More Pennsylvanians now approve than disapprove of Gov. Tom Corbett's job performance, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday, but his still-lukewarm support suggests the state's top Republican remains vulnerable to a challenge when he seeks reelection in 2014.
Forty percent of registered voters in Pennsylvania approve of Corbett, the poll found, and 38 percent disapprove. Independents are split, at 37 percent, but moderates hold a negative view of tenure in office, 43 percent to 36 percent.
Men are more likely to approve of the incumbent than women, although the gender gap is small. He earns the support of 42 percent of men (38 percent disapprove), while women are evenly divided at 37 percent.
The numbers are a significant improvement for the governor since June, when a Quinnipiac survey found 50 percent of the state disapproved of him while only 35 percent approved. Other polls had found similarly low-levels of support for the governor.
But they won't dispel the widely held conviction in the Keystone State that Corbett will face a difficult re-election campaign. And the poll comes just as Democrats, buoyed by a strong showing in last week's election, have begun talking openly about finding a strong challenger to the governor. Sen. Robert Casey, fresh off winning reelection, tops most Democrats' wish-lists, but many observers speculate State Treasurer Rob McCord is also interested in a campaign. Other rumored contenders include Rep. Allyson Schwartz and newly-elected Attorney General Kathleen Kane, both the state's first elected Democratic attorney general and the first woman to hold the job.
The governor's first two years in office have been politically turbulent: Deep cuts to higher-education funding have provoked a backlash among voters, and Corbett’s slate of statewide row-office candidates was easily defeated on Election Day. Even Republican allies have charged that he and his administration has been slow to respond to criticism, warning he needs to make adjustments to avoid defeat in 2014.
His approval is the worst among Pennsylvania's most visible elected officials. Casey, who defeated businessman Tom Smith last week after a late scare from the Republican, receives support from 49 percent of Pennsylvania voters, Quinnipiac found, while 37 percent disapproved. Voters also approve of Republican Sen. Pat Toomey's performance, 43 percent to 28 percent.
President Obama, meanwhile, has a 52 percent approval rating – he won Pennsylvania by 5 points despite a late push there from Mitt Romney's campaign.
The poll was conducted Nov. 9-13, surveying 1,489 registered voters. The margin of error is plus-or-minus 2.5 percentage points.
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