Is Obama rushing to Corbett's rescue?

Corbett
Corbett
Posted: November 21, 2013

OK, LISTEN, it seems to me it's getting to the point where it's reasonable to ask whether President Obama saves Gov. Corbett.

What, you might ask, how does that happen?

Well, perhaps you've noticed the president is dropping in the polls, dragged down by his signature Affordable Care Act.

Let's set aside the vexing question of how the president allowed his highest-flying achievement (not counting killing bin Laden) to become his albatross.

Gallup and Quinnipiac polling now show 55 percent disapproval rates for Obamacare.

Gallup daily tracking shows the president with 53 percent disapproval.

And an ABC/ Washington Post poll shows that 63 percent disapprove of Obama's handling of his new health-care law.

How does all this help a Republican incumbent regarded as the most vulnerable governor in America?

Because Corbett always opposed Obamacare: sued to stop it as attorney general; opted out of its provisions as governor.

So right there Corbett is handed some free "I told ya so's."

His campaign manager, Mike Barley, says, "The Democratic field's embrace [of] the broken promises of the budget-busting, radical Obamacare system creates a real contrast for voters in 2014."

A little heavy-handed maybe, but you get the idea.

The idea gains some heft when you add the weight of history.

Commentators, especially right-leaning ones, are comparing the political fallout from the blunders of Obamacare to the political fallout from Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The two events, of course, are not comparable. But their political aftermath might be.

Bill McInturff, respected national GOP pollster with Public Opinion Strategies, makes the point in an analysis released this week that both events left sitting presidents with dents in "core attributes" such as honesty and leadership.

Such attributes, he says, drive approval ratings.

Polling then and now proves his point. Bush II went down after Katrina. Obama's going down after Obamacare.

But McInturff adds more.

He notes that midterm elections such as 2014 "almost always" are referendums on the president, and low job-approval can mean significant electoral losses by the incumbent party.

Also, public loss of confidence in an officeholder's basic characteristics is, according to McInturff, "difficult to reverse and correct."

A national Democratic consultant who spoke on condition of not being named agrees with that assessment.

And when asked if it can have an impact on Corbett's re-election chances, the consultant says, "Yes, even as debilitated as he is, it can make him more competitive."

State Democrats, officially and predictably, make a different case.

State party chief Jim Burn says Corbett himself owns a "destructive record" on health care, including cutting insurance for low-income, working adults and refusing to expand federally funded Medicaid for the poor.

Voters next year will remember "health-care hardships" under Corbett and "will not trust him to get the care they need in the future," Burn says.

Maybe so. The issue could join education funding and job creation as keys to the 2014 debate.

But, as I've noted before, all but one Pennsylvania governor elected or re-elected since the late 1930s has been of the opposite party of the White House.

The sole exception was Gov. Dick Thornburgh, who narrowly won a second term when President Ronald Reagan was in office.

So our state has a history of incumbent presidents helping gubernatorial candidates of the other party - 95 percent of the time in the past three-quarters of a century.

That fact, plus current Obama woes, makes it reasonable to ask if history here might repeat itself next year.


Email: baerj@phillynews.com

Blog: ph.ly/BaerGrowls

Columns: ph.ly/JohnBaer

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