aside, although a Corbett rebound isn’t out of the question either.
Sabato has been widely cited for his ability to predict elections. In 2008, he correctly predicted all 35 senate races and all 11 gubernatorial races, and missed Barack Obama’s Electoral College victory by 1 point.