Gov. Tom Corbett is facing several re-election hurdles that could leave him without a job after the November election, a political analyst said Friday.
"I won't say Corbett can't win," said Terry Madonna, a pollster and professor at Franklin & Marshall College. "But it's really going to be an uphill battle for him."
Madonna, while speaking at the Altoona-Blair County Development Corp.'s annual breakfast meeting, offered no comment on the upcoming Republican primary contest for the 9th congressional district where incumbent Bill Shuster of Hollidaysburg is trying to protect his seat from challengers Art Halvorson and Travis Schooley.
Instead, the Lancaster-based commentator focused attention on the political climate and Corbett's risk.
"National analysts say he's the most endangered incumbent governor," Madonna said.
For the primary, Corbett will be the lone Republican on the ballot. The state Supreme Court on May 1 ordered the removal of his only challenger, Bob Guzzardi, for failing to meet the deadline for filing a financial interest statement.
On the Democratic side, four candidates are vying for their party's nomination: York businessman Tom Wolf, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, state Treasurer Robert McCord and former Secretary of Environmental Protection Katie McGinty.
Madonna said Wolf's early TV ads to introduce himself were "brilliant" because they helped him gain early recognition with the voters.
Retired Blair County Commissioner Donna Gority, a Democrat, said she agreed with Madonna.
"Because of those ads, Tom Wolf jumped from the bottom of the pack to the top of the pack," Gority said.
A February poll of Democratic voters conducted by Franklin & Marshall College found Wolf with a substantial lead, drawing support from 36 percent of those polled. His closest competitor, in that poll, was Schwartz with 9 percent.
A statewide survey by The Morning Call/Muhlenberg College, released May 1, showed Wolf with 38 of the support from those polled. Schwartz's support had increased to 13 percent. The survey also showed McCord with 11 percent and McGinty with 2 percent.
For anything to change before the primary, Madonna said the trailing candidates will have to "pull the lead wolf into the pack" or find a way to make themselves stand out from the others.
Gority said she thinks Wolf's appeal as a businessman will help him in the primary.
"Plus, he's not as liberal as some of the others," Gority said. "If he wins, that might help him in the fall because some of the Republicans who don't like Tom Corbett may be willing to cross over and vote for Wolf."
As for the fall, Madonna said Corbett's success in the election may hinge on the stories that develop in the fall, when children head back to school, especially if they see cuts to programs like music and arts.
"The voters think Corbett has cut education spending," Madonna said. "That's the single most important reason he's vulnerable."
"[Corbett] has to continue to speak to this issue about education," Republican Blair County Commissioner Terry Tomassetti said.
Records show that since 2011 when Corbett became governor, state funding of basic education has increased every year. But the state's total allocation to schools continues to fall short of substantial amounts allocated in 2009-10 and 2010-11 because of federal stimulus money.
"Tom Corbett ran for governor to lead, not to make friends," said Blair County Republican Party Chairman A.C. Stickel said. "He's done that, and he has taken some hard positions that have been beneficial to our state. He needs to be touting his success, something he hasn't done a good job of, and we're going to help him."
Madonna also named Corbett's communication skills a factor with the potential to influence the general election, especially if the economy remains stagnant.
"Corbett is not the best communicator," Madonna said. "And voters in tough times want to think [a candidate] cares about them."
"It's a long way to November," Stickel said.