Politics & Policy

Corbett Strong in Penn. Gov Race, but Don’t Underestimate His Opponent

Tom Corbett must be feeling pretty confident. The Pennsylvania Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial contender holds a substantial lead over his Democrat rival, Dan Onorato. Rasmussen’s latest poll has Corbett leading by 11 points.

With current Gov. Ed Rendell term limited and anti-incumbent, anti-Democrat sentiment buoying candidates across the commonwealth, Corbett’s numbers look even more impressive.

Keystone State history would also seem to be working against Dan Onorato. Since 1971, Pennsylvanians have consistently alternated their gubernatorial support between parties, awarding each party alternating two-term control of the governor’s mansion. With Rendell on his way out – if history is any measure – it would be time for a Republican.

Yet despite all this, attention must be paid to Onorato. The Pittsburgh native and Penn State alumnus already managed to survive a bruising, four-way primary battle to clinch his party’s nomination, and if the Democrat infrastructure deigns to help make his candidacy competitive, Corbett could quickly have his hands full.

Pennsylvania still has a legion of committed, undeterred Democrats. Pittsburgh, in particular, is home to a brand of Democrat whose families have voted Democrat since before they can remember.

Moreover, after a lifetime in politics, Ed Rendell remains in control of a powerful political machine and will be supporting Onorato. Bill Clinton will be headlining a fundraiser for him on Aug. 10.

Onorato has been an impressive fundraiser, too. He just announced raising more than $3 million since the primary on May 18. Corbett, meanwhile, maintained at least $3.5 million on hand as of June, when reports were last filed. Where the campaigns stand officially will come out on Sept. 21, the next reporting deadline.

Corbett essentially cruised to his party’s nomination against a dark-horse opponent, libertarian state representative Sam Rohrer. Onorato had to spend considerably to secure his nomination.

Corbett is insufficiently conservative for some on the right — he spoke of the Constitution as a “living document” during the primary. He is also aloof. In speaking on unemployment last week, awkward phrases like “If I am a common citizen…” slipped out.

If Corbett fails to motivate conservative donors and voters, and if Onorato outpaces him in fundraising, things could become much hotter, and much closer, by November.

A remaining question will be whether Onorato, from the west of the commonwealth, can turn out Philadelphia Democrats. If they stay home, expect Corbett’s comfortable lead to hold.

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