But if the flap is affecting Corbett's standing with voters, the polls don't show it yet. Onorato trailed Corbett by 10 points (48 percent to 38 percent) in a Rasmussen Reports survey taken five days after the jobless comments. That poll measured a similar 10-point gap last month.
Rendell, who leaves office in January, joined the chorus Monday, calling Corbett "totally out of touch with what ordinary people are dealing with."
On Monday, as the Obama administration announced its intention to seek another extension for unemployment benefits, Rendell said the average weekly check is not enough to tempt someone to stay home.
"It's ludicrous to suggest that $370 a week is motivation for someone to not get a job, and it shows, I think, that General Corbett is out of touch. I think it also shows a lack of sensitivity," Rendell said at a Capitol news conference.
Rendell called losing a job "a gut-wrenching experience - and it's not just a financial experience, it's an emotional and psychological experience."
Corbett's words about the jobless were said July 9 at a campaign stop in Elizabethtown. "The jobs are there, but if we keep extending unemployment, people are just going to sit there," Corbett said in part. "I've literally had construction companies tell me, 'I can't get people to come back to work until - they say, "We'll come back when unemployment runs out." ' "
Corbett, through a spokesman, has twice apologized for his remarks, most recently Friday.
"What Tom did is, he said he didn't speak as clearly as he should have and he regretted if people thought his comments were insensitive," said Kevin Harley, the spokesman. "He was passing on anecdotal information he was hearing from business leaders."
The Inquirer's repeated attempts to interview Corbett since the statement have been unsuccessful. In an e-mail sent Monday, Harley said Corbett was "not saying anything more about the subject."
Even so, some voters are still talking about it. Barbara Russo, 67, contacted The Inquirer to say she had lost her job at John Flynn Chrysler when the Roxborough dealership closed in June 2009. She said she left a message at Corbett's campaign headquarters because she wanted to know where the jobs are.
"I'm so upset. How dare he?" said Russo, who said her sister also was laid off by a car dealership. "I would go back to work tomorrow in my field making the same amount or a little less, but I'm not going to work for $5 an hour."
The jobless comment was not Corbett's first controversial act during the campaign. In May, his office subpoenaed the online social-networking site Twitter as a way to unmask two of his harshest critics in the legislative corruption scandal known as Bonusgate. Prosecutors were seeking evidence to use at the sentencing of one Bonusgate defendant - a former legislative aide whom Corbett contended used Twitter to attack prosecutors.
Twitter refused to comply, and Corbett withdrew the subpoena, but the action generated criticism from privacy-rights and free-speech advocates.
Corbett has taken other actions as attorney general that might win him support with voters. Last week, he joined in a brief supporting Arizona's new immigration law, now the subject of an Obama administration lawsuit - a move that might find favor with the majority of Pennsylvanians, who, according to one recent poll, back tougher immigration policies.
In March, Corbett joined the multistate suit against the new federal health care law.
With 15 weeks to go until the Nov. 2 election, Corbett's moves haven't added up to anything remotely like what political analysts would call a "fatal blow." But his comment on unemployment - the number-one issue in this campaign - has given Onorato unexpected momentum.
"The real question is whether the issue gets traction," said Republican strategist Charles Gerow, who did some work for Corbett's campaign last year but is no longer involved. "My sense is it will."
Onorato tried to exploit Corbett's comments, launching a cross-state tour last week with stops in five cities, including Philadelphia, to assail his opponent for "insulting hardworking people."
And late last week, ads for a new Onorato campaign website - "CluelessTom.com" - began appearing in online editions of the New York Times and several other papers.
"It's so explosive," Onorato said in an interview Friday after a news conference at a state employment office in Lancaster - where, in March, Corbett first spoke of his concern that extending unemployment benefits might discourage the jobless from seeking work. "If you don't understand that, how can you fix it as governor?"
Corbett's campaign spokesman, Harley, said the attorney general was well aware of the plight of the unemployed.
"The fact is Tom Corbett knows firsthand that the vast majority of people are diligently seeking work," said Harley. "He knows this because he's met with people looking for jobs."
Political analysts say Corbett could have done a better job of handling the fallout.
Corbett gave brief interviews to two news outlets last week, but has since largely retreated from public view - a misstep, analysts say.
"He has to say, 'OK, I'm sorry if my words were offensive, I made a mistake, but look at what I'm going to do to help,' " said Chris Borick, a politics professor at Muhlenberg College. "He has to show that his policies and efforts will address some of the very problems that his comments might have understated."
Contact staff writer Amy Worden at 717-783-2584 or email@example.com.