BY CHRISTOPHER FREIND
The Governor’s mishandling of the Sandusky investigation may doom the GOP
Very true, especially for Mitt Romney, since no Republican has won without it.
But the monumental point is being overlooked.
Ohio is only kingmaker by default. Its 18 electoral votes would not be needed if Romney wins Ohio’s larger neighbor --- Pennsylvania and its 20 electors.
That’s not wishful thinking, but eminently achievable. Or at least it was, until two men severely diminished hope for delivering the Keystone State: Jerry Sandusky and Republican Governor Tom Corbett.
Make no mistake. Pennsylvania should have been a lock for the GOP. The fact that it has not voted Republican for president since 1988 is misleading. When there is a solid candidate, Pennsylvania is always in play, where a small vote swing changes the election result (George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004). Conversely, bad candidates lose handily (Bush I in ‘92, Dole in ’96, and McCain in 2008). And remember that Ronald Reagan won it twice, and George H.W. Bush in ’88.
In 1994, it became the most Republican state in the country in terms of elected officials, with the GOP claiming both U.S. Senate seats, the governorship, total control of the state legislature, a majority in its congressional delegation, and two of three statewide row offices.
Fast forward to 2010, when GOP Governor Tom Corbett rode to victory with a massive ten-point margin. Conservative Pat Toomey was elected U.S. Senator, and Republicans gained control of the State House in historic fashion, smashing the Democrats and taking a ten-seat majority. The State Senate remained solidly Republican --- as it has for three decades.
So why is it likely that Romney will lose the Pennsylvania Prize?
Enter Corbett and Sandusky.
The most worthless commodities in politics are endorsements. Party leaders endorsing their own is expected, swaying no one. And celebrities choosing sides only makes for good cocktail talk. Romney doesn’t benefit from Clint Eastwood, nor Obama from Bruce Springsteen.
But while endorsements don’t sell, popularity does. And they are distinctively different.
If a leader possesses a bold vision --- and the ability to articulate ideas in a common sense, bipartisan way --- he will have followers from the entire political spectrum. New Jersey’s Republican Governor Chris Christie is the best example, having achieved monumental victories despite both legislative chambers being heavily Democratic.
While no single Republican could swing Jersey to Romney, that feat should have been in the bag in much more Republican Pennsylvania. If Christie could rack up wins in The People’s Republic of New Jersey, gaining immense popularity, how could Corbett not deliver Pennsylvania?
Because he is an MIA governor.
After the first year of his Administration, when virtually nothing was accomplished, Corbett’s own legislators nicknamed him “Christie-lite.” But after the second year, with an even more startling lack of achievements, the nicknames became unprintable.
We’re not talking about a failed extreme right-wing agenda, but common sense ideas Corbett promised but didn’t come close to delivering, despite holding all the cards.
-Was the nation’s largest state-controlled liquor system dismantled --- a move overwhelmingly supported by most Pennsylvanians? Nope. Zero action.
-Was any effort made to 1) solve the state’s massive pension crisis, 2)lower the job-killing, corporate net income tax (second-highest in the nation), or 3) reform the nation’s most hostile legal climate? All drive businesses away, but no action was taken. The can was kicked down the road.
-Did state union workers receive a contract in line with private sector employees? No. Instead, Corbett gave them guaranteed raises, no increases in health care premiums, and eliminated layoffs for economic reasons. At the same time, he raised salaries of his inner circle, aides who apparently couldn’t get by on $135,000.
While his inaction sunk the Governor’s favorable ratings, it was his handling of sexual predator Jerry Sandusky that really put him in the toilet, flushing away whatever attractiveness he had left.
Corbett’s attempt to steal the national limelight at Penn State news conferences by portraying himself as the savior who took down Sandusky rapidly backfired. Instead, his decisions in that case (he was the investigating Attorney General) grew into a firestorm that continues to explode.
No one is buying Corbett’s claims that he didn’t play politics with the Sandusky investigation. A whopping 69 percent of Pennsylvanians don’t view Corbett favorably, making him the nation’s least popular governor. And a miniscule 17 percent think he handled the Sandusky investigation well.
Why? Maybe because:
-It took three years to get Sandusky off the street. Within the law enforcement community, it’s almost unanimous that Sandusky should have been nailed much, much earlier. Ten cases weren’t needed, as Corbett maintains, but only two or three to make an arrest while continuing to build the case.
-Corbett ordered a narcotics agent to lead a whopping team of two to investigate Sandusky, while scores of agents --- including child predator units --- prosecuted a political corruption case.
Because of Corbett’s colossal inconsistencies, Republican leaders were forced to abruptly end a legislative session, killing a motion requesting a federal investigation of Corbett’s handling of the case.
As a result, Corbett’s numbers have stayed in the basement. The erosion of his popularity, transcending Party lines, stems from the nagging feeling that Corbett placed politics above the protection of innocent children.
The most far-reaching result of the Governor’s failures will be the political earthquake that never was. If Corbett had been just a fraction of Chris Christie, and had run the Sandusky investigation properly, Mitt Romney wins Pennsylvania hands down.
Instead, because of Corbett’s toxicity, Romney was forced to focus on Ohio, which he will likely lose, and with it, the White House.
But that may be the least of Corbett’s troubles. Kathleen Kane is poised to become the first elected Democratic Attorney General in Pennsylvania history. Should that occur, the political embarrassment for Corbett would be immense, since he would be seen as the main contributor to a Kane victory.
If elected, Kane promises an intense review of the Sandusky investigation, with no hesitation to charge anyone ---including the Governor --- should improprieties be uncovered.
And who thought politics wouldn’t be interesting after this election?
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