Corbett’s shot at a turnaround — debate tonight

     In this combination of 2014 file photos, Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidates Democrat Tom Wolf, left, and Republican Gov. Tom Corbett are shown in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

    In this combination of 2014 file photos, Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidates Democrat Tom Wolf, left, and Republican Gov. Tom Corbett are shown in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

    Most of us like watching political debates about as much as eating steamed vegetables.

    But tonight’s face-off between Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett and Democrat Tom Wolf should be a little more tasty and worth your time, for a few reasons.

    First, as our Harrisburg ace Mary Wilson notes, Corbett has a lot at stake here.

    Hammering Wolf with very tough attack ads for weeks hasn’t moved the poll numbers for Corbett, and tonight he finally has his prey out in the open, with nowhere to run.

    I’m sure Corbett’s political team is telling the guv he has to take it to Wolf and bloody him, force him to be specific where he wants to generalize, and pressure him into a game-changing gaffe.

    This will be interesting to see, because in my limited experience with Corbett, he doesn’t strike me as one who takes to being a showman, and doesn’t relish having to react on his feet. Maybe I’m wrong. John Micek, the sage observer from the Patriot News and Penn Live, says in a piece worth reading today that Corbett “can do prosecutorial bluster like no man’s business.”

    We’ll see, and we’ll see how Wolf reacts. He’s done very well so far presenting himself as an amiable businessman and policy wonk who’ll tax gas drillers, fund education, drive a Jeep and be a different kind of governor.

    Expect Corbett to demand that Wolf explain exactly what he proposes to do with state income tax rates, why Wolf doesn’t think the state has a pension crisis, and why he won’t show his company’s tax returns and settle this issue of whether he’s taking advantage of the “Delaware loophole.”

    The debate is worth checking out for another reason. It has a single moderator, and he’s somebody who isn’t shy about asking tough questions. Dennis Owens is a reporter from the ABC station in Harrisburg who’s done plenty of muckraking pieces about state politicians. Here’s a recent example focusing on Corbett’s relationship with a contributor.

    The governor’s debate, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, has historically been both lively and substantive. They got the late Tim Russert to grill Democrat Ed Rendell and Republican Mike Fisher in the 2002 race. He played their negative TV ads and insisted they answer for their own material. It was fun.

    You can catch tonight’s debate live at 7:30 on the Pennsylvania Cable Network.

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