Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s recent trip abroad was meant to demonstrate foreign policy expertise and diplomatic skills.
Instead it showed Romney as bumbling and offending the British and the Palestinians.
It started in London the host of the 2012 Olympic Games, where Romney insulted his host by saying there were some “disconcerting “problems associated with the organizing of the Olympics.
His unwelcome comments unleashed a media firestorm in Britain and a stinging rebuke from British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Cameron, said that “it’s easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere,” a clear reference to Salt Lake City, where Romney ran the 2002 Winter Games.
The Daily Mail newspaper quoted anonymous British officials as saying the presumptive Republican nominee trip was a disaster and that he was “worse than Sarah Palin.”
In Israel, Romney’s insults were far more serious and dangerous.
Romney created controversy by dismissing Palestinians claims to Jerusalem and implying that their culture — and not Israeli military occupation — was responsible for the economic gap between Israelis and Palestinians.
By agreeing with Israel’s position that Jerusalem is its capital Romney is accepting a view that is not internationally recognized.
Romney said that the reason Israelis are so much more economically successful than the Palestinians is that “culture makes all the difference.” He said he came by this expert understanding of the region by recently reading a book on the subject on how neighboring nations can have vastly different economic success.
The authors say Romney misinterpreted their book.
Palestinian officials denounced Romney’s simplistic assertions of a complex region.
“Yesterday, he destroyed negotiations by saying Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and today he is saying Israeli culture is more advanced that Palestinian culture,” said Saeb Erekat, a top Palestinian official. “Isn’t this racism?”
As the Associated Press accurately pointed out “ He (Romney) made no mention of the fact that Israel has controlled the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem since capturing them in the 1967 war, a presence that the World Banks and International Monetary Fund both say limits the economy’s potential for growth there.”
The language of cultural superiority has long been used against oppressed people everywhere. There are numerous reasons for the economic success of nations including military occupation, colonization, geopolitics, laws and governance.
In his trip abroad Romney expressed a worldview that demonstrated political insensitivity and historical ignorance.
‘Buffet Rule’ would close loopholes, raise taxes on wealthy
The Pennsylvania Obama for America Campaign held a conference call featuring Pennsylvania Democratic Chairman Jim Burn and Pennsylvania State Sen. Vincent Hughes.
Both argued in favor of a new tax plan the Obama administration has been pushing called the “Buffet Rule,” named for billionaire Warren Buffett, who has criticized the current tax code that allows him to pay a lower rate than his secretary. The plan would essentially close tax loopholes for the rich, and require a 30 percent mandatory tax rate on millionaires.
“We’re taking about the concept of fairness when it comes to the Buffett Rule, and we’re asking everyone to do their part,” Burn said. “When it comes to investing in the future, should we ask middle class Americans to pay even more in a time when their budgets are already stretched, or should we ask some of the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share?”
In a town-hall event in Warwick, R.I., Mitt Romney addressed the crowd by talking about his displeasure with the Buffett Rule, according to the Boston Globe.
“The new source of division is to say, ‘Let’s find the most successful in our country and say they’re bad guys. Go after them. And let’s divide America,’” Romney said. “Look, this nation is one nation under God. Dividing America is not going to work out.”
Hughes addressed Romney’s stand on the Buffet Rule by stating that the rule the president is proposing is fair and will help America return to prosperity.
“We have to balance the tax code,” he said. “We just can’t cut our way to prosperity — we also need to balance the tax budget. Everybody’s got to help out. Gov. Romney’s tax plan doesn’t ask millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share. His program gives every millionaire a $250,000 tax cut while raising taxes on hardworking families making less than $40,000 a year.
“Romney’s program won’t secure economic security for the middle class — in fact, he will let Wall Street write its on rules again and return to the same policy that led us to the economic crisis in the first place. President Obama will cut the deficit and strengthen the middle class.”
On the campaign trail, Romney promises that under his administration taxes will go down, defense spending will go up, and senior programs won’t change for this generation of retirees. Romney also promises that he will pay for his tax cuts, pay for his defense spending, and reduce total federal spending by more than $6 trillion over the next 10 years.
Hughes, however, doesn’t agree. He stated that the only way Romney can cut the country’s deficit is if he makes deep cuts in programs like Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid.
“Because Romney has chosen to favor the wealthy, it affects the investment in the middle class, which has a real impact in Pennsylvania,” he said. “Under a plan like Romney’s, social security benefits would be cut by 40 percent for current workers. Cost of prescriptions drugs will go up for Pennsylvania seniors. His program will balance the budget by cutting programs by 35 percent. President Obama’s Buffett Rule will show all Americans that they can play by the same set of rules in order to get a fair shot at success.”
Mitt Romney’s trying to talk his way out of his gender gap, but, take it from me, women like guys who listen. My wife told me that.
Since the Romneys’ long marriage appears to be quite strong, he probably knows the value of being a good listener, too. Unfortunately, his speaking style doesn’t display much of it on the campaign trail.
Listening matters. As important as policy may be, voters tend to choose the candidate they think, most of all, is “on my side.” They want someone who connects with them, who conveys an understanding of their hopes and dreams.
That’s why recent presidents like George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, whatever else you think of them, always seemed to have their big ears on when talking to people. Listening leads to a level of connection and understanding that voters, among others, appreciate.
By that standard, I used to think that Romney, the seasoned businessman and former Massachusetts governor, might well have an advantage. President Barack Obama looked by contrast like a loner who had to remind himself to look less professorial and more warm and fuzzy.
Yet it is Romney who has habitually stepped on his own campaign victories with gaffes and a persistent awkwardness about his own wealth and political beliefs.
Unlike George W. Bush’s folksy “I hear you,” or Bill Clinton’s empathetic “I feel your pain,” Romney’s delivery tends to sound about as engaging as a CEO’s annual report to stockholders.
I believe that helps to explain why a new ABC News/Washington Post poll that asks which man “better understands the economic problems people in this country are having,” gives the edge to Obama — 49 percent to Romney’s 37 percent.
Among women, Obama scores 20 points over Romney on this empathy question, up three points since a February survey. That tends to match the widening gender gap between the two candidates in other recent polls.
The partisan gender gap is not new. Men have been voting mostly Republican and women mostly Democratic for more than 30 years. But the gap suddenly yawned open into a canyon in the past couple of months.
A Pew Research Center poll has the former Massachusetts governor trailing President Barack Obama by 20 points among women voters for the second month in a row — and the two are virtually tied among men.
The latest Gallup/USA Today poll found Romney trailing the president by 9 points among women in battleground states in March – and by 2-to-1 among women under age 50 – after a virtual tie a month earlier.
Why? Conventional wisdom blames a string of debates and controversies about birth control and related social issues, pushed heavily by former Sen. Rick Santorum before he suspended his campaign. Much to the delight of Democrats, social issues of particular importance to women often have crowded out the economic issues on which Obama is more vulnerable.
As Romney looks increasingly as if he will be the Grand Old Party’s nominee, he faces the same challenge that dogged Sen. John McCain four years ago: How do you hold onto the party’s skeptical conservative base while reaching out to attract swing voters and closing the gender gap? McCain answered that challenge by choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate. That didn’t work out so great. McCain lost the election — and the pantheon of TV punditry gained a new right-wing superstar.
Romney’s awkwardness about equity for women showed itself when a reporter asked for his thoughts on the all-male Augusta National Golf Club. Obama had just called for the club, which is the home of the Masters golf tournament, to accept women as members.
Romney agreed, but with an awkward response so loaded with qualifying “ifs” that it sounded like an insurance contract: “Certainly, if I were a member, if I could run Augusta, which isn’t likely to happen, of course I’d have women into Augusta,” Romney said. I think that was a “yes.”
Romney often sounds as if he could use what President George H.W. Bush used to call “the vision thing.” It calls for more than balanced budgets. It begins with a strong inner desire to repair the nation’s divisions and revive our sense of shared values and common purpose. Women appreciate that. Men do, too.
Words have a way of coming back to haunt Mitt Romney, especially when he says them in front of television cameras.
As the nation braced itself for Hurricane Sandy to slam into the East Coast, Romney's campaign was busily issuing denials to clean up an impression left by last year's "severely conservative" Romney long before he recently was replaced by Moderate Mitt.
No, Team Romney insisted, their candidate does not really want to abolish the Federal Emergency Management Agency, even if his words make him sound like he does.
Confusing? Hey, we're talking about the newly restored Moderate Mitt, the candidate whose beliefs are like Chicago's weather: If you don't like 'em, just wait a few minutes.
The words in question were spoken at a June 2011Republican primary debate in New Hampshire. When the former Massachusetts governor was asked by moderator John King of CNN whether he agreed with those who believe management of emergencies should be returned to the states, Romney not only agreed but went even further. He would turn over as many functions as possible to private, profit-driven companies.
"Absolutely," Romney said. "Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that's the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that's even better."
Odd sentiments, perhaps, for the moderate one-term governor who fathered Massachusetts' state-run health insurance plan. But not for the rebranded "severely conservative" Mitt. He's the Romney who won the Republican presidential nomination and passionately plans to "repeal Obamacare," the national health insurance plan that President Barack Obama based on Romneycare.
The Huffington Post resurrected and highlighted video of that old sound bite under the headline "Mitt Romney in GOP Debate: Shut Down Federal Disaster Agency, Send Responsibility to the States." Team Romney immediately issued a clarifying statement. No, Romney would not abolish FEMA, the campaign assures us, although he still would not mind transferring an undisclosed amount of its functions -- and, presumably, expenses -- to the states.
"Gov. Romney believes that states should be in charge of emergency management in responding to storms and other natural disasters in their jurisdictions," Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said in a statement to Politico. "As the first responders, states are in the best position to aid affected individuals and communities, and to direct resources and assistance to where they are needed most. This includes help from the federal government and FEMA."
Is that spin of hurricane proportions or what? The campaign's description of FEMA sounds comfortably close to what FEMA already does. Moderate Mitt seems almost to have forgotten the right-wing-sounding Mitt from the primaries, a forgetfulness that President Obama lampoons as "Romnesia."
But it also is a description of FEMA functions that sounds uncomfortably close to the buck-passing agency that was nowhere to be seen for several days in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, as thousands of homeless New Orleans residents begged for help on live television.
As Hurricane Sandy roared up the East Coast, Romney might also like to forget his praise of the cost-cutting budget proposed by his own running mate, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal Washington think tank, found that Ryan's proposed cuts in funding for non-defense discretionary programs like FEMA's disaster relief would be three times as deep as the widely dreaded 7.3 percent across-the-board cuts scheduled under sequestration, the automatic spending cuts ordered by the Budget Control Act that ended the 2011 debt-ceiling crisis.
I don't know how Romney handled disasters during his single term as governor, but Republican Gov. Chris Christie gave high praise to President Obama's response after Hurricane Sandy. After the storm left over 2.4 million people without power in his state, Christie said on NBC's "Today Show" that he had spoken with Obama several times and the federal response "has been great."
If Christie becomes a presidential candidate, as many people hope he will, I hope he remembers the practical lessons of governing a state in time a disaster. When people desperately need help from Washington, they don't want to hear about politics.
The U.S. Labor Department reported Friday showed the economy added just 69,000 jobs in May and sent the jobless rate to 8.2 percent from 8.1 percent.
The unemployment rate for African Americans, which had dropped a full point to 13 percent in April, increased to 13.6 percent.
The disappointing jobs report increased concerns about slowing global growth and the prospects of President Barack Obama’s chances for a second-term.
Obama will likely have a tough election battle.
Not since Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression has a president won re-election with unemployment rate as high as it is today.
When Bill Clinton defeated President George H.W. Bush in 1992 the unemployment rate was 7.4 percent.
While President Obama can point out that he inherited the Great Recession, his chances for re-election are clouded if unemployment remains this high.
The president will have now to November to explain to American voters that the economy will continue to slowly recover under his economic policies and that Mitt Romney is proposing the failed Republican policies of the past of huge tax cuts for the wealthy and deregulation of the financial sector that will reverse those economic gains.
The prospects for Obama and unemployed workers will improve once the economy begins to significantly add more jobs.
For Democrats and their incumbent leader racing to re-election, it couldn’t get any better than this. It was the gaffe heard around the world. An unapologetically progressive Mother Jones magazine was more than happy to post it for all to see, an uncut and chalkboard-scratching videotape of Republican nominee Mitt Romney talking to a group of high rolling wealthy funders in Boca Raton, Fla.
Observers from longtime political junkies and strategists to casual couch quarterbacks flipping through cable channels seemed transfixed on an unusual moment of transparency for the candidate. Previously, glimpses into Romney World behind the perfectly gelled hair were limited to orchestrated family photos of lakeside vacationing on jet skis.
An unknown source caught the candidate unscripted, talking openly and rather comfortably before a sympathetic audience of one percenters enjoying their $50,000 dinner.
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what,” said Romney. “All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what.”
Over the past week, the reactions from partisans on both sides of the aisle were fierce and bloody. Democrats were seizing the newfound video as an opportunity to kick the Republican while he was down, still reeling from over two weeks of stumbles from Clint Eastwood’s infamous empty chair performance to Romney’s own failed “3 a.m. call” test in the wake of Middle East tensions.
"The middle class in America is getting a clearer and clearer picture that the Democratic Party is on their side and the Republican Party is not,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told The Hill. “As a result, it's going to be helpful to our congressional races, to our Senate races and clearly to the presidential race.”
Even Republicans jumped in, piling on their nominee out of fear of what his comments could mean for their chances down-ballot during the election. A parade of GOP House and Senate candidates appeared to distance themselves from the party standard-bearer, with races once in their sights suddenly getting blurred and competitive. "That’s not the way I view the world,” Massachusetts GOP Senator Scott Brown revealed in an email to The Hill, struggling to fend off a spirited challenge from Democratic nominee Elizabeth Warren. “As someone who grew up in tough circumstances, I know that being on public assistance is not a spot that anyone wants to be in. Too many people today who want to work are being forced into public assistance for lack of jobs.”
President Obama’s reaction was measured, but pointed. “My thinking is maybe you haven’t gotten around a lot. American people are the hardest working people I know,” said the president.
Still, the big question insiders want to know is what this new tipping point in the race will actually do to Team Romney as Nov. 6 edges closer. Are Democrats really justified in their glee? Or, should they still be worried about the unknowns: the draining effect Voter ID laws in 30 states will have on the Democratic base, and the specter of political maestro Karl Rove along with a shadowy army of pro-Romney Super PACs raising untold sums of cash.
Hiram College’s Jason Johnson seems to think it’s a wrap. “Yeah, sooooo …. Romney’s pretty much done after this,” quipped Johnson in a random text to The Tribune.
“Democrats really need to take it down a notch,” gloated one well-placed Democratic strategist lamenting what he called “premature elect-elation.”
Independent Florida political activist Monica Betts also reveals a bit of nervousness, looking back on her state’s run-ins with hanging chads and cliffhanger elections. “His remarks are somewhat troubling,” Betts tells The Tribune. “The advantage that Romney has at this point is that fact that African Americans don't vote as they should — leaving Democrats to court Hispanic and Asian voters. The Democrats are aware that they have the majority of the African American votes, but are afraid that the votes won't be enough to win it all. After all, it's all about the Electoral College and how the swing states are moving. Hopefully, this won't be a replay of the Bush-Gore factor.”
Johnson, however, is a bit more optimistic about the president’s chances. “Democrats are perpetually nervous, but I can’t imagine them getting complacent,” said Johnson. “I never thought it’d be anything less than tight. But now I’m pretty convinced Romney won’t be able to gut it out unless he gets a perfect storm. His personal ratings have taken such a hit.”
“When GOP guys are publicly calling him out, it’s a bad sign.”
Still, conservative commentator and TownHall.com Editor Guy Benson thinks the hoopla over Romney’s flub is just that: hoopla.
“The idea that Romney is toast because of this four month old video is way overblown,” counters Benson. “Seems like every week the media decides that Romney does or says something that essentially ends the campaign. That he shot himself in the foot and he has inflicted some sort of fatal blow. And when things emerge that that’s not the case, we move on to the next week.”
Whose side is he on? Mitt Romney’s assault against President Barack Obama’s welfare reform policy sounds good, except that it gets in the way of putting welfare recipients to work.
In a July 12 directive, President Barack Obama’s administration invited the states to apply for waivers from welfare reform that require recipients to get a job, seek a job or engage in job training.
That opened up an opportunity for his challenger Mitt Romney and other Republicans to charge, as a Romney campaign ad puts it, that the president is single-handedly trying to “gut” President Bill Clinton’s 1996 welfare overhaul “by dropping work requirements, …”
Since the 1996 Welfare Reform Act, anyone seeking cash assistance has faced strict work requirements and a five-year lifetime limit. But “(u)nder Obama’s plan, you wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job,” says the narrator in the Romney ad. “They would just send you your welfare check. And welfare-to-work goes back to being just plain old welfare. Mitt Romney will restore the work requirement because it works.”
But the directive’s aim is to improve welfare-to-work, not gut it. Major fact-checking organizations tend to agree. PolitiFact gave the ad a “Pants on Fire” rating, calling a “drastic distortion.” FactCheck.org gave a similarly low rating. The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler gave “four Pinocchios” to Romney and three to Team Obama for insufficient evidence to back up their claim that Romney sought the same sort of waiver authority when he was governor.
Yet Obama’s waivers might well have been greeted as sound conservative policy, returning power to the innovative laboratory of the states, if they had come from a Republican president. But Obama is a Democratic incumbent, which would give him special vulnerability on the welfare issue even if he were not a mixed-race man of African descent.
Politically, welfare reform is a potent political wedge issue. It brings up images of able-bodied adults sitting around collecting public assistance. It touches all the hot buttons of race, class, culture, poverty and morality, as exemplified by the near-mythological “Welfare Queen” against which Ronald Reagan railed during his presidential rise.
It took the great triangulator Bill Clinton to defuse the issue enough to bring positive changes. In his 1992 campaign Clinton promised to “end welfare as we know it.” In the 1996 law, pressed by a Republican Congress and then-Speaker Newt Gingrich, he accepted tougher welfare-to-work requirements than he preferred. But he did win concessions that helped to ease the transition from welfare to work.
The result: Welfare dependency went down, along with child poverty, as employment of welfare recipients went up, helped along by the 1990s economic boom. Even in today’s sluggish economy, the Brookings Institution, one of the reform’s main authors, told the Washington Post that never-married mothers, the likeliest demographic group to be on welfare, are still working at rates higher than they were before the reforms.
Enter President Obama. Team Romney insists that the new Obama policy opens the door to a weakening of work requirements because it allows states to give a higher priority to the type of work recipients take than to their participation rate. “If I am president,” Romney said in suburban Elk Grove Village, Ill., last week, “I will put work back in welfare.” But the Obama policy explicitly states that waivers will be granted only to proposals that will increase the percentages of cases to be moved off welfare rolls.
At least five governors, including Republicans Gary Herbert of Utah and Brian Sandoval of Nevada, have been seeking such regulatory relief for years, the White House pointed out. In return, the directive offers states a new level of flexibility and breathing room for innovation, something that Republicans and conservatives usually favor.
Now Romney has put his fellow Republicans in the awkward position of defending their requests to reporters without stepping on his claim that Obama’s directive hurts welfare reform.
In fact, state governments have little incentive, especially in this economy, to load up their welfare rolls with nonworkers. If the states have good ideas to make welfare-to-work more efficient and turn more tax users into taxpayers, let them try.
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has been carefully trying to put some distance between himself and running mate Paul Ryan’s radical budget proposal, but he has a major problem — his plan would make even deeper cuts than the Ryan plan.
A careful analysis of Romney’s plan by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) observed: “Governor Mitt Romney’s proposals to cap total federal spending, boost defense spending, cut taxes, and balance the budget would require extraordinarily large cuts in other programs, both entitlements and discretionary programs.
“For the most part, Governor Romney has not outlined cuts in specific programs. But if policymakers exempted Social Security from the cuts, as Romney has suggested, and cut Medicare, Medicaid and all other entitlement and discretionary programs by the same percentage — to meet Romney’s spending cap, defense spending target, and balanced budget requirement — then non-defense programs other than Social Security would have to be cut 29 percent in 2016 and 59 percent in 2022.”
That would shred the social net that Romney claims to support.
“Governor Romney’s cuts would be substantially deeper than those required under the austere House-passed budget plan authored by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Over the 2014–2022 period, Romney would require cuts in programs other than Social Security and defense of $7 trillion to $10 trillion, compared with a little over $5 trillion under the Ryan budget,” the analysis pointed out.
As I wrote in this space last week, another Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report stated, “Combined, the Bush and Ryan tax cuts would provide an annual windfall of nearly $400,000 apiece, on average, to people with incomes over $1 million. By combining large budget cuts (and tax increases) that disproportionately harm lower-income Americans with big tax cuts that disproportionately help those at the top of the income scale, the Ryan budget would significantly worsen inequality and increase poverty and hardship (and reduce opportunity as well, through deep cuts in programs such as Pell Grants to help low-income students afford college).”
And Romney’s budget proposal is worse than that.
In an interview with CNN on Feb. 1, Romney said: “I’m in this race because I care about Americans. I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich; they’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the very heart of America, the 90 percent, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.”
Rather than fixing the safety net for the poor, Romney’s budget proposal would rip it into pieces.
A May 21 updated analysis by CBPP revealed, “The cuts that would be required under the Romney budget proposals in programs such as veterans’ disability compensation, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for poor, elderly and disabled individuals, SNAP (formerly food stamps), and child nutrition programs would move millions of households below the poverty line or drive them deeper into poverty.
“The cuts in Medicare and Medicaid would make health insurance unaffordable (or unavailable) to tens of millions of people. The cuts in non-defense discretionary programs — a spending category that covers a wide variety of public services such as elementary and secondary education, law enforcement, veterans’ health care, environmental protection and biomedical research — would come on top of the deep cuts in this part of the budget that are already in law due to the discretionary funding caps established in last year’s Budget Control Act.”
During the campaign, Romney has listed four key proposals that would affect federal spending, taxes and the deficit:
“Although Governor Romney has not proposed specific Medicare policies, it would be virtually impossible to achieve his budgetary objectives while sparing Medicare from substantial cuts. If Medicare as well as Social Security were protected, all other programs — including Medicaid, veterans’ benefits, education, environmental protection, transportation and SSI — would have to be cut by an average of 40 percent in 2016 and 57 percent in 2022, just to limit federal spending to 20 percent of GDP,” the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities stated. “If the budget also had to be balanced, all government programs other than defense, Social Security, and Medicare would have to be nearly eliminated: Six out of every seven dollars going for them would disappear.”
And you thought the Ryan budget plan was bad. — (NNPA)
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and editorial director of Heart & Soul magazine. He is a keynote speaker, moderator and media coach. Curry can be reached through his website, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.
Approval numbers down almost 20 percent since fall 2011
Fewer than half of Pennsylvania voters approve of the job Gov. Tom Corbett is doing, according to a new poll, which also asked participants whether they liked Corbett personally, and what they thought of his conduct during his tenure as attorney general.
Overall, 38 percent of voters said they approved of Corbett’s handling of his job as governor — but a breakdown of those responses showed that just 10 percent “strongly approved” and 28 percent “somewhat approved.” That compared to 52 percent of voters who gave Corbett an unfavorable job rating — 33 percent said they “strongly disapproved” and 19 percent said they “somewhat disapproved.”
On a personal level, 43 percent of voters said they had an unfavorable impression of Corbett — 29 said they had a strongly unfavorable impression and 14 percent said they had a somewhat unfavorable impression. By way of comparison, 13 percent said they had a strongly favorable opinion of the governor and 27 percent said they had a somewhat favorable opinion.
Voters saved their harshest judgments for Corbett’s handling of the Jerry Sandusky abuse case during Corbett’s tenure as attorney general, a period for which he has taken some flak by critics, who charge he went easy on an investigation into reports of abuse by Sandusky: 61 percent said they disapproved — 38 percent strongly and 23 percent somewhat. That compared to 4 percent who strongly approved and 13 percent who somewhat approved.
The poll, called the Pennsylvania Poll, was conducted by the Global Strategy Group and commissioned by the Philadelphia Inquirer, quizzed 601 voters across the state on their political opinions. It did not provide data for comparison at other points in Corbett’s tenure as governor.
However, several polls show that Corbett’s job approval rating has been sinking since he first took office two years ago. The most recent Franklin & Marshall poll showed that 60 percent of voters thought that Corbett was doing at least a fair job as governor. That was down from 81 percent from October 2011.
The Pennsylvania Poll also asked voters which candidate they backed in the race for president.
Statewide, 47 percent said they preferred President Barack Obama compared to 39 percent for Mitt Romney. Locally, even more people supported the president, with 55 percent of potential voters in Philadelphia and the five surrounding counties saying they supported the president, compared to 32 percent for Romney. Obama polled consistently higher among women and young voters, and notably, in the new poll 47 percent of independents said they supported Obama compared to 43 percent for Romney.
The findings were similar to other recent polls, nearly all of which show Obama with a significant lead over Romney as the nation moves toward Election Day.
President Barack Obama holds a slim lead in Pennsylvania, according to a new poll, which also gave the president a bigger edge in two other important swing states, Florida and Ohio.
“Obama is on a roll in the key swing states. If the election were today, he would carry at least two states. And if history repeats itself, that means he would be re-elected,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, which released the poll this week.
If Pennsylvania voters had to choose today between Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, Obama would edge out Romney by a razor thin margin of 45 percent to 42 percent. The president would more easily win re-election over former Sen. Rick Santorum. Quinnipiac showed Obama winning a hypothetical contest with Santorum by 48 to 41 percent.
The poll makes it clear that, of the two present Republican contenders, Pennsylvania voters prefer Romney.
“He remains the stronger of the two major GOP contenders. Voters in Pennsylvania still see Romney as better able than the president to fix the economy,” Brown said.
Pennsylvania voters turned Santorum out of office in 2006, and the poll suggests they still distrust him.
“Although he is a native son, Rick Santorum runs worse against Obama in Pennsylvania than does Mitt Romney,” Brown said. “The former U.S. senator also is liked the least.”
Results were similar in Florida and Ohio.
In Florida, the poll showed Obama winning over Romney 49 to 42 percent. Santorum again fared worse than Romney in a potential vote, garnering support from just 37 percent of Florida voters, compared to 50 percent for Obama.
Quinnipiac also showed Ohio voters choosing Obama 47 percent to Romney’s 41 percent. The president would also beat Santorum in Ohio with 47 percent to 40 percent for Santorum.
While Obama held a lead in each of the three states, Brown noted that most polls have a margin of error of roughly three points, which means that Obama faces his greatest challenge in Pennsylvania.
Obama’s lead in Ohio and Florida has widened over the last two months.
“Two months ago, President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney were in a statistical tie in Ohio and Florida,” Brown added. “The biggest reason for the president’s improving prospects probably is the economy.”
About 57 percent of respondents said they felt the economy was beginning to recover.
The poll did not break down support for each candidate by race, but did report that women in all three states prefer Obama by six to 19 percentage points.
It also found that for voters the biggest issues were, in descending order: the economy, unemployment and health care reform.
Social issues like abortion and gay marriage, which have been at the core of Santorum’s campaign, ranked ninth on the list of concerns.