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Strike One

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By Tom Ferrick Jr.

They say that baseball is the sport that most resembles life, but baseball also resembles political campaigns.

They are both games played over long seasons; both involve big plays and big money; in each errors can be costly. There are other ways the two are alike.

Take the Phillies as an example.

Before the season began, the consensus was that the Phils were a lock to win their third division championship. Their pitching had improved.  Their hitting remained formidable. They were the odds-on favorite to go deep into the post-season.

Well, here it is in late July and the Phillies are five games out of first place in their division.  Their pitching is suspect and, most surprisingly, their offense has been erratic, to put it nicely.  Now, the conventional wisdom is that they will be lucky if they get a wild card spot.

Now take Tom Corbett as an example.

Pennsylvania's attorney general, the Republican candidate for governor, is considered an odds-on favorite to win the November election.  He has scads of money, lots of name recognition and the advantage of being the guy who prosecuted bad boy legislators as part of the Bonusgate investigation.

The line on Corbett is that the race is his to lose.  (Parenthetically, if I were a candidate, it would make me wince to hear that the race is mine to lose.  It means that victory would be the result of inevitable forces, while a defeat would be all my fault.)

Of course, in politics, as in baseball, speculation about how you should do or could do - even if accompanied by detailed statistics - means nothing.  You have to actually play. You have to win games. You have to show consistency throughout the long season.

So far this season, the scouting reports on Corbett have been mixed.

He's made one gaff so far -- his remarks that the unemployed reject job offers to stay on unemployment - and his Democratic opponent, Dan Onarato, has made merry with it, making a media feast out criticizing his opponent as clueless, out of touch and insensitive. If you want to see an example, take a look at this posting on Onorato's web site:http://www.cluelesstom.com/

So, this game goes to Onorato.  But, it is just one game. Corbett has several months to make up this loss.

What's more important is the insider scuttlebutt within Republican circles where people are criticizing the Corbett campaign operation.

As Dan Hirschhorn reported on his political website pa2010.com, party insiders are lamenting how the Corbett campaign handled the incident.  Hirschhorn quotes one insider as saying: "I hear a significant number of major Republican players openly concerned about the direction, management and style of the Corbett campaign I don't know that it's reached the stage of buyer's remorse yet, but there's buyer's concern, and that's at the highest level of the Republican Party apparatus in the state."

All of this is, if you'll excuse the expression, inside baseball, but it is not insignificant.

Corbett did not handle the incident right.  His initial comments, uttered during a radio interview, indicated he was, in fact, clueless about the facts on employment. His sole sources were conversations he had with employers, saying they were having a hard time finding help.

That statement is out of sync with the experience of most people, who are either out of work or know someone who is unemployed.  There is a lot of pain involved in loss of a job and in Pennsylvania the unemployment rate is at 9.2 percent.

Strike two is how Corbett handled the aftermath. He issued a clarifying statement saying his had spoke imprecisely and then went silent.  It is, in interviews with him, now a taboo topic.  He wants to move on.

Frankly, I don't blame him.  And at some point, you have to close the lid on a topic, lest you end up talking about it the rest of your life (See: Woods, Tiger and 'Marital Infidelity.')

But, that can happen if you fail to deliver a true act of contrition and admit you made a stupid mistake.  In America, it is also mandatory that you learn a lesson from that mistake - that it has made you a better person.

Corbett did not follow this path, so he raises the suspicion among voters that he may be an unfeeling dolt and among political insiders that he could be a mediocre candidate.

Mediocre candidates have been elected to public office before, especially if the times and the tide are right.

It may be the Republican time in Pennsylvania, but I don't think a mediocre candidate can win.  There are too many Democrats and swing voters for that.

So, the incident is fading and Corbett has time to recoup. The Republicans had better hope this is just one bad game, not the beginning of a bad season.

 

Tom Ferrick Jr. is senior editor of Metropolis.

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