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GOP comes home for Gov. Corbett - too slow, too late

Democrat Tom Wolf maintains a double-digit lead in latest DN/F&M Poll.

IN A WIDELY anticipated political migration, disaffected Republicans are coming home to Gov. Corbett's re-election campaign.

But a Franklin & Marshall College/Daily News poll released today shows that the movement appears to be too little, too late.

Democrat Tom Wolf still holds an 18-point lead on Corbett among registered voters, 50 percent to 32 percent - the same margin found in a Sept. 25 poll.

Corbett has gained ground among self-identified "likely voters" in Tuesday's general election. Today's poll results show Wolf with a 13-point lead in that group, 53 percent to 40 percent - down from a 20-point lead of 54 percent to 34 percent Sept. 25.

Pollster G. Terry Madonna said Corbett's job-approval numbers are climbing with GOP voters, up from 39 percent in August to 56 percent this month.

But 60 percent of voters in the poll still predict that Wolf will win.

"It's not enough to make a difference," Madonna said of Corbett's growing GOP support.

This is a stark representation of the challenges Corbett faces in what is normally an easy political rite of passage in Pennsylvania.

The state has never denied a second term to a governor since the state Constitution was amended in 1968 to allow re-election.

Education and taxes, two areas in which criticism has dogged Corbett, remain the most important issues to voters in today's poll.

Wolf continues to lead Corbett in every corner of the state, including Corbett's home base of Allegheny County.

The question now for both camps is how to persuade supporters to turn out to vote next week.

Corbett had New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, stump for him this month.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry endorsed Corbett in May, but the campaign scrubbed that information from its website when Perry was indicted in August.

Wolf has used a series of high-profile surrogates - Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, along with first lady Michelle Obama - to pump up enthusiasm in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

President Obama will headline a Wolf rally Sunday afternoon at Temple University. That's a bit of a gamble for Wolf.

The new poll shows just one in three registered voters in Pennsylvania approving of Obama's job performance.

Obama's numbers are highest by far in Philly, where 51 percent of registered voters think he has done an excellent or good job.

"I think they've made the decision that the turnout in Philly and Pittsburgh is more vital than the downside that could result," Madonna said of Wolf's decision to bring in Obama to campaign.

Madonna, citing recent campaign-finance reports, said Tuesday's election is likely to be the most expensive in the state's history, with more than $73 million in campaign contributions.

That surpasses the $70 million spent on the 2002 matchup of Democrat Ed Rendell and Republican Mike Fisher.

With all that spending, Madonna said, Wolf has continued to hold a steady lead on Corbett.

"Each side has had enough money to counter the other's attacks," Madonna said.