Will Corbett be the “Melissa Hart” of the ’08 cycle?
For the three state row offices up for election this year, two are currently held by incumbents who may use their 2008 re-election bids to booster their political careers by running for governor or U.S. Senate in 2010.
Corbett, a Republican, is seeking re-election as attorney general and is opposed by Democrat John Morganelli, the district attorney of Northampton County. This race has to be the top protect seat for the Republican State Committee, Lee said. In our March statewide poll, Corbett is only beating Morganelli by a slim 37/29 margin, an ominous sign for the GOP because Corbett is only polling 4 points ahead of the “generic” ballot for Republican candidates running for other statewide offices (i.e., state treasurer). Since Corbett is the incumbent and has had four years to build his stature as the state’s top cop, he is dangerously close to being swept out with the tide and may become the “Melissa Hart” of the ’08 cycle if he can’t get any separation from the lousy political environment. This race will be decided by a very close 51/49 margin if he’s reelected in our opinion. [If you recall, Melissa Hart was a GOP congresswoman in Western Pennsylvania defeated primarily because Reagan Democrats went back to the Democratic party in 2006, and not because she had necessarily lost touch with her district. Our polling in that race for the Pittsburgh Tribune Review showed a high sentiment for change, and a dead heat between Hart and now Congressman Altmire on the ballot test (polling, by the way, which at the time was criticized by Hart’s pollster as inaccurate and biased). Corbett’s best area of strength in the current poll is the Harrisburg region, where his high-profile investigation into the “bonusgate” scandal has gotten him plenty of earned media, so he’ll need a strong turnout in the mid state to offset losses in Southeastern and Northeastern PA where his support is soft. If he can raise the funds necessary to cut through the clutter of all the presidential ads, he may be able to hang on.
Two other statewide row office elections are also in play. Democrat Auditor General Jack Wagner will seek a second term and will be opposed by Republican Chet Beiler, a businessman from Lancaster County. Our polling in March shows Wagner winning with a near 2-1 margin. State treasurer is an open position. Four Democrats are vying for that nomination and one Republican. If that contest were held today, 44 percent of those surveyed said they would vote for the Democrat while 33 percent said they would vote Republican and the remaining 22 percent were undecided. This suggests a difficult climb for the GOP nominees in these races, Lee said.