I wrote down my analysis why this year is different and how this race is going to be very much like the 2013 Virginia Governor's race where Democrats broke the mold. But Keystone Politics also gave their analysis and I can't say I disagree with it:The following four causes or factors in combination are generally believed to explain the eight-year cycle. With a single exception, all of them have been present in each cycle. That single exception almost ended the eight-year cycle.
Power of Incumbency -- Incumbency is still probably the single most important influence in contemporary politics, and its role in the eight-year cycle looms large. For the last 40 years of the cycle, incumbent governors could run for a second term. All have and all have won. Only when incumbents can no longer run, does a party switch occur in the governor's office. Moreover, not all incumbent have been particularly popular when they ran successfully for reelection. Dick Thornburgh almost lost his bid while Ed Rendell's approval rating was in the low 40's at the start of his reelection year.
Control of the White House -- The party not in control of the presidency has won every gubernatorial term in the 15-election string, with the sole exception of Dick Thornburgh's second term (1982). Clearly, state voters prefer governors from the opposing party to the president. This notion also fits with the well-established tendency for voters in general to oppose the president's party in mid-term elections. All Pennsylvania gubernatorial elections occur in mid-term years.
Cost of Governing -- It is well established that the longer a party holds power the harder it is for that party to continue in power. There is, in short, a political cost to long tenure in power. This is the familiar "ins and outs" phenomenon in American two-party politics that regularly finds "in" parties losing support over time, opening up opportunities for the "out" party. Pennsylvania voters seem to tire of the "in's" every eight years. Or, more precisely, after eight years of one party, voters are ready to vote for the change represented by the other party.
The Economy -- The health of the economy in re-election years clearly plays a role in the eight-year cycle. Voters often hold governors responsible for economic conditions as they do presidents. Worse, perhaps, economic downturns typically wreak havoc on state budgets. A poor economy was the reason Dick Thornburgh only narrowly won re-election in the 1982 recession year. With the single exception of Thornburgh, incumbent governors running for reelection since 1974 (the first year a governor could run for a second term) have enjoyed a good or recovering economy. Thornburgh's close call underscores the importance of economic conditions to the outcome of gubernatorial elections.
Understanding the eight-year cycle explains much about what has mattered in past elections. Yet there is nothing magical about it. It is not a crystal ball. Statistically speaking, it is a trend line, one explainable by four factors: power of incumbency; midterm voting against the White House; the cost of governing; and the economy.
Will the eight year-cycle end in 2014? Many believe it will. Almost certainly it will be tested as never before. An astounding 60-year streak may be over.
But a slam dunk it is not. Pennsylvania's unbroken string of party changeovers has been no quirk. - The Patriot-News, 6/5/14
I think that's pretty spot on. This race is different from previous years because Corbett was involved in the biggest scandal to rock Pennsylvania (the Penn State/Jerry Sandusky scandal) and his handling of Pennsylvania's economy has been abysmal. Plus Corbett is out of touch with what Pennsylvanians want, especially on this issue:Maybe a more apt question would be what is Governor Corbett’s “real” opponent? Is it Tom Wolf? The fact that every single Democratic candidate for governor polled ahead of the incumbent to varying degrees at the time of the democratic primary might suggest Tom Corbett’s real opponent is himself. Well, not so much himself as the $1 billion cut from public education, his abandonment of Adult Basic, his resistance to Medicaid expansion, his resistance to marriage equality, his failure to act on pension reform, liquor reform, government reform, or any number of his own legislative priorities. Those failures among so many others will dog the Governor right up until Election Day, and he knows it.
What Governor Corbett fears, and what Tom Wolf knows, is that this election isn’t like the others. As of June 4th a Quinnipiac University poll has Corbett’s disapproval at 55%. Even more than that (58%) say he does not deserve a second term. But hey, you don’t have to like the guy, right? It’s the economy, stupid!
Well, according to that same Quinnipiac poll, 60% of PA voters consider the economy “not so good,” and only a measly 23% of respondents feel as though they are more economically secure than before Corbett took office.
And even if the Governor’s approval rating were closer to the 50% mark, the cracks in the political foundation are deep. Older Pennsylvanians helped carry Corbett to the Governors Mansion in 2010, but seem poised to help sweep him out come November. Corbett’s approval with voters over 65 rests at only 33%. When asked whom they would vote for if the election were held today (on June 4th) in a Corbett vs. Wolf, race, only 32% of voters 65 and over say they’d vote for Corbett, and it drops to 30% among voters aged 50-64.
Governor Corbett’s vulnerability is real despite the negative national environment for democrats. Voters might be tempted to think that President Obama’s unpopularity within PA will help perpetuate the 8-year rule, but Barack Obama is not running for Governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf is. As the adage goes, “all politics is local,” and as we can see, this locality is soundly displeased with its Governor. - Keystone Politics, 6/13/14
The extraction tax has overwhelming support from Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Corbett has refused to impose this tax and instead open up Pennsylvania's public lands and forests for fracking. The extraction tax would bring in a lot of revenue for the state. Some think Corbett will end up imposing the tax as a last minute attempt to save his chances for re-election:In what was, by all accounts, their first public appearance together since winning their parties' nominations in the May 20 primary election, Republican Gov. Corbett and Democratic challenger Tom Wolf outlined their competing environmental stances Wednesday night at the annual dinner meeting of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council.
Both spoke of a need for balance - that environmental protection and economic development are not mutually exclusive.
But they differed in how to get there - most notably, but not surprisingly, on whether there should be an extraction tax on natural gas development in the state's rich Marcellus Shale formation.
And each lauded the council as a voice of reason. As opposed to scrappier environmental advocacy groups that demonstrate outside a governor's office, this is a group that gets invited in.
Its board has Democratic and Republican leaders, a who's who of business, law firms with strong environmental teams, and environmental consulting firms.
Corbett, who took the stage first in the Crystal Tea Room in the Wanamaker Building, praised the group repeatedly, saying its members were "people who truly understand the importance of the real world."
He waxed nostalgic, talking of boyhood days canoeing the Allegheny River and being in the Boy Scouts. "We got to see the environment," he said.
He said things are better now - how he always sees eagles along the river, and wild turkeys - "and I'm not talking about politicians, I'm talking about real turkeys" - in his backyard.
"We all have the same goal, and that goal is the better environment we've all been talking about, a stronger, more prosperous Pennsylvania for our children and our grandchildren."
Wolf spoke of how "too often, environmental discussions are zero-sum affairs that end up in stale battles and inconclusive results. . . . Neither economic growth nor wise stewardship ever comes out of those discussions."
He said it was time "for a conversation and a plan."
His is a seven-point version, starting with - and here he lobbed a shot - appointing "qualified individuals" to the Environmental Protection and Conservation and Natural Resources Departments, who would base decisions "on facts, not politics."
He said he wanted to work "collaboratively, not antagonistically," with local governments and would accelerate investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy.
As for the much-debated tax, Corbett steered clear of a direct reference, choosing to laud the existing impact fee, saying the $630 million it has generated in the last three years "is working for people across the state and at the local level."
Wolf came at it head-on, saying that a severance tax would "provide certainty for the industry and will help Pennsylvania's schools," and that it could "help mitigate some of the damage to the environment and our infrastructure that the industry might inadvertently cause." - Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/12/14
But with the gas industry being Corbett's biggest donors, I wouldn't hold my breath:State lawmakers are increasingly looking at a fracking tax to close the state’s $1.5 billion budget deficit, regardless of whether Gov. Tom Corbett or Tom Wolf wins the governorship this fall. A 5 percent tax — that’s the kind proposed by Wolf — would generate $500 million annually, and that prospect has attracted the attention of even nominally anti-tax Republicans.
Anthony May, a former aide to the late Gov. Robert P. Casey, predicts Corbett will sign a fracking tax for the Marcellus Shale even before the election. It’s the kind of Nixon-goes-to-China moment that may be required for Corbett to save his hold on office.
“He’s fought this long and hard,” May said. “Better for Corbett to sign the shale tax than have Tom Wolf beat him over the head in TV ads in October.” - Philadelphia Magazine, 6/13/14
Speaking of pension reform:Facing a $1.5 billion state deficit, lawmakers are taking another look at taxing natural gas extraction despite Gov. Tom Corbett's opposition.
“There are more and more people beginning to talk about Marcellus shale taxation,” said Sen. Edwin Erickson, R-Delaware County, sponsor of legislation for a 4 percent severance tax.
“I think there's a good chance something will go through,” said Jeffrey Weber, chairman of the political science department at East Stroudsburg University.
It's “bipartisan, bicameral support,” said Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills.
Industry advocates warn of consequences.
“Uncompetitive, shortsighted new taxes on one of our most promising industries will lead to fewer jobs, lower energy production and less tax revenues,” said Marcellus Shale Coalition President Dave Spigelmyer.
Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson County, said he has seen evidence of those jobs and doesn't want to “kill the goose laying golden eggs.” He thinks lawmakers should talk about all revenue-generating options.
Still, Scarnati did not rule out a shale gas tax.
There are other proposals for a 5 percent severance tax, including one from Corbett's general election opponent, Democrat Tom Wolf of York, who would earmark the money for education and the environment.
A 5 percent tax would generate about $500 million annually, said Stephanie Weyant, spokeswoman for the House Democratic Appropriations Committee.
Yet there are substantial legislative hurdles. Corbett wants lawmakers to enact pension and liquor reform “before he'll consider anything else,” including a budget, an extraction tax and myriad other revenue proposals, spokesman Jay Pagni said. - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 6/12/14
That's a sure sign that Corbett's own party knows he's toxic and with the state Senate in play, Republicans don't want anything to do with Corbett. Plus there's also this that could doom Corbett:Corbett is calling on lawmakers to enact “meaningful” pension reform, saying without it, the state will struggle to meet its employer contributions and may be forced to choose between paying pension obligations and funding programs and services for Pennsylvanians.
Currently, Pennsylvania’s two pension systems’ — the Employee Retirement System (SERS) and the Public School Employee Retirement System (PSERS) — have debt which outweighs their assets to the tune of more than $47 million combined. That number is projected to reach $65 billion within the next five years.
The governor’s budget office blames lagging pension investment returns as well as legislation that artificially suppressed employer contribution rates to relieve financial strains on the Commonwealth and school districts.
In response, Corbett is turning to state lawmakers like Rep. Martin Causer, R-Turtlepoint, for new legislation that would overhaul the state’s present pension system.
Causer said there are a number of proposals under consideration, including a “hybrid pension” plan that would combine the state’s limited, defined benefit pension plan with a 401K style defined contribution plan resulting in smaller employee benefits than those currently received and savings to the state of more than $10 billion over 30 years.
Causer stressed the proposal would not impact retirees or existing employees, only future state employees.
The “hybrid pension” proposal is gaining traction in the state House and has Corbett’s support.
But Causer said a meeting of House Republicans on the subject failed to yield a consensus. - The Bradford Era, 6/12/14
And there's also this:It's no secret that Gov. Tom Corbett's critics on the left are upset with his decision to take a pass on the Medicaid expansion authorized under the federal healthcare law.
From calling him a killer to accusing him of passing up hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid, Corbett's opponents say they can't understand why he'd pass up (allegedly) free cash to add coverage for 500,000 uninsured Pennsylvanians.
So as the administration waits on word from Washington on its plan to use the federal cash to move the uninsured into the private market, activists upped their game on Monday.
With the budget deadline -- and a $1.2 billion deficit -- looming -- they're pressing lawmakers to accept the cash to help balance the books.
"The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has the opportunity to expand coverage to 500,000 people, including 60,000 veterans," Antoinette Kraus, of the PA Health Action Network, said during a rally in the Capitol rotunda on Monday. "Instead, Gov. Corbett put forth a more complex plan."
In addition, the state has passed up some $600 million in savings and efficiencies for 2014-15 (including savings on so-called "uncompensated care" costs) by not accepting the expansion.
Sharon Ward of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center said she believes, if Pennsylvania accepts by the end of June, presently uninsured people could begin obtaining health care by this fall.
Advocates said the funds also would lead to about 35,000 jobs related to health care facility expansion that would be triggered by the funds, and which they said would create an additional infusion of employment-related tax revenues. - The Patriot-news, 6/10/14
Meanwhile, Wolf and Lt. Governor nominee, State Senator Mike Stack (D. PA), picked up a huge endorsement:Dawn Haldeman, a Republican, voted for GOP Gov. Tom Corbett in 2010, when the former prosecutor rode a nationwide tea-party surge into office.
She won't this year, said Ms. Haldeman, 53 years old. One reason: She is still unhappy about the sharp drop in public-education funding in his administration's first budget three years ago.
Such lingering criticism has made education funding a top campaign issue as Mr. Corbett fights for re-election this fall in one of the nation's most closely watched races. He trails Democratic challenger Tom Wolf by 20 points in one recent poll.
The race is among the best hopes for Democrats, who are vying to win back several governors' offices this year—mirroring the Republican fight to pick up seats in the U.S. Senate. The GOP controls 29 governorships across the U.S. and is defending 22 seats in 2014, compared with 14 defended by Democrats.
East Goshen, a Republican-leaning township in suburban Philadelphia's Chester County, voted by a wide margin for Mr. Corbett four years ago, and he carried the county with 56% of the vote. Analysts say he must do well again in Chester and nearby voter-rich counties to win a second term.
Voters such as Ms. Haldeman could make the difference. An office administrator at a private Montessori school, she said she doesn't accept Mr. Corbett's argument that an end to $1 billion in federal stimulus funds forced the statewide reduction in 2011.
"He has the final say in everything," she said, suggesting officials could have found other revenue by, for example, imposing a new tax on natural-gas-drilling operations in the Marcellus Shale. Opponents of a tax say it would threaten jobs.
A recent Quinnipiac University poll shows Mr. Wolf leading statewide by 53% to 33%. Nearly 60% of those surveyed said Mr. Wolf, a former state revenue secretary who owns a building-materials company, would handle education better. Thirty percent of those who disapproved of Mr. Corbett's performance cited education as the main reason, by far the most common answer. - Wall Street Journal, 6/13/14
We can defeat Corbett and take the State Senate but we need to make sure our base gets out and vote. Click here to donate and get involved with Wolf, Stack and the Pennsylvania Democratic Party:Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf has picked up the endorsement of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO.
The union's Executive Council announced the endorsement , along with one from state Rep. Mike Stack as lieutenant governor, on Thursday after a meeting in Harrisburg. It represents about 800,000 workers in the commonwealth.
"Tom Wolf will provide a new direction for Pennsylvania, one in which working men and women are part of the solution instead of being viewed as the cause of the problems," said AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale in a prepared statement. "Tom Wolf believes as we do that the best is yet to come and by bringing people and institutions together we can recapture and regrow the good jobs and decent wages that provide economic opportunities for all workers." - Pittsburgh Business Times, 6/13/14