Bonus-Gate Has Not Given Corbett a bump, according to new poll
Despite the fact that Attorney General Tom Corbett’s recent indictments in the bonus-gate scandal have generated considerable news coverage throughout the state – our polls show media awareness of the bonus-gate issue at 60% or higher in some media markets – it has had virtually no impact on his poll numbers for his reelection bid this November. According to our recent statewide poll completed August 11-14, Corbett holds a 35/28 lead over Democratic challenger and Northampton County DA John Morganelli, with 36% still undecided. This compares to a 37/29 Corbett margin in our March poll, conducted way before the AG’s presentment of the grand jury findings. Of all regions in the state, there are two media markets in particular that Corbett should care most about – namely the Harrisburg region (which includes Cumberland, Dauphin, Perry, Lancaster, York, Lebanon, Adams and Franklin Counties) and the Southwest/Pittsburgh media markets (Allegheny, Lawrence, Beaver, Washington, Greene, Fayette, Westmoreland, Indiana, Armstrong and Butler). These are both regions where media exposure has been most significant, but are important for different reasons. The Harrisburg region is a bastion of GOP voters where Corbett needs to run well to offset losses in the Democratic-trending Southeast, and the Pittsburgh region is his native stomping ground where he served as U.S. Attorney, and where Republican candidates including Corbett have done well in past statewide contests due to cross-over support from culturally conservative Democrats. In the current poll, Corbett improved slightly in the Southwest/Pittsburgh market, going from a 13-point, 42/29 lead over Morganelli in March to an 18-point, 43/25 lead in the current poll. However, Corbett’s support actually DROPPED in the South Central/Harrisburg region, where he now holds a 42/24 margin, compared to a 51/19 lead in March.
This election is still Corbett’s to lose given his 35/28 margin, but he’s clearly not out of the woods. To win, he has to make sure he can at least break even in the Southeast outside of Philadelphia, where he’s currently in a dead heat (he split the 4 suburban counties 50:50 in 2004). Given his 43/25 margin in the Southwest, he appears to be on track to over perform in relationship to 2004 when he split this region 50:50, so bonus-gate may give him a leg-up in this regard. However, historically the undecided voters break along party lines so he may end up winning this region by a closer margin than he has today (which could be a problem). In the South Central/Harrisburg region, he won by a 67/33 margin in 2004, but appears to be underperforming in the current poll, especially considering the fact that his numbers have slipped since March. This is really a surprise given the media circus surrounding bonus-gate in the mid state. Corbett can’t afford to win by less than a 2:1 margin here, especially since Philadelphia is on track to go 80/20 against him similar to 2004 and possibly even worse given the likelihood of higher turnout from minorities due to the Obama factor.