Struggling Corbett campaign gets a lift

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    The uphill re-election campaign of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett is getting a big boost from the Republican Governors Association — a $3.5 million contribution, to be precise.

    That and promising results from a Republican polling firm may help buoy the spirits of the Corbett team after what’s been a pretty rough stretch. In case you haven’t been following the race, here’s a recap:

    A week ago a Franklin & Marshall poll showed that, despite a month of heavy TV advertising by the  Corbett campaign, he trailed Democratic challenger Tom Wolf by 25 points.

    Corbett’s team challenged the accuracy of that survey, then a few days later a Robert Morris University poll showed Corbett trailing by 30 points.

    Could it get worse? It could.

    The political class started chattering about a piece on the conservative National Review Online about the Corbett campaign titled, “Anatomy of a GOP Disaster.” Ouch.

    Sticks and stones, said Corbett campaign manager Mike Barley.

    “Look, you get commentary from a lot of places and lot of folks, and some people are going to have differences of opinion on policy and-or political strategy,” Barley said in a phone interview. “But, at the end of the day, we’re comfortable with the governor and his record.”

    The problem with discouraging polls and negative commentary is that they can make it hard to raise money. Donors don’t like writing big checks to losers, and national groups, in particular, want to spend their money where it can make a difference — where races are competitive.

    So it was great news when the Republican Governors Association announced that, despite the gloomy talk, it was contributing $3.5 million to the Corbett campaign.

    Franklin & Marshall analyst Terry Madonna says that’s explained, in part, by the close relationship between Corbett and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who chairs the Republican Governors Association. Madonna says there may be something else at play.

    “I’m not suggesting that Gov. Corbett can’t win,” Madonna said. “But I think there’s some reason to ensure that the Republican turnout in the state, if Governor Corbett were to lose by a sizable percentage, that it doesn’t hurt Republicans running for Congress, running for state Senate and state legislature.”

    Barley said his fundraising is going just fine. In a phone conversation, he told me he’s not in a panic about those poll numbers showing his guy trailing by 20 points.

    “Public polls are all over the place,” Barley said. “There’s one that broke, just literally an hour ago, that showed us at 11 and closing, and I think we see the race as a single digit race. We believe we are right in the hunt.”

    The new survey he referred to is from Harper Polling, an avowedly Republican firm, which used automated phone calls rather than live interviews for the poll.

    Harper president Brock McCleary told me the company had no client in this case, that it just does these surveys from time to time. Its voter sample was slightly more Democratic than Republican, but less Democratic than the sample in the Franklin & Marshall poll, which the Corbett campaign says skewed the results and exaggerated Wolf’s lead.

    Madonna says he stands by his survey.

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