As he has since the May primary elections, Democrat Tom Wolf maintains a double-digit leader over incumbent Pennsylvania Republican Gov. Tom Corbett with one week before the Nov. 4 general election. Among likely voters, Wolf is favored, 53 percent to 40 percent, according to the latest Franklin & Marshall College Poll.
"The fundamental problem is that Corbett has not been able to find an argument or a message to tighten this race," said the poll's director, G. Terry Madonna of F&M's Center for Politics and Public Affairs.
Corbett has gained additional support among likely voters since the last F&M Poll in September, which showed the governor at 34 percent against Wolf's 54 percent, and more Republicans, 66 percent versus 62 percent, now say they support him than they did a month ago. However, that may not be enough to win re-election.
"It seems pretty clear at this time that Wolf is going to win," said the poll's chief methodologist, Berwood Yost.
Regardless of the election outcome, Corbett will make history, Madonna and Yost agreed. He will either become the first Pennsylvania governor to fail at winning a second term since 1974, when governors were first allowed to succeed themselves, or he will be the first governor to overcome a double-digit deficit to win re-election.
"This election is about him and his performance in office," Yost said.
While Corbett's job approval rating among GOP voters has moved from 50 percent in September to 56 percent in October, according to the poll, only 30 percent of all registered voters believe Corbett is doing an "excellent" or "good" job as governor. That overall job performance rating is much lower compared to the previous two governors, Republican Tom Ridge and Democrat Ed Rendell, whose performance ratings at this point in their re-election bids were above 60 percent and 50 percent, respectively.
According to the latest poll, a majority of registered voters, 61 percent, continue to believe the state is "off on the wrong track," and only 34 percent say they believe Corbett deserves re-election.
Perhaps more telling was the response to one poll question: "Regardless of how you plan to vote, who do you think will win the 2014 election for Pennsylvania governor, Tom Corbett or Tom Wolf?" According to the poll, 18 percent said Corbett and 60 percent said Wolf.
The poll reflects interviews with 738 registered voters conducted Oct. 20-26. The sample error is plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.
Corbett has been successful at persuading more Republican voters to support him with his message that Wolf is a "tax and spender," partly because Wolf has not provided any details on his tax plan, Madonna said, acknowledging, "That's helped Corbett with his case."
The question is at this late stage, will it be enough for Corbett to win?
The 24-year-old Franklin & Marshall College Poll is conducted under the direction of Madonna, Head Methodologist Yost, director of the Floyd Institute's Center for Opinion Research, and Project Manager Jacqueline Redman. It is produced in conjunction with the Philadelphia Daily News, WGAL-TV in Lancaster, Pittsburgh Tribune Review, WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh, WPVI-TV6/ABC Philadelphia, Times-Shamrock Newspapers, Harrisburg PennLive/The Patriot News, Lancaster Newspapers/Lancaster Online, and the Reading Eagle.