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Heyl: Returns are in for Corbett, and they’re not from the great beyond

Gov. Tom Corbett lost his re-election bid Tuesday, but there seems to be some confusion as to who defeated him.

Tom Wolf beat him, not Joe Paterno.

There should be no doubt about that. Not only was the former Penn State football coach not on the ballot, he died nearly three years ago. Death is an irreversible condition that precludes people from holding public office.

But an erroneous narrative has emerged since Election Day that Paterno, via a still-large group of loyalists, beat Corbett from beyond the grave as easily as his teams used to pummel Temple on crisp autumn Saturdays.

Not so.

True, Corbett has many detractors affiliated with the university. They have criticized Corbett’s actions relating to Paterno’s abrupt dismissal in November 2011 as the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal dropped on campus.

Corbett was state attorney general when the Sandusky investigation began. As governor, he was a Penn State trustee when the board voted to unceremoniously dump Paterno after Sandusky’s arrest.

In the wake of the scandal, the Happy Valley unhappy formed a group called Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship. The group’s stated goals on its website are to achieve positive change at Penn State and restore the university’s sullied reputation.

Toward that effort, the organization on its Facebook page was positively brutal to Corbett. People strongly advocated voting for Wolf prior to the election and gloated over his victory after it.

“Republicans swept into office nationwide and in (Pennsylvania), yet the Republican governor is trounced,” alum Rob Tribeck posted.

Group spokeswoman Maribeth Roman Schmidt told The Philadelphia Inquirer that the power of the Penn State vote was obvious in the election.

Not so.

The organization boasts a membership of more than 20,000 on its website. Wolf’s margin of victory was large enough that he didn’t need their votes even if every member was registered to vote in Pennsylvania (extremely unlikely) and cast a ballot for him.

Wolf won by 339,000 votes and there are 328,000 Penn State alumni living in Pennsylvania, but don’t assume any correlation. An Associated Press exit poll indicated that nearly 60 percent of voters didn’t think how Corbett handled the Penn State affair was important.

Tribeck correctly noted that Wolf trounced Corbett, but the walloping had more to do with the governor himself than Paterno.

From the day he took office, Corbett eschewed the schmoozing and backroom dealing required to get anything done in Harrisburg. Because of that, he was unable to advance his agenda despite being a Republican governor with a GOP-controlled Legislature.

Corbett essentially was a quarterback whose drives almost invariably stalled. In any league, on any stage, quarterbacks who consistently fail to move the football eventually are replaced.

His loyalists’ assertion to the contrary, Paterno didn’t bench Corbett.

But he certainly would have understood why it happened.

Eric Heyl is Trib Total Media staff writer. He can be reached at 412-320-7857 or [email protected].


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