There's a new poll out from Quinnipiac confirming that Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett is in deep trouble as he gets set to face re-election next year. Corbett trails the two leading Democrats in the race by ten and eight points. Fifty-two percent of respondents said Corbett doesn't deserve re-election.
I asked Terry Madonna, a political science professor at Franklin & Marshall College, who knows the state's politics better than just about anyone, why Corbett is struggling so badly. Madonna, who runs F&M's own polling operation, said one major factor is the series of cuts to popular programs—higher education, school districts, and social services in particular—that Corbett pushed. He did so, Madonna explained, because he had to balance the budget and had taken Grover Norquist's pledge not to raise taxes.
Corbett, you may remember, was a strong backer of the state's voter ID law, which, in an embarrassment for his administration, was blocked by a Republican judge weeks before the election last fall, after studies showed that over 750,000 Pennsylvanians lacked the required photo ID. At a press conference before the ruling, Corbett couldn't remember the types of ID that voters were supposed to have. (The law is still scheduled to take effect next time around.)
That episode, too, contributed to Corbett's woes, according to Madonna. "I think the voter ID thing hurt," he said. "The Democrats really used it, no doubt about it."
So, to sum up: Cutting popular programs that people count on in order to avoid breaking a promise to Grover Norquist that you'll never raise taxes; and signing and defending a law that threatens to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters, then seeing that law blocked by a court: Not a great political strategy.