by Chris Freind
Candidate Choice Creates Calamitous Clusterf**k of Carnage
“Stevie Welch sat on a wall (of cards); Stevie Welch had a great fall (winning a mere two of 67 counties). All of King (or is it Joker?) Corbett’s horses (jackasses), and all the King’s men (endorsements by 27 County Commissioners and 35 State Legislators), couldn’t put Stevie’s candidacy together again (4 of 5 Republican voters rejected the Welch-Corbett-Obama “ticket”).
And so Freindly Fire’s prediction that Governor Corbett-endorsed U.S. Senate candidate Steve Welch would come in a whoppingly-bad third place was proven correct, though it didn’t take a political genius to guess that result. After all, asking --- strong-arming, actually --- Republicans to support the Obama-voting, Joe Sestak-supporting Welch was anathema to common sense and political savvy. And the resulting carnage is everywhere: the endorsement of the state Republican Party is as meaningful as being valedictorian of summer school; getting backed by Corbett now carries substantial negative baggage, and GOP legislators will think long and hard about aligning themselves with the Governor on his signature issues (are there any?), fearing that his promises of support could be akin to political suicide.
And all of this occurred just 15 months after being ushered into office with a ten-point margin and solid majorities in the House and Senate. And ironically, so easily preventable.
Many insiders will claim the blow to Corbett’s prestige will be a fleeting, short-term event. As is most often the case, those “experts” will be wrong. The political reality is that next month, when the Governor wants his ill-fated and unpopular voucher plan for only low-income families (which ignores the middle class) to pass, he will fall short, as his Party walks away from him. When he attempts to garner support for his proposed education cuts in the budget, he will meet substantial resistance. And should he try his hand at privatizing liquor, many in his GOP caucuses will cut and run. Very few will risk their neck for a Guv who in the best of times was invisible, preferring the shadows to the bully pulpit. Now, Corbett has become a liability.
(Sidenote: Corbett’s low-income voucher allies made that issue the only issue this election, losing all of the races in which they were involved. In particular, they spent big money trying to defeat West Philadelphia State Representative James Roebuck and mid-state Senator Pat Vance (who only ran again because she was “not going to be pushed out by any Political Action Committee."). Both won easily --- another reason Corbett will have a difficult time with that issue.)
Not only is Corbett’s popularity plummeting, but his reputation has been cemented as a lightweight empty-suit who simply can’t deliver. The fact that he poisoned his own Party and made it a national laughingstock is icing on the cake.
In addition to Corbett’s endorsement of Welch (and the fact the he personally recorded the voice vote of every State Committee member during the GOP endorsement process), he went to the mat for his boy through mailers, phone calls, fundraisers and speeches. Yet his election night was a disaster. Consider:
-The Corbett- Welch-ObamaDrama Ticket had all the advantages going into the race. With Santorum out of the presidential contest, many conservative-leaning Republicans did not vote --- and low turnout elections almost always favor the endorsed candidate (especially the hand-picked favorite of a Governor). The Party’s organizational structure and resources are usually sufficient to propel the anointed candidate to victory, but many Party committee people rebuked the Governor by openly supporting non-Welch candidates.
- Even better for Welch, there were two other major candidates in the race (Tom Smith, Sam Rohrer), both of whom would split the anti-establishment, anti-endorsement vote (and the remaining two candidates, David Christian and Marc Scaringi, did the same, taking 18 percent collectively). It should have been an easy “divide and conquer” campaign for Welch. Instead, it was a Kamikaze mission.
-There was a large snowstorm the day before the election across much of western Pennsylvania --- Smith’s critical home base. Any dampening of that vote should have proven beneficial to the endorsed candidate, but it was Smith’s supporters who out-performed the once-vaunted statewide GOP machine.
- It should have been a slam-dunk for Welch to raise millions from Corbett and the big GOP donors. But he took in an embarrassing $150,000 in the entire first quarter ---half of Smith’s total and, quite possibly, even less than Smith’s dog. That lack of gravitas is quite telling.
- There was one bright spot: Welch’s campaign consultants reaped the benefits of the $1 million Welch personally gave his campaign. The effectiveness of how they spent that money is another story, since there was no Philadelphia broadcast TV, limited media, and, come to think of it, virtually no campaign at all --- usually not the best way to win an election.
-By far the most surreal moment of the night was Welch crying poor, complaining about being outspent 5-1 ---even though he is accurately described in every news article as being the self-funding millionaire entrepreneur. All self-funders claim that they will only spend a fixed amount, and, of course, exceed that after consultants convince them they are “closing fast.” That never happened with Steve. The irony is that he was always perceived as a self-funder (and no one wants to contribute to a rich candidate), but he clearly wasn’t able to micturate (look it up) with the big dogs in the tall grass. Playing the rich-guy card (against a really rich guy like Smith) without having the aces in your hand isn’t just a bad bluff. It’s a dead-man’s hand.
Kind of makes you wonder what the hell the point was in going for the endorsement --- or running at all.
So what happens from here? Prosecutor Kathleen Kane, who whipped the whining Patrick Murphy despite his endorsements from all the wrong folks (career pols Rendell and Nutter), is in the driver’s seat to become the first Democrat Attorney General. And expect the Penn State scandal to be front-and-center in the fall election, with Kane pounding away about what former Attorney General Tom Corbett knew, and when he knew it.
Not only would a Kane victory reflect negatively on Corbett (since the Dems would have captured that prize on his watch, and in doing so, beaten the Governor’s hand-selected candidate in what should be a Republican-leaning election), but his image and effectiveness will be further compromised as more is learned --- and publicized ---about his role in how the Penn State investigation was handled.
From having it all just a year ago, Tom Corbett will witness his own Party run away from him on the issues and in the election --- and helplessly watch as the Democrats make him the issue.
It took George W. Bush six years to get to that point. If Tom Corbett’s goal was to best the former President, well…Mission Accomplished.
An accredited member of the media, Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television/radio commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com His self-syndicated model has earned him the largest cumulative media voice in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com