Opportunity knocks for Corbett

ASSOCIATED PRESS Gov. Corbett greets supporters in Hershey on Saturday after accepting the GOP endorsement for a second term.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Gov. Corbett greets supporters in Hershey on Saturday after accepting the GOP endorsement for a second term.
Posted: February 04, 2014

TOMORROW, Gov. Corbett gets an uninterrupted opportunity to tell his side of the story.

It's an opportunity he needs.

His side's pretty much muted by protesters screaming over education cuts, by ongoing legal losses, by a stunning series of gaffes and by braying from a bunch of Democrats running to unseat him.

As a result, just 23 percent of voters think he deserves a second term, according to last week's Franklin & Marshall College Poll, and he's seen as America's most-vulnerable governor.

So when Corbett delivers his annual budget address to the Legislature at the Capitol tomorrow, his work's cut out for him.

Perhaps this is why he hired - as reported in the Inky - a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush to, um, polish the message.

This is a good idea because Bush's approval rating after (like the governor) three years in office was more than twice that of Corbett's.

And maybe the ex-Bushie scribe is working with a famous Bush quote in mind (heck, maybe he wrote it): "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on."

Not bad advice.

Since whatever Corbett says is viewed through a prism of election-year politics tied directly to an uphill re-election bid, why not embrace that rather than duck it?

How?

Obviously, punch the no-new-taxes/less-government/fiscal-responsibility/on-time-budgets stuff hard and often.

Lots of people like that.

I'd bring Harry and Penny, the first Airedales, who get more attention from the guv than any state issue. Who doesn't like dogs?

I'd let first lady Susan Corbett deliver half of the address. It would be the better half.

And I'd avoid anything bold, forward-looking or controversial that really isn't likely to happen. This is still Pennsylvania.

No bragging rights on state stores, pension reform or school vouchers.

And touting the $2.4 billion transportation fix for roads, bridges and SEPTA will remind everybody (especially conservatives) that it raises taxes and fees in the face of prior promises not to raise taxes or fees.

So, governor, what can you do?

You cannot, like your counterpart to the north, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, talk about moving from a big deficit to a $2 billion surplus.

You face a $1 billion-plus deficit.

You cannot, like your counterpart to the south, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, crow about your state being first in median income.

Pennsylvania's 23rd.

And if I were you, I'd soft-pedal job-creation - unless you want to be guided by that Bush quote.

I say this because every other big state, each of the 10 most populous (even New Jersey, which is actually 11th), created way more jobs; and 30 states have lower unemployment rates.

Best just to say it's Obama's fault and hope that nobody compares us to other states.

So, what's left?

Well, there are reports you'll call for substantial new spending for K-12 and pre-K.

Smart, if a tad transparent. Maybe mention that it's not just a facelift for your anti-schools image but a heartfelt investment in public education.

Also, an empathetic tone toward the less fortunate and Philadelphia's school woes wouldn't hurt; but no reference to your first visit to a Philadelphia school, the one that didn't happen.

I'd stress "empathetic tone," by the way.

The poll that says people don't want you back next year also says that only 32 percent believe you care about them.

This is not good.

But, hey, change is possible. Everybody loves a comeback story.

And as your new speechwriter might remind you, President Bush once said the job of political leaders is to help people "build a future of hope and opportunity."

So, there's still hope - if you seize the opportunity.


Email: baerj@phillynews.com

Blog: ph.ly/BaerGrowls

Columns: ph.ly/JohnBaer

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