GOV. CORBETT, trailing in the polls and taking a beating over the state's sluggish economy, has a new campaign strategy:
Blame the stoners!
Corbett rolled his eyes during an "Ask the Governor" interview Monday on PAMatters.com when asked about Pennsylvania lagging in job growth in March compared to almost all other states.
He complained about misleading statistics. He explained that other states are growing faster now because they were in worse shape before.
Then he turned to drug tests.
"The other area is, there are many employers that say, 'We're looking for people but we can't find anybody that has passed a drug test,' a lot of them," Corbett said. "And that's a concern for me because we're having a serious problem with that."
Corbett cited no sources for his claim about potential employees flunking company drug tests.
Corbett's staff yesterday referred questions about those sources to the Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association.
David Taylor, who leads that group, said manufacturers estimate that between 6,000 and 7,000 jobs are unfilled in the state due to drug-testing troubles, along with other employment issues, such as the ability to read and reliably show up for work.
"It's not so much that people are failing the drug test," Taylor said. "It's that, when it is announced that they have to take a drug test, people just leave."
Corbett's comments on unemployment have gotten him in hot water before. As the Republican nominee for governor, he said three times in July 2010 that employers in the state had complained to him about unfilled jobs due to people who preferred unemployment compensation to work.
Corbett's 2010 Democratic opponent, then-Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, seized on that claim to paint Corbett as out of touch with the state.
Corbett eventually offered a partial apology, explaining that he wasn't speaking about all unemployed people.
Corbett's campaign refused to cite sources for his original claim, calling it "anecdotal information" that he heard from employers but did not know to be fact.
Monday's claim comes as Corbett continues to look extremely vulnerable in his re-election bid.
Quinnipiac University released a poll the same day, showing Corbett trailing one Democrat already in the race, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz of Montgomery County, and two potential Democratic rivals, former U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak of Delaware County and state Treasurer Rob McCord of Montgomery County.
The poll of 1,235 registered voters found that 50 percent said Corbett does not deserve re-election, while 32 percent support his bid for a second term next year.
A spokeswoman for Schwartz yesterday said, "Corbett's response to his own failed leadership on the economy shifts between making excuses and blaming the people of Pennsylvania."
McCord, through his office, issued a statement saying Corbett's claim shows "a fundamental lack of understanding about joblessness" in the state.
"This is the typical blame game from someone who doesn't understand the economy and doesn't understand how to create jobs," McCord's statement said.
Bruce Castor, a Republican on the Montgomery County Commission mulling a primary election challenge to Corbett next year, said he is very familiar with the "dismal" job information that prompted Corbett's claim.
"Certainly I have no information that leads me to believe that employers can't find employees who can do the job and pass a drug test," Castor said. "That's news to me."
Corbett was responding Monday to a question about Pennsylvania ranking 49th in the nation in job creation in March, according to a report from Arizona State University. That report found Delaware to be 21st in the nation and New Jersey at 25th.
Corbett argued that job creation has been on the rise since he took office in January 2011. He also said other states were adding jobs at a faster rate because they "had more ground to make up than we did."
"All the indicators are going in the right direction except for this anomaly in the rate of growth," Corbett said of the recent report.