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Why Corbett is so unpopular

A theory on why an incumbent trails by 30 points.

This was supposed to be Tom Corbett's comeback summer. Fueled with campaign donations from his corporate backers, the governor ran an unusually large number of TV ads, either taking credit for Pennsylvania job growth (a category where Pennsylvania has ranked as low as 47th among the states, which for some reason the ads failed to mention) or bashing Democratic nominee Tom Wolf as another tax-and-spend liberal, the playbook that's worked well for the GOP for 35 years.

The bottom line is that after spending millions, Corbett is actually WORSE now in the polls than he was on Memorial Day -- one has him down by 25 points and another has him trailing by 30. You have to wonder if we're going to be seeing Tom Wolf this fall on the campaign trail or at the upholstery store, picking out new drapes for the governor's mansion.

This week, two liberal Philadelphia bloggers -- let's call them Atrios and Booman -- both asked the same question: How could Corbett be SO unpopular. Why are other Republican governors -- including some whose activities are under investigation, like New Jersey's Chris Christie and Wisconsin's Scott Walker -- doing better with their constituents than Corbett:

Wrote Atrios:

I get the reason he's unpopular - fracking/education funding are primary issues - just not why he's that unpopular. PA is a bit more blue than most of the states it usually gets lumped in with - it really isn't a swing state in presidential elections - and I get the sense that even self-identified Republicans aren't quite as tribal as they are in some other places - but it's still pretty bizarre.

I agree -- but I also have a theory, and it can be summed up in two words: Penn State. Yes, liberal Democrats don't like the things that you'd expect them not to like, such as cutting money for schools and other social programs. But the Jerry Sandusky/Joe Paterno matter at Penn State transcended partisan politics. A lot of folks soured on Corbett because either a) they think he slow-walked the probe so that it wouldn't interfere with his 2010 campaign or b) he seemed a little too eager to get involved in getting rid of Joe Paterno, an unpopular move in some quarters. The evidence is murky on both counts, but a lot of voters who might tend to vote Republican followed the Penn State matter closely and simply didn't like Corbett's handling of it. That would be the difference between Corbett losing by 5-10 points, which wouldn't be a surprise, and his current plight, which is indeed a tad shocking.