PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Ask Gov. Tom Corbett why he lost reelection, and he has a pretty simple answer.
“We delivered on the promises we made in 2010 of fiscal discipline, of limited government, and of free enterprise. And when I made those promises, I said I was going to do what is right for Pennsylvania, the tough decision, and people may not like it. Well, obviously they didn’t like it,” Corbett told supporters at his election night rally.
But it’s much more complex than that.
After all, there was a huge national wave for Republicans on Tuesday, but Corbett couldn’t catch the wave.
“It was a very good Republican day,” GOP political consultant Mike DeVanney told KDKA political editor Jon Delano. “Obviously, at the top of the ticket, the governor’s race, it was really a disappointment.”
Many political consultants like DeVanney say the loss had less to do with Corbett’s policies than his personality and style.
“Gov. Corbett went into that as Attorney General Tom Corbett. Perhaps they treated those first months like it was a grand jury presentment where you stay in and keep your folks together, but you’re not bringing people in,” said DeVanney. “And that’s not how you’re going to get other key stakeholders and legislators who you need to pass your initiatives on board.”
Corbett, who can be quite friendly in one-on-one gatherings, struggled to communicate with the larger public.
“Unfortunately, this was perhaps not a job where his skill sets were best suited. And communication is a very important part of the role of governor,” DeVanney said.
And that left an opportunity for his opponents to define Corbett in the worst possible light.
“One of the first rules of politics is that you don’t let your opponents define you, and a lot of the last four years was not spent on the offense of telling that story, and I think we saw the results of that last night,” DeVanney said.
Tom Wolf himself may not be a great communicator either, but in this election all that mattered was that he wasn’t Tom Corbett.
“I said I might be a one-term governor, and I am,” he told supporters.
Corbett, who carried Allegheny County four years ago, lost his home county this year by 58,000 votes.
And Democratic efforts to turn out votes in their Philadelphia stronghold seemed to work.
Wolf beat Corbett there by 282,000 votes.
Tuesday night was the fun time for the Governor-elect Tom Wolf. Now the hard work begins, and his biggest potential problem may be the Republican-controlled General Assembly in Harrisburg.
“We’ve grown the majority in the state Senate, and we’ve grown the majority in the state House to historic proportions,” noted DeVanney.
The incoming state House will have 119 Republicans and only 84 Democrats, while the new state Senate has 30 Republicans and just 20 Democrats.
The big Republican majorities will make it harder for the Democratic governor, says DeVanney.
“That’s going to be a challenge. He isn’t going to be able to do as he did in business and say, ‘I want to do this’ and his employees will just execute it. He’s going to have to be very deft in dealing with the legislature,” DeVanney said.
Many legislators of both parties felt Gov. Corbett ignored them, so that gives Governor-elect Wolf an opening to create a better relationship with the Republican leaders.
And some of Wolf’s agenda, as outlined at his Victory Party, might be the basis for compromise:
“We need to reestablish education as a priority in Pennsylvania.”
“We’ve got to make sure we are creating good jobs here in Pennsylvania.”
“We have natural resources here. We have to take advantage of those natural resources responsibly, but we have to take advantage of them.”
“Pennsylvania simply cannot be open for just a few favored cronies. We have to be open for business for everybody.”
Noted DeVanny, “Both Tom Wolf and the leadership in the legislature, we do want Pennsylvania open to everybody. But where the rubber meets the road is in the policy, and it’s going to be a very exciting next four years to see how these group of folks work together.”
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