Madonna: Rohrer write-in should worry Corbett

Rohrer with Pittsburgh-area supporters on Primary Day

A group of conservative voters has launched a write-in gubernatorial campaign for Berks Country Representative Sam Rohrer, who lost in the spring primary. One analyst says he can envision a scenario where the movement has an impact on the fall election.

Rohrer and his hard-line conservative platform won 31 percent of the vote in May. The lawmaker hasn’t endorsed Republican nominee Tom Corbett, and indicates he doesn’t have any plans to. Pennsylvania law bars primary losers from running on third-party ballot lines, but a small group of Rohrer supporters have launched a website urging voters to write in Rohrer’s name in this fall.

Franklin and Marshall College political scientist Terry Madonna says the Corbett campaign should be worried. “I mean [Corbett] has, not arguably, somewhere between a seven to ten point lead,” he says.  “But what happens if they end up absorbing 7 to 10 points of his lead? I don’t think that’s out of the question, for Rohrer to get up to ten points.” Madonna says if nothing else, the campaign creates more hassles for Corbett. “You don’t want to be there if you don’t have to be,” he argues.

Rohrer is keeping the write-in campaign at arms-length distance. He didn’t return calls for comment, and Representative Gordon Denlinger, a Lancaster Country Republican who’s close to Rohrer, says the representative isn’t endorsing the movement. Denlinger isn’t fully backing the effort, either, but says it’s wrong to tell conservatives to vote for Corbett, just to put a Republican in the governor’s mansion. “, I would certainly not ever encourage someone to say, set aside your beliefs, let that take a back seat and just move forward with some type of a political calculation,” he argues.

Rohrer centered his primary bid around reduced government spending. He argues Pennsylvania is on the verge of insolvency, and increased spending and dishonest budgeting are putting the state billions of dollars in the hole each year. Rohrer actively courted “Tea Party” voters, appearing at 9/12 Project and Tea Party meetings across the commonwealth.

Organizers of the write-in campaign say they just don’t trust Corbett. One of the main collaborators, Sue Nelms, says the Attorney General lost her support when he called the Constitution a “living document.” She’s also skeptical, because Corbett didn’t deliver a clear answer to the hypothetical question of whether he’d seize Pennsylvanians’ guns, if ordered to d0-so by the president. “If he was governor of our state, I think he would not follow the Constitution,” she says.  “And I think that’s sad.”

OAG table displays campaign lit

Late to the game on this one, but a picture distributed by Team Onorato caused a bit of a stir yesterday. The campaign blasted out a photo taken at a Bradford County fair. The picture shows an Office of the Attorney General table with “Corbett for Governor” literature and buttons on it.

That’s  a bit of a problem for an office busy prosecuting people for using state resources to conduct campaign work.

“It’s unfortunate,” OAG spokesman Nils Fredericksen told Capitol Ideas. “What this incident will do is cause us to limit access to the materials we have.” He says he doesn’t know who put the campaign swag on the table, and that agents removed it as soon as they noticed.

PA2010 was first with the story.

Corbett talks taxes and tourism at Longwood Gardens

Corbett speaks to a Longwood Gardens employee.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett is trumpeting his “no tax” pledge on the campaign trail.

Against a backdrop of waterfalls, palm trees and lush vegetation, Corbett told a group of supporters at Longwood Gardens he’s the only candidate who will lower state spending next year. The AG says Pennsylvania’s taxes are too high, and the levies are dragging down the state’s economy.

Corbett is referring to the alcoholic drink tax that helped fund the county’s Port Authority.

The next governor will likely face a multi-billion dollar deficit in 2011. The Senate’s top Republican, Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, has said he “doesn’t see how” Corbett could pass a budget without raising new revenues, and Governor Rendell has also expressed skepticism about the pledge. Onorato, who’s also promising to lower taxes, has called Corbett’s vow “a gimmick.”

The Republican’s main reason for the Longwood Gardens visit — side-note: it’s a HORRIBLE idea to hold a press conference in a greenhouse when it’s 90 degrees — was to talk up Pennsylvania tourism. “Supporting the tourism industry is something Corbett feels can boost our state economy as a whole,” read the press release his sweltering staffers handed out.

But with the vow to cut spending, how could Corbett afford to fund tourism marketing? “Budgets are made by what we have to fund first,” he explained, “and then after that, what’s left over? What’s discretionary spending?”

So what camp does marketing fall into? Discretionary or necessary?

This year’s budget spends $5.2 million on tourism promotion. That’s a steep drop from the $15 million spending level in the 2008-2009 budget, and about a million dollars less than the state spent last year.

The continuing lifespan of “jobs are there”

Both John Baer of the Daily News and PA2010’s Dan Hirshhorn have written thoughtful analysis pieces on Tom Corbett’s “the jobs are there” comment, and what  both his and Dan Onorato’s campaign reactions — or non-reactions — to the gaffe says about their  strategy.

Baer writes about how Team Corbett has done its best to simply ignore the Onorato campaign’s ongoing offensive. “Corbett’s campaign manager did not return a phone call. Corbett’s campaign Web site last night showed “no upcoming events,” and the last news release listed was, ironically, “Tom Corbett Visits With Business Owners in Downtown Elizabethtown,” from the July 9 event at which he made the controversial remark.”

In sharp contrast, writes Hirschhorn, Team Onorato has morphed into “all jobs, all the time” mode. “Over a seven-day stretch this month, Democrat Dan Onorato held events in six cities, criticizing gubernatorial rival Tom Corbett at every stop for his comments about unemployed Pennsylvanians. His campaign blasted reporters more than half-a-dozen releases, produced a Web video and started an online petition. In each city he visited, Onorato picked up earned media—campaign parlance for when the press covers a candidate’s activities. Newspaper editorial pages came down mostly on his side of things.”

I would add another element: the aggressive way a handful of newspapers have continued to write article after article about the comment, independent of Onorato’s PR blitz. Yesterday, Corbett complained that some outlets have distorted and changed his initial comments, pointing out at least one paper claimed he called the unemployed “lazy.” I think the AG has a legitimate point — Democratic strategists and some columnists have exaggerated the quote, and made it more broad-sweeping and offensive than what he actually told reporters in Elizabethtown.

The full remarks, as initially reported here, are:

“One of the issues, and I hear it repeatedly – one of the individuals said, ‘I can’t get workers. People don’t want to come back to work while they still have unemployment.’’ He said.  “They’re literally telling him, ‘I’ll come back to work when unemployment runs out.’ That’s becoming a problem.” “The jobs are there. But if we keep extending unemployment, people are going to sit there and – I’ve literally had construction companies tell me, I can’t get people to come back to work until…they say, I’ll come back to work when unemployment runs out.”

Stateline: It’s hard out there for an AG

Stateline.org has an interesting article today on Attorneys General from across the country who are running for higher office this year, and how the position can create both  political pluses and minuses when the Tom Corbetts  and Andrew Cuomos of the world jump from the legal to the political arena.

The article discusses both the health care and immigration lawsuits Corbett and other AGs have signed onto.

Onorato = Rendell — at least, according to Corbett

Last week’s Quinnipiac University poll found Pennsylvanians disapprove of Governor Rendell’s job performance by a 50-42 margin. On top of that, 55 percent of respondents say they DON’T want “Pennsylvania’s next governor to continue Ed Rendell’s policies.”

The numbers suggest Tom Corbett would do well to link Dan Onorato with Rendell as much as he can, and an email sent out by Corbett campaign manager Brian Nutt yesterday suggests Team Corbett is ramping up their efforts to do-so.

(Off-course diversion: the email’s headline, “Who You Gonna Call…the Gov”, reminds me of a great interview GQ recently conducted with  Bill Murray. Check it out. Anyway…)

Here’s the text:

Greetings!

When Onorato’s negative attacks on Tom Corbett last week found no traction with the Pennsylvania voters as evidenced by the most recent Rasmussen poll, he called on his mentor Governor Ed Rendell to pick up the ball.
This is a trend we saw begin in the primary.  When a large field of candidates meant Onorato needed state-wide commercials to win… who did he call?  Ed Rendell, whose “deep-pocketed” donors were, as reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer, “on the Onorato bandwagon.”
And when those commercials needed a consultant, Rendell delivered again in the form of Neil Oxman, a known Rendell consultant who was advising the Onorato camp during the primary (Philadelphia Inquirer 5/20/2010).  The least he could do really for his “preferred choice.”  (Morning Call 5/2/2010)
Onorato’s go-to guy may not have been the best choice this time.  After all, according to recent polls the majority of Pennsylvanians feel Rendell and his policies are out of touch with the needs of this Commonwealth.  Who can blame them after the Rendell administration raised state spending by 40 percent, increased personal income taxes by almost 10 percent and has seen nearly a quarter of a million additional Pennsylvanians out of work?
Unfortunately, again we see Onorato following in Rendell’s footsteps with Allegheny County unemployment and spending on the rise in the time Onorato has had control.  It’s time for us to turn the corner on failed policies, political cronies and more of the same.
Help spread the word that we need Tom Corbett as our next Governor in order to leave the failure of the last 8 years behind.  Forward this email to your friends and family and encourage them to join our team as you have by visiting our website and sign up with their email.
Sincerely,
Brian Nutt
Campaign Manager
Tom Corbett for Governor

And finally, the commercial

From Team Onorato. A campaign spokesman says it’s running online, but not TV.

Onorato: “jobs are there” comment shows Corbett is naive

Democrat Dan Onorato is pouncing on Republican Tom Corbett’s recent comments about unemployed workers who are turning down job offers.

During a campaign appearance in Lancaster County on Friday, Corbett said “the jobs are there,” but many workers are passing up opportunities in order to keep collecting unemployment benefits. Corbett says that’s what he’s been hearing from business owners across the state.

More than 500,000 Pennsylvanians are out of work, and the state’s unemployment rate is 9.1 percent.

Onorato says Corbett is out of touch. “To somehow turn this and put the blame on them, as though they don’t want a job because there might be an unemployment check out there. Well then you either have never known anybody who was unemployed, or you’re just naïve to the situation. Or you just don’t care.”

Onorato blasted Corbett for more than a half-hour, re-directing nearly every question back to the Attorney General’s comments.

Oddly, Onorato refused to take a solid stance on extending federal unemployment benefits during his press conference on…unemployment. He was asked at least three times whether he supports increasing benefits to 99 weeks, and never gave a definitive “yes” or “no.” “I wouldn’t be opposed to it,” he said after a second follow-up,  “but I’m not lobbying – that’s not my issue right now. My issue is to get jobs back to Pennsylvania. Congress has got to make a decision on what they think is best.”
At the same time Onorato spoke to Capitol reporters, Corbett held a campaign event in Lancaster County, and began to walk his comments back.  “People are perceiving it as insensitive. I don’t mean to be insensitive – that certainly wasn’t the intention,” Corbett told Capitolwire. “I’m not insensitive to it. I know that the people of Pennsylvania, we’ve got a 9.1 percent unemployment rate. We’ve got to improve that. I think I’ve talked about we need to improve it by getting more jobs to Pennsylvania, by keeping businesses in Pennsylvania, by reducing the cost of taxes in Pennsylvania, of doing business in Pennsylvania.”

Still, the head of a conservative trade association is backing Corbett up. Kevin Shivers, the executive director of Pennsylvania’s National Federation of Independent Businesses branch, says small business owners are telling his group they can’t find applicants for job openings.

Shivers says he hears the complaint at least once a week.

Reaction….

…to Attorney General Tom Corbett’s “the jobs are there” comments continues to flood in. The AFL-CIO and Pennsylvania Democratic Party have released statements condemning the remarks. Both the Commonwealth Foundation and Keystone Research Center have taken a look at unemployment statistics, as well. The right-leaning folks at the Commonwealth Foundation say Corbett is “right on unemployment compensation offer[ing] incentives for workers to refuse to take jobs, and to avoid seeking new jobs.” But they also conclude Corbett was “wrong to say ‘the jobs are there’ – at least not in terms of the number of job openings that would dramatically return our economy to the employment levels of a few years ago.”

The Keystone Research Center says that’s the whole point. The jobs AREN’T there. “As of May 2010 employment in Pennsylvania remains 3% or 184,000 jobs below its level in December 2007. At a comparable point in the two previous economic recoveries employment was just under 2% below its peak levels. And critically the number of unemployed workers per job opening remains substantially higher than normal.”

Here’s Democratic Chairman Jim Burn’s statement on Corbett’s comments. (Note the cribbing of Senator Ted Kennedy’s famous “In Robert Bork’s America…” speech.)

Pittsburgh: Tom Corbett’s insensitive and callous remarks claiming many unemployed Pennsylvanians “are purposefully remaining unemployed in order to collect benefits”, demonstrates how out of touch he is with the working families of our Commonwealth. Since becoming the Republican candidate for Governor, Tom Corbett has continually taken positions that lead on to believe he lives in a different Pennsylvania than the rest of us.

In Tom Corbett’s Pennsylvania there is no need for unemployment benefits because there are plenty of jobs for everyone. In Tom Corbett’s Pennsylvania there is no need for healthcare reform because the current healthcare system is working just fine. In Tom Corbett’s Pennsylvania we don’t need millions of dollars of federal stimulus money because we don’t need jobs and our roads, bridges and schools don’t need improvement. Hanging-out at fundraisers with oil and gas company executives, Wall Street bankers and other wealthy Republican contributors, Tom Corbett sees a different Pennsylvania than the rest of us.

Tom Corbett needs to visit the Pennsylvania we live in and immediately apologize the unemployed workers he insulted with his inconsiderate remarks.

And here’s the AFL-CIO’s:

Harrisburg, PA – Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Richard Bloomingdale is astonished to hear that Tom Corbett a candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania believes that any of the 590,000 unemployed workers in Pennsylvania would much rather stay at home that to go to work.

Where Tom Corbett was canvassing when he made the remark, in Lancaster County, the Labor Department reported last month that the unemployment rate rose above 8 percent or over 25,000 workers.

“Unemployed workers would rather be working, feeding their families and paying the mortgage than living with the uncertainty of not having a job, earning less than half their wages and going without health care and pensions,” Bloomingdale said.

“We are asking Tom Corbett to tell us where are the jobs. Unemployment in the building and construction industry is at 30 percent in some areas of the State and the statewide unemployment is over 9 percent and higher in many counties,” Bloomingdale said.

“We invite Tom Corbett to sit down with unemployed workers and find out what it is like to live without a job. Unemployed workers are looking for work every day. The problem is that for every job opening there are many unemployed workers.

Democratic candidate Dan Onorato is holding a Capitol press conference on the subject in about twenty minutes, so more to come on this.

And now…

…the response to the response.

As noted earlier, Attorney General Tom Corbett made waves today by saying people are purposely staying unemployed in order to cash in on benefits. Dan Onorato’s campaign pounced, saying, “Tom Corbett doesn’t even recognize there’s a problem, so it’s no surprise that he has no real plan to improve our economy or actually create the jobs that in his mind already exist.”

Corbett’s spokesman, Kevin Harley, counters, “if there’s one thing Dan Onorato is an expert in, it’s unemployment,” noting the stat has gone up during Onorato’s tenure as Allegheny County Executive.

I have emailed the Onorato campaign to see whether they want to respond to Corbett’s response to Onorato’s response. Over the course of the primary, Onorato consistently countered the unemployment attack by saying Allegheny County’s jobless rate lagged behind the rest of the state’s.

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