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If Corbett Didn’t Run, Who Might Republicans Nominate?

Silhouette question markThe rumors have spread for a few weeks now. One Republican elected official or another is making calls or dropping hints that, should Gov. Tom Corbett decline to seek re-election, he or she would be interested in running.

They dovetail into the broader conversation within GOP political circles about Corbett and his re-election chances in 2014 – and acute concern that the Governor’s poor polling bodes ill for the party. Not one but three national elections handicappers have suggested another Republican might fare better than Corbett in 2014. The latest was the Washington Post, which named Pa. the state mostly likely to see a gubernatorial party switch next year.

PoliticsPA tracked down the latest buzz, that one or two members of the congressional delegation were making calls. I talked with a dozen Republican party officials, consultants, etc. I won’t publish the names of those rumored to be doing the calling, for lack of on-the-record confirmation.

For any official to be publicly identified making such calls, or for any party operative to admit to entertaining the idea would be a quick way to put his or her higher ambitions on life support. Hence when we started digging, the rumors retreated.

But several GOP politicos, each of whom asked to remain anonymous for similar career-related reasons, had heard the calls were happening.

One Republican operative PoliticsPA spoke with was on the receiving end of such a call. But he didn’t read much into it.

“I think somebody does that to be considered for 2018,” he said.

“I’ve heard that rumbling,” said another Republican party politico. “But the real question is, will Corbett step aside?”

The answer to that question is no, says Corbett campaign manager Mike Barley.

“Governor Corbett is running for re-election,” Barley said, definitively.

Nonetheless, the rumors persist.

Said one Republican operative in southeast Pa., “The conversation always leads to ‘who’s gonna tell the Governor he can’t win?’ And it always ends with everyone saying, ‘Not me.’”

So, which GOP names are out there as hypothetical candidates for Governor in 2014?

Congressman Jim Gerlach (R-Chester).

Why he’d run: Gerlach’s higher ambitions are an established fact, as is his history of winning campaigns in the competitive Philadelphia suburbs. He ran for Governor briefly in 2009 before conceding to Corbett’s inevitable nomination.

Why he wouldn’t: He’s at the point now where he’d have to give up serious House seniority to run for another office. And his district is safe enough now that he can spend more of his free time with his family and less calling strangers to ask for money.

Congressman Mike Kelly (R-Butler).

Why he’d run: The outspoken car salesman from western Pa. proved a YouTube hit in his first term and the national appearances (mostly on Fox News but also others) haven’t slowed down. His personal narrative – a businessman punished by government – has strong resonance with the party’s base.

Why he wouldn’t: He’s strong on emotional appeal but short on policy nuance. Not to mention low statewide name ID. His geographic base is far away from the GOP center of gravity in the state (although moderate Tom Ridge ran from Erie in 1994).

Congressman Pat Meehan (R-Delaware).

Why he’d run: Like Gerlach, Meehan briefly floated a bid for Governor in 2009. He’s a former prosecutor with a solid base in his suburban Philadelphia district. He’s articulate and has demonstrated bipartisan appeal.

Why he wouldn’t run: Delaware County Republicans fought to regain his seat and map-drawers worked to keep it in the GOP column. They’d be loathe to risk it to entertain other ambitions. Plus he’s got a solid profile in the House.

State Senator Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware).

Why he’d run: Majority Leader Pileggi has often given off the vibe that he’d like to take a shot at the office. He has strong bipartisan ties in his swingy southeastern Pa. district. And the recent 0-for-3 in Harrisburg highlighted to many Republicans why it could be a good thing to have an executive who knows the legislative process. Pileggi, for the record, went 3-for-3.

Why he wouldn’t: All the negatives of the legislature, of Harrisburg, of the current GOP regime – Pileggi could easily be tagged by all three in a general election. He’s the guy behind the proposal to tinker with the electoral college. His record of voting for Rendell-era compromise budgets wouldn’t play well in a primary. And we have a feeling Republicans in the House wouldn’t be thrilled at the idea.

Senator Pat Toomey.

Why he’d run: The freshman U.S. Senator would be an obvious choice for the state GOP. He’s established himself as a conservative pragmatist and an effective legislator. He has decent name ID, and he’d also bring a $2.4 million pile of dough to the race.

Why he wouldn’t: Toomey is more comfortable in DC than Harrisburg and probably would politely decline the chance to run (although he did briefly seek the office in 2009).

Rob Wonderling, President and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.

Why he’d run: He has an interesting resume. Wonderling is a former state Senator from Montgomery County and also the former Deputy Secretary of Transportation under Gov. Ridge. And he has connections. He now helms the largest economic development organization in the state in the biggest swing area of the state. Can you say donor networks?

Why he wouldn’t: He’s not first in line in his region, let alone statewide. He’d be outranked by several of his prospective competitors. Besides, why leave a good gig in the private sector just to schlep around the state and ask strangers for money 6 hours a day?

Note: there are numerous other Republicans, such as former state Rep. Sam Rohrer and 2012 U.S. Senate hopeful Tom Smith, who could give the race a look in the event that Corbett decided not to run. The list above is meant to show the likely choices of the party establishment and its donors.

Note II: Some Republicans see Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley as a potential candidate for the top job. But we could think of no feasible scenario where the environment is tough enough that Corbett would decide to depart the race in 2014, yet good enough that Cawley could prevail in a general.

27 Responses

  1. Note this comment from the NJ by Joe McCann:

    Pundits often overlook what is the “elephant” in the room regarding Corbett. Not only has his ideology angered strong turnout voters like seniors and women, but his draconian cuts to the state’s university system and his questionable (if not illegal) involvement in his politically focused AG investigation of Jerry Sandusky and his manipulation of his political friends on Penn State’s Board of Trustees to fire Joe Paterno without cause will be his ultimate Waterloo.
    There are more than 350,000 voting Penn State alums and 45,000 Penn State employees in Pennsylvania. In addition, he has alienated all parents and families of Penn State students and the constituents of the heavily Republican communities of Penn State numerous branch campuses all over the state, which have been damaged by this cuts and his party’s sequester deal.
    With his abuse of Penn State constituents, he has motivated a non-partisan voting block of roundly 500,000 voters.
    Obama bettered Corbett’s vote count by more than 1,000,000 in 2012 when the Penn State issue was not in play. Any casual observer will realize that he is toast. Penn Staters will make sure of that.

  2. A viable Republican candidate is one who can see that Marcellus Shale Utica Shale natural gas production is key to Pennsylvania’s future and can articulate that vision. The Commonwealth’s proper role is a Traffic Cop neither an enabler nor prosecutor. Every Democrat is committed to thwarting economic growth of natural gas production.

    A viable Republican has to be committed to Pension Reform and any incumbent who benefits from the pension is disqualified, particularly, anyone in the General Assembly and Senate or Houseleadership, in particular. Every Democrat opposes Pension Eeform because unions and government unions, in particular, oppose anything but ever increasing government spending.

    A viable Republican must support Vouchers for All to bring competition to the government’s unionized monopoly K-12 system and as a means to end the segregated by zip code dysfunctional system. The school costs, including exceptional pension and health care benefits are hammering the property owner and, in particular, lowest 20% and those on fixed income. Unions, government monopoly bureaucrats and suburban double talking Liberal Democrats oppose. FOr example, über Liberal Daylin Leach sends his kids to almost all white, very expensive, very exclusive [private school]* in Almost all white Lower Merion adjacent to dysfunctional Philadelphia. Daylin Leach is Exhibit A of the Democratic Double Standard. No Democrat speaks against this despicable and destructive double standard. If you can’t trust parents to choose a school for their kids, can we trust parents to vote?

    FYI Gay marriage is de facto law. A well kept secret is that the Gay male voter is the Forgotten Taxpayer friend and ally.

    The viable candidate must know and embrace the fact that black voters are all but programmed to vote Democrat whether it is in hieps or her interest or not.

    The viable candidate must be ready to be opposed by EVERY union in Pennsylvania, either directly or by stealth by Union Republican surrogates in General Assembly. The unions are very well financed advocates for ever increasing spending which hammers taxpayers and lower income home owner.

    Unions enjoy special privileges not the least is that government police power collects union dues to be spent by very well paid union organizers on political lobbying and elections, one way or another.

    Prevailing wage is a union privilege and is government price fixing.

    Philadelphia’s building trades unions, surprisingly , are racially segregated. Few, if any, blacks (or Hispanics) have a building trades union card. Black Democratic leadership is complicit in this outrage thatvdeprives black and Hispanic men of real opportunity for family sustaining job. The Democratic Double Standard is on full display. One is reminded of the segregated and democratic Solid South. Has Double taking suburban Upper Merion Daylin Leach spoken out on this between his rants on human trafficking and legalized marijuana? The Republican Party is the party of Lincoln, is it not. Weren’t the Democrats supposed to have ended segregation? Maybe they have everyone fooled.

    Pennsylvania has reached a compromise on abortion. The Texas solution no abortion except life of the mother, severe abnormalities. The viable Republican must be willing to explain what partial birth abortion is and what late abortion is. Show the graphics, if necessary. Women will be appalled.

    The Republican’s base is the Forgotten Taxpayer and those who want to work and the home owner struggling with property taxes.

    We can count on Republican Establishment undercutting the message.

    I am not sure there are enough left in Pennsylvania to win. Anything less means Pennsylvania becomes Scranton.

    A sad and discouraged bob

    *Comment redacted by PoliticsPA administrator to remove the specific name of lawmaker’s kid’s school.

  3. Dear Corbett Team and John Brabender: If you fire Mrs. Aichele too, I’d love to be Secretary of Voter Suppression. I can keep those Treyvon Martins and the Grey Panthers from voting as well as she can. I have many creative ideas.

  4. God will call on Daryl Metcalfe, the Supreme Spokesman of the Universal Church, to run for Governor.

  5. Just heard that Aichele is out? Can anyone confirm? Please Please consider me Corbett Team: I want my interview with Brabender. I’m a Taker who can pretend to be a Maker while I’m an even more avaricious TAKER. Please make the Chief Knight of Corbett’s Round Table! I’m perfectly qualified! You don’t even have to give my wife a job, like Steve’s!!

  6. I vote for STEVE PIOTROWSKI! He is a rising star activist in South East PA. He is Co-Founder of Citizens for Liberty, and his blog is

  7. @ Buzz:

    When I wrote he was “growing in office,” I was referring to what most pundits have observed during the brief time-frame he has been in Congress; for example, watch his careful questioning of witnesses [invoking his experience as a US Attorney], clips of which are readily available on the Internet.

    Also, when one meets him one-on-one, the encounter is “inviting,” in that he genuinely appears to wish to interact; he is neither aloof nor groveling, so I know not whence you drew your observations otherwise.

    Perhaps you mistake his soft-spoken demeanor for shyness; he is knowledgeable and prepared, and your [undocumented] mean-spirited characterization [which violates what you should have learned from your mother] bespeaks all that is wrong with political wrangling.

  8. Dear Governor, Gay young Pennsylvanians like myself want to live in a state where I can’t be fired simply for being gay. I can be fired for being gay in Pennsylvania. Gay Pennsylvanians like myself want to live in a state with their relationships are legally recognized. In Pennsylvania our unions are discounted as unworthy and a threat. Gay Pennsylvanians fear being victim of violent hate crimes; unfortunately, we do not have hate crime laws on the books in PA for the GLBT community. That’s three strikes gov. I will work to get you OUT. You won’t respect me? You will see (no matter how much money you spend in 2014) what Pennsylvanians think of you and your dirty politics.

  9. Dr. S.,

    You sound to me like a smart guy. So, under that assumption, I ask–I implore–you to actually listen to him. He’s an imbecile. If you are fair minded, and half as intelligent as you seem based on your post here, you will conclude that Pat Meehan is barely competant to reason his way through a revolving door. I don’t want to appear mean spirited here, but he’s a dope. Growing in office? He’s over 50 years old. He should be done growing. He should be complete. All he is is a complete fool.

    My mother taught, “if you can’t say anything nice . . . .” It’s the nicest thing I can say.

  10. @ Jeremy & Buzz:

    The TEA Party Movement is functional throughout the state, indeed, throughout America…and many in the GOP [and some D’s] share its goal of limited government.

    Meehan is respected, accomplished, engaging, and growing in-office.

    In the Greek thought-mode, after analysis [thesis, then antithesis] comes synthesis; therefore, assuming Corbett fails to right himself [indeed, is mortally wounded in the bipartisan-hearts of PSU-adherents…by the impending KK-report on Sandusky], any possible competitor to Corbett–to “break the ice” (so to speak)–would necessarily arise from someone other than the politicians listed in this piece.

  11. Dr. S,

    What makes you think the TEA Party has any vitality? Maybe it has traction in rural, central PA but that is where the votes are not.

  12. Want 3 good reasons Meehan shouldn’t be governor?
    1. He’s an idiot
    2. He’s stupid
    3. He’s dumb
    Want another? He’s slow witted.
    Another? He’s a PHONY!

  13. Want 3 good reasons Meehan won’t be governor?
    1. He’s an idiot
    2. He’s stupid
    3. He’s dumb
    Need another? He’s slow witted.
    Another? He’s a phony!

  14. Mike Kelly would be interesting because he has the energy that can grab people. I think a lot of people are beginning to learn that it’s not always so important that people around the state have heard your name (most people can’t tell you who legislators are from outside of their area). Kelly has the energy and can grab people. If he can get people fired up, that will give him a huge bonus over some others.

    That being said, I don’t think you’ll see anyone step up quite yet. If things can be accomplished in the Fall, then it helps Corbett. If the legislature doesn’t pass his agenda, it could be bad for the Governor… and possibly some of them as well.

  15. Mark Schweiker has been approached several times to run for office and has turned it down. He was asked to run for reelection and said no and he was approached about running for U.S. Senate against Bob Casey and said no.

    If he hasn’t gotten back into politics by now, I’m doubting he ever will.

  16. Congressman Charlie Dent

    Why he should run: Served in the State House and Senate. Would do well with swing voters in SE and LV. Voted against pension grab!

  17. This is called the “Et Tu Brutus” pivot. I predicted that Corbett would be politically stabbed in the back many months ago and predicted that PAGOP Chair Rob Gleason, would make a run, even though he’s never been elected to any public office. He will keep the Feast of the Corbett Knights going. He has a large family which makes filling cabinent positions easy. Roullez Bon Temps. Rob Gleason is the best aged white male that the GOP has. By the way, Can anyone get my interview with Brabender to be a Knight of Corbett’s Round Table? I know there is not much time left. I like the Turnpike Commission. I have every right to FEAST at the feast.

  18. The mere fact this article has been composed must be perceived as unnerving to the powers-that-be.

    What is omitted is the possibility that someone might mount a primary-challenge, for the good of the party, if the polls remain dismal.

    Said-candidate would perhaps combine the TEA [Taxed Enough Already] Party vitality with chronic awareness of Harrisburg’s bipartisan failings.

  19. I thought David Freed Cumberland County District Attorney who ran against Kathleen Kane for Attorney General

  20. Keegan, I think you forgot former Lt. Governor and Governor Mark Schweiker. Ended his 1/2 term as Governor with very high approval ratings, mostly a reflection of his handling of the trapped miners. Still maintains a very good reputation with Republicans and Independents alike.

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