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Franklin and Marshall poll: Corbett narrows lead by Wolf for Pa. governor | TribLIVE.com
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Franklin and Marshall poll: Corbett narrows lead by Wolf for Pa. governor

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Guy Wathen | Trib Total Media
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, left, and democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf decide who will speak to the media first following their debate at WTAE studios in Wilkinsburg on Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014.

While Democrat Tom Wolf rallies support on a statewide bus tour, the latest poll in the Pennsylvania governor's race shows Gov. Tom Corbett has narrowed the wide gap Wolf enjoyed throughout much of the race.

But with less than a week until Election Day, the reality of a Corbett victory remains a long shot, pollster Terry Madonna said.

The Center for Opinion Research at Franklin & Marshall College in a survey released Wednesday found Wolf leads Corbett 50 percent to 32 percent among registered voters. The margin is down from 25 points two months ago.

“The question is what happens in the final week, when historically nobody has ever come back in this state from that kind of deficit a week out,” said Madonna, a political science professor. “It's now all about whether Democrats and Republicans can motivate their voters,” and if there's any major “October surprise” remaining.

Corbett, 65, a Shaler Republican, could be the first governor to lose a re-election bid in Pennsylvania history. Wolf, 65, who runs a family-owned cabinet manufacturing business in his native York County, is a first-time candidate who handily won a four-way Democratic primary.

The poll surveyed 738 Pennsylvania registered voters from Oct. 20-26 and has a sampling error of 3.4 percentage points.

Madonna said Corbett's catch-up is largely from winning back Republican voters. The October poll showed 66 percent of Republicans intend to vote for Corbett, up from 62 percent last month and 48 percent in August.

Almost one in five voters, 17 percent, remain undecided.

Among registered voters, Wolf leads Corbett by 18 points, about the same rate as last month. Yet the Wolf campaign won't rest on its sizeable lead. It is working to mobilize voters, spokesman Jeff Sheridan said.

“We're going to run just as hard as we've been running,” he said.

Former President Bill Clinton campaigned with Wolf in Pittsburgh on Monday.

Wolf's “Fresh Start” bus tour includes three to six stops a day. After stops in Erie and DuBois on Tuesday, the bus will head to State College, Bloomsburg and Reading, and circle northeastern counties before heading toward Philadelphia.

President Obama is scheduled to attend a Wolf rally in Philadelphia on Sunday.

Corbett's campaign is relying on a message of increased state spending and taxes under Wolf to wear down his advantage, painting him as a tax-and-spend liberal. Spokesman Billy Pitman said the race has “closed dramatically,” citing volunteer outreach to likely Corbett voters.

“We're confident that trend is going to continue and the governor will be victorious on Election Day,” Pitman said.

Yet the poll spelled trouble for Corbett on numerous fronts. His job approval figures are lower than those of Republican Gov. Tom Ridge or Democrat Gov. Ed Rendell at the same point in their first terms. Just 34 percent of those polled said Corbett deserves re-election.

And Corbett's record on education continues to haunt him: among voters who say he has done a fair or poor job as governor, 31 percent cite education as the top reason.

Polls don't matter to Robert Warnock, 54, of the North Side. He voted for Corbett in 2010 and intends to do so again Tuesday, citing his record on not raising taxes.

“I like how he's going to handle taxes,” Warnock said. “I've been behind him for four years.”

For Keith Abercrombie, 60, of the North Side, hearing that one of his favorite politicians was in town for Wolf this week sealed his Wolf vote.

“Anyone that Clinton is going to endorse, I'm going to be for,” he said.

Melissa Daniels is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her 412-380-8511 or [email protected].

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