Why Pat Toomey won’t replace Gov. Corbett in PA governor’s race
Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: A weak-looking executive incumbent faces a soon-coming re-election battle as the opposition party salivates over the following year’s election day. Meanwhile, anonymous members of the executive’s own party begin leaking rumors about a possible challenge from a more-respected party member who, if successful, would have a better chance at winning the next year’s election.
No, we’re not talking about rumors of Hillary Clinton challenging President Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination in time for the 2012 elections. We’re talking about new rumors that U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey could challenge and replace Gov. Tom Corbett in the 2014 Pennsylvania gubernatorial elections.
Those rumors have been flying every which way this week, partially due to the governor’s latest gaffe, where he compared marriage equality to … *spins wheel* … incest. And with gaffe after gaffe piling up for the governor, some believe the state party just can’t take it anymore and wants to see him hit the road.
“The dam is breaking,” one anonymous GOP official told PoliticsPA in a well-researched story on this very subject. “It’s just a matter of getting the right group of people in front of the Governor to say, ‘the party’s over.’”
But will anyone actually do it? And if so, would the governor listen? And if he did, would Sen. Pat Toomey even be the man for the job? I think not. Here’s why.
Pat Toomey scares people
Don’t let Tom Corbett’s ability to be a tone-deaf jerk and Pat Toomey’s interest in moderate talking points fool you: Pennsylvania’s junior senator is not much more popular than our governor. Sure, Corbett’s ratings hover around the high 20s/low 30s, but Toomey’s have regularly been shown to be in the mid-30s. The highest they ever got in recent times was after he signed onto a mostly-Democratic gun regulation bill that between 85 and 90 percent of the public—and Pennsylvanians—agreed with.
This was considered controversial and Toomey was then looked at as somewhat heroic for going against his own party and the National Rifle Association. Even then, his approval rating never got over 50 percent—it reached 48. Considering he’s in the midst of a shutdown in which Congress has a 5 percent approval rating, and he represents the lesser popular political party within it, we can’t imagine Toomey’s numbers have stayed anywhere near his 2013 high. Which wouldn’t bode well for 2014.
The PA Republican Party isn’t that divided
Sorry to say it, but Tom Corbett’s approval ratings amongst his own party are not based on policy—they’re based on conceived popularity. If a member of a party wants to challenge an incumbent successfully, she’s got to have more going for her than the fact that she’s not the incumbent.
Take the Tea Party tidal wave of 2010. When incumbents were primaried throughout the country, voters weren’t supporting those candidates with donations and triangular hats just because they weren’t the incumbent. They were supporting them because they represented a more extreme version of the norm—something it was thought, at the time, was necessary to fight against a president who had a secret plan to make over the United States in Russia’s image, circa 1918.
Employing the slogan “He’s a cool guy, sure, but I could probably beat the other side in the general election” is how the Democratic Party got stuck with John Kerry as their presidential candidate in 2004.
Tom Corbett’s controversial words aren’t controversial on the right
What Tom Corbett and his administration has said over the last two years to gain the mire of opponents and regular people alike sure has been mean, huh? I’d go so far as to say mean and crude. Let’s recount the general ideas.
- Women going through forced government ultrasounds should just close their eyes.
- Poor people don’t want to work because welfare is the best.
- Employers can’t find anyone sober to hire.
- He cannot find any Latinos to hire in his administration.
- Gay marriage is like two 12-year-olds getting married.
And on, and on. But here’s the thing: For the most part, the above statements are part of state Republican orthodoxy.
Did Pennsylvania recently go into a time warp and come out in a time when dozens of Republicans aren’t supporting a ban on gay marriage statewide? Did Republicans in Pennsylvania not support and introduce a bill which would have forced women seeking abortions to receive a mandatory ultrasound, and stare at it? Did Republicans not ban poor women who get their health care from Obamacare exchanges from using said health care plans – and their own, out-of-pocket cash – to get an abortion? Did Republicans not introduce, several times over the years, legislation which would force the unemployed and those utilizing welfare, to receive a drug test?
Actually, they did all those things. Governor Corbett just also supported them. It would seem the only problem those looking to give the gov the boot have with his statements is that he’s saying them in public.
This sort of thing just doesn’t happen
Sitting governors are rarely challenged by serious primary opponents. That’s true of both parties. And even when they are – and this goes for all ranks of government, local, state and national – those challenges are rarely successful.
The most well-known challenge to unmitigated power in recent times probably happened during the presidential race of 1968, in which President Lyndon Johnson had to drop out when a horde of liberal primary opponents, like Eugene McCarthy and eventually Robert Kennedy, joined. But even then, when the turmoil was said and done, Democrats came out with Hubert Humphrey, LBJ’s vice president, as their candidate. The establishment got their choice candidate even though the party was divided into four—four!—different factions. Then, the U.S. got Nixon.
Pitting the two most powerful and well-known members of the Pennsylvania GOP against each other would be a disaster I can’t imagine anyone in the state party wants to see. Because no matter who wins, the party loses. Whether it be their governor entering the general election even weaker than he is now, or their most sober conservative getting smeared on TV and in debates two years before he may have to go through the whole thing all over again, there have to be powers-that-be in the GOP that would rather see their sitting governor fail, then start over again, fresh, in 2018.
Follow Randy on Twitter: @RandyLoBasso