This article first appeared at the McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, October 31, 2014:
The Goldfish Club was formed in November, 1942 by one of the designers of the life raft, otherwise referred to lovingly by airmen as their Mae West. It awards a badge to those who survive a ditching at sea, and if Pennsylvania Republican Governor Tom Corbett pulls this one out, not only will he qualify for a badge, he’ll get to go to the head of the line.
Polling more than 20 points behind his Democratic challenger, former Pennsylvania Revenue Director (who could lose to someone like that?) Tom Wolf, as recently as early August, Corbett has pulled to within 10 points, according to Real Clear Politics.
Corbett’s “Mae West” may not be enough to save him. On Tuesday, October 28, just seven days away from Election Day, Corbett tossed his life saver to members of the National Rifle Association by signing into law a bill that “preempts” local cities, towns and municipalities from passing laws more restrictive and onerous than those allowed by the state. The NRA was delighted:
Today, Governor Tom Corbett signed into law House Bill 80, the strongest firearms preemption statute in the country…. This critical pro-gun legislation … ensure[s] that firearm and ammunition laws are consistent throughout Pennsylvania and allow citizens to seek legal remedies against localities whose gun ordinances exceed state law.
The NRA asked its members to thank the governor:
Please thank Governor Corbett for being a steadfast advocate of your Second Amendment rights and for signing HB 80 into law.
It should also have asked them to vote for him on Tuesday. Corbett’s in deep kimchi and needs every vote he can get.
It’s the baggage that’s sinking Corbett (to continue the metaphor): the Penn State scandal, the state’s poor economic performance, his waffling on fracking (Pennsylvania sits on the vast Marcellus Shale deposits), and the new transportation tax that’s sucking billions out of the wallets of his constituents. Aside from those, Corbett’s doing just fine.
During his second stint as the state’s attorney general, in 2009 Corbett convened a grand jury to investigate child sexual abuse by former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. But it took nearly three years to gain a conviction, for which Corbett received massive criticism. It didn’t help matters any that along the way Corbett’s staff approved a $3 million state grant to Sandusky’s Second Mile charity for children, which, according to the findings of the grand jury, served as a repository for potential sex-abuse victims.
Although the state has added some 125,000 jobs during his administration (he took office in January, 2011), that ranks Pennsylvania ahead of only New Mexico, Alaska, and Arkansas among the 50 states.
His effort to milk Marcellus Shale for all it was worth managed to alienate nearly everyone: the natural gas producers, the environmentalists, ordinary citizens, the lot. Initially he opposed instituting a natural gas extraction tax, but in 2012 he signed a law instituting instead an “impact fee” imposed on drillers to offset any real or imagined environmental damage they might cause.
Under the terms of that law, Corbett also managed to outrage environmentalists and citizens in local municipalities by requiring them to allow those drillers unlimited access to the shale in all zoning districts at any time of day or night. The bill also required industrial and agricultural zoning districts to allow wastewater pits and gas processing plants to be constructed there as well.
Further, the law prohibits civilians from knowing the contents of the fracking fluids used in the drilling process, giving that information only to doctors providing emergency medical treatment and forcing them to sign a document after treatment that swears them to secrecy about those contents. While the bill didn’t arrive at Corbett’s desk until it had been passed by the state legislature, Corbett has been criticized for it anyway.
He’s even managed to offend some people with his “life raft” law. Mayors are already complaining that the new pro-gun law prohibits them from passing laws that they deem appropriate for their jurisdictions.
What may prove to be the last straw (new metaphor) are Cato Institute’s comments explaining why they dropped him from an “A” to a “C” in their newly released study, “Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors”:
Governor Corbett fell from an “A” on the last Cato report to a “C” on this one mainly because of his support for a huge tax increase on transportation. The increase passed in 2013, and will raise more than $1 billion a year from Pennsylvania motorists….
There is one thing, thankfully, working in Corbett’s favor: it’s called the Pennsylvania “cycle” anomaly: ever since 1950 Democrats and Republicans have alternated occupying the governor’s mansion every eight years. A victory by Tom Wolf, a Democrat, would break that cycle. Pennsylvania has also voted against the party of the sitting president (Obama is a Democrat) in 18 of the last 19 gubernatorial races (dating back to 1938). Further, the Pennsylvania “cycle” has had Pennsylvanians voting against Democrats in 16 of the last 17 races with a Democrat in the White House. Finally, the last incumbent to be defeated for re-election was Democrat William Bigler in 1854!
To the surprise of pollsters, Corbett has closed the gap to 10 percentage points since August. But time is running out. As Real Clear Politics put it:
Republicans do seem to be coming home for Corbett in the closing days of this election, helping [him] to halve what was once a 22-point gap.
But that’s probably not enough to help him get it done [on Tuesday].
On the other hand, if Corbett does get it done, he’ll qualify for the Goldfish Award going away.
The Blaze: Endangered Governor Takes Big Gun Action in Lead up to Election
Erie TV News: Corbett Signs New Gun Law
Real Clear Politics: Pennsylvania Governor – Corbett vs. Wolf
NRAILA: Pennsylvania: Governor Tom Corbett Signs Firearms Preemption Legislation into Law
Pennsylvania gubernatorial election, 2014