Top Pa. Republicans ‘All In’ For Corbett In 2014: Column

Rob Vickers
Harrisburg Patriot-News

Some things never change in politics.

All politics is local.

The first time an elected official takes an election for granted is usually their last.

Democrats are expected to engage in contentious infighting.

And Republicans — no matter how much they might act like waring Democrats — always circle the wagons come Election Day.

Because of the prevalent discord between Pennsylvania’s grassroots and establishment Republicans, and historically low approval numbers, the last maxim is one Gov. Tom Corbett will rely upon if he is to earn a second term next year.

And already, four of the state’s most prominent Republican political figures say they’ll be aboard for the ride.

First to declare fidelity was former GOP presidential candidate and Pennsylvania’s former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum.

The revelation came over the weekend in an interview with reporters at the Midwest Republican Leadership Conference in Kansas City, and was carried in the online presidential campaign website The Run 2016.

“Tom’s been a strong governor,” Santorum said in The Run report. “The state of Pennsylvania’s actually doing very well under his leadership.”

Despite representing Pennsylvania in Congress for decades, Santorum’s presidential bid drew scant establishment GOP support from the commonwealth.

Regardless, he said he is ready to return to Pennsylvania on Corbett’s behalf.

“He’s been very, very effective in controlling spending and fostering economic growth,” Santorum said.

Corbett Campaign Manager Mike Barley confirmed Santorum’s participation, but would not divulge what specific role he would play in the campaign.

“Sen. Santorum, like many in Pennsylvania, is impressed with Gov. Corbett’s record of living up to his promise to eliminate the deficit without raising taxes, creating 120,000 new private sector jobs, and reforming Harrisburg,” Barley said by email.

“As the campaign continues, Gov. Corbett will enjoy the strong support of many leaders, both past and present, from in the state and around the country,” he added.

Former House Speaker and 2012 presidential contender Newt Gingrich will be another.

Although Gingrich never represented Pennsylvania in elected office, he was born in Harrisburg, raised in Hummelstown, still has family in the area, and plenty of political allies in the state.

And a Pennsylvania official from the 2012 campaign who spoke with Gingrich Wednesday said the Pennsylvania native will stump for the governor next year.

“The speaker’s all in,” said Charlie Gerow, Pennsylvania chairman of Gingrich’s 2012 presidential campaign. “Speaker Gingrich looks forward to campaigning aggressively for the re-election of Tom Corbett, and believes he’s been a great governor for Pennsylvania.”

Though it was unclear if Wednesday U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey had officially lent his support to Corbett’s re-election campaign, it would be highly unlikley if he didn’t.

The Lehigh Valley Republican has been stalwart for high level GOP candidates, stumping for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney with Corbett last year. Toomey too will campaign for the governor.

The only other prominent contemporary commonwealth Republican, former Gov. Tom Ridge is also expected to be in the 2014 Corbett camp.

Now head of his own global consulting firm, Ridge has occasionally returned to Pennsylvania for political purposes.

Last October, he came to the Capitol in a low-key news event to talk up the need for infrastructure investment.

And just three months ago, he praised the state’s hi-tech investment capital program in an appearance with Corbett and former Republican Gov. Dick Thornburgh at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology.

But aside from being an early supporter of Jon Huntsman in the 2012 presidential race, Ridge has largely avoided electoral politics since leaving public life.

Attempts to reach him Wednesday were unsuccessful.

However, a longtime aide said Ridge will turn out for Corbett.

“He will definitely be campaigning for the governor,” Ridge Policy Group Partner Mark Holman said Wednesday via email.

Even with knowledge of the high level GOP support, Democrats singled out Santorum’s backing as an early sign of the governor’s weak re-election prospects.

“Tom Corbett must be desperate beyond belief to ask Rick Santorum to campaign for him, but if you consider their similarities, it’s not surprising,” said state Democratic Party spokesman Marc Eisenstein. “They have both insulted LGBT Pennsylvanians by comparing same-sex marriage to marriage between children, supported medically unnecessary ultrasounds before an abortion, and accepted questionable gifts from donors.”

That Democratic reaction is proof of another political aphorism: each party is obligated to attack any perceived weakness in the other.

But Corbett won’t be concerned with that particular political proverb.

He’s all in on the GOP circling those wagons on his behalf.