Corbett struggles with the stain of Penn State scandal

While it’s unclear how Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett’s lawsuit against the NCAA will fare in court, analysts also differ over whether Corbett has helped himself politically by suing over the NCAA’s sanctions against Penn State.

 It’s clear that the Penn State conflagration has wounded Corbett politically, and the lawsuit will help to keep it in the headlines.

“I’m kind of surprised the governor’s office chose to bring this back up again, when I thought things were kind of settled,” said Bill Green, a Pittsburgh-based political consultant.

Corbett initiated the Sandusky investigation when he was state attorney general, but charges weren’t brought until he’d become governor. For a variety of reasons, the scandal damaged his political standing.

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“The voters of Pennsylvania certainly did not think that Governor Corbett handled the investigation very well,” said Franklin & Marshall poll director Terry Madonna.

In a September F&M survey, two-thirds of voters said Corbett had done a fair or poor job with the investigation. Only 17 percent said he’d done a good or excellent job.

One complaint, trumpeted by Democratic Attorney General-elect Kathleen Kane last year is that Corbett assigned too few investigators to the case and took too long, leaving Sandusky in place and kids in jeopardy.

Republican strategist Charlie Gerow says some seem to blame Corbett not for acting too slowly, but for acting at all.

“There were some folks frankly that were just dismayed that the reputation of Penn State had been besmirched, and I think they looked for somebody to blame, and the prosecutor was the person that was most convenient,” Gerow said in an interview.

Corbett has a year to shore up his political support before he runs for re-election in 2014. Standing strong for Penn State could help, depending on how the court case goes.

Larry Ceisler, publisher of the website Politics Pa. wonders if the lawsuit is a smart move.

“As a political analyst, what I don’t understand is that if the governor is vulnerable on Penn State, then why is he adding fuel to the fire?” Ceisler said. “If I’m him, I just want this to go away- the lawsuits get settled and this thing just goes away and is just a bad memory.”

Green agrees, but he noted that Kane has promised to review Corbett’s investigation anyway, so the Penn State Story will likely flare up again anyway.

“You could also look at the governor initiating this (lawsuit) as a move to get a jump ahead of Attorney General-elect Kane,” Green said, “and that to me is the political side of this.”

Corbett has been actively promoting his case in national media. His adversaries at the NCAA say he’ll get nowhere in court.

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