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Santorum not the biggest loser in the Pa. primary

Even if Rick Santorum were still in the presidential race, he would not have been the biggest loser in last night’s Pennsylvania Republican primary.

Instead, that dubious honor belongs to a man who wasn’t on the Republican ballot this year: Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett.

Corbett, a Republican, has had a rocky tenure as governor thus far, with just 40 percent of voters statewide approving of his job performance.

Last night he further damaged his reputation by using his power as the state’s highest ranking elected Republican official to help out a friend at the expense of the party.

It began last fall when Corbett decided that Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed should succeed him as the state’s Attorney General.

But many Republicans, especially those in the powerful Philadelphia suburbs, had already coalesced around another candidate, State Sen. John Rafferty of Montgomery County.

Determined to make Freed the nominee, Corbett struck a backroom deal with Southeastern Pennsylvania party leaders. He promised to endorse Chester County businessman Steve Welch for U.S. Senate, the only candidate from the Philadelphia suburbs, if Rafferty agreed to drop out of the race for Attorney General to clear the path for Freed.

On Jan. 11, Rafferty dropped out of the attorney general race, and nine days later Corbett officially endorsed Welch. Exactly nine days after Corbett’s endorsement, the Pennsylvania Republican Party followed suit at its annual winter meeting.

Unfortunately Corbett and the state party attached themselves to a man who is less conservative than the Democrat in the race, incumbent Senator Bob Casey. Welch voted for President Obama in 2008 and and hosted fundraisers for former Rep. Joe Sestak.

Welch’s liberal past prevented him from carrying Corbett’s and the state party’s endorsement to the finish line. Armstrong County businessman Tom Smith won the primary with nearly 40 percent of the vote to Welch’s 20 percent. Corbett will likely pay for his mistake for years to come.

Pennsylvania politicians have traded endorsements for favors in the past. The most famous was Santorum’s ill-fated endorsement of then-Republican Sen. Arlen Specter over then-Rep. Pat Toomey in the 2004 Republican primary for U.S. Senate.

Corbett also benefitted from a bartered endorsement that year when former state GOP chair and candy magnate Bob Asher backed him in the race for Attorney General over then-Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor as a result of a longstanding feud between Asher and Castor.

Rick Santorum’s decision to endorse Benedict Arlen Specter – a RINO in the truest sense – contributed to both his downfall as a U.S. Senator and as a candidate in the GOP presidential race. His decision to support a liberal Republican, who ultimately became a Democrat (and is now confused about his political identity), undermined his attempt to present himself as the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney. If the results of last night’s primary in Pennsylvania are any indication of Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s future, his political career is headed on the same track.


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