In August of 2003, I was contemplating a lot of options, from going to work in-house at the State Senate to running for Treasurer (yup, its as nuts as it sounds). I was asked to consider running for the later by the then sitting treasurer, Barbara Hafer, an old friend. And she was working with GOP king maker, Bob Asher.
I say this not to name drop, but rather to set up a story that will, I believe, contradict a piece of commentary I read online on Tuesday. The commentary, again from noted luminary Laura Vecsey, asserted that “Corbett’s entire political career was carefully crafted to peak for this gubernatorial cycle, as evidenced by the GOP’s determination to clear the field in the 2010 primary.”
I am not in the habit of repeatedly engaging the same commentator, but the statement is so far off base as to require the same. I know because I was at the table over lunch with those same “GOP Rainmakers” seven years ago discussing THIS cycle.
Which brings me back to my story. In early August, I made the trek out to suburban Philly to meet the legendary Bob Asher. At the time – so much a naif was I – I had to look him up online. As we all know, there were quite a few “hits” on Bob’s past, but mainly I was focused on how he had completely reinvented himself after all left him for dead. Say what you want about Mr. Asher, he is a fighter.
I personally came not only to respect him, but to like him – a lot.
That aside, I walked into lunch unnerved, less than 3 years removed from law school and contemplating races I thought way over my pay grade. Bob made his case – the obvious benefit of my last name and the id it carried, the assumed ability to raise money, and the need to balance out his ticket. He had Corbett at AG, in his words “a gray hair from the west,” he had a southeast guy in mind for Auditor General, and then “a young central PA guy, the son of a legend, to take on the son of a legend” – Bobby Casey, you see, was running for Treasurer. I would be a long shot but “it could help the President by pushing up turnout in places.” As will come as no surprise, the man knows a sales pitch.
Then he chummed the water a little more, knowing that 31 year olds do not take meetings like this absent (even ridiculously outsized) ambition – “plus, even if you lose, you get on the bench for 2010, maybe as the No. 2.We don’t have a candidate for that cycle yet, so who knows.”
Then he said the relevant part for this tale: “Corbett is not the guy.”
Now, there was no bigger fan of Tom in 2003-2004 than Bob Asher, as the bloody GOP primary proved that year. After ending up choosing to chase my true passion, a congressional seat, I campaigned with Tom several times and saw Bob many, many more times. If he was trying to “game” me or anyone else for a Corbett 2010 run, he did a real soft sell – so soft that he was doing all he could in 2006 to make certain that this cycle focused on re-electing Lynn Swann, and not Tom Corbett.
Ms. Vecsey is right about a number of things: Tom was the best candidate entering 2009-2010 and the GOP cleared the field for him. Why? Because that is what winning parties do. They don’t waste resources on bloody primary fights that are unnecessary – especially when one candidate has both the broadest base of support and the best chance to win.
This may sound distasteful to purists, but political parties are in the business of aggregating power. They are not debating societies – that is what government institutions are for – political parties exist to run candidates that WIN elections.
When they succeed, it need not – and is not – sinister or part of an elaborate plot; rather it is seizing the moment. From 2007 to 2009 it was clear that Tom – as the highest elected Republican in the state – was the frontrunner for the Governor’s slot. Nothing in 2008 changed that. So in 2009 the GOP made room for the candidate most likely to win.
And, as the current occupant of the office proves, they choose well.
Anyway, the debate over whether he will be a reformer can and will go on and legitimately so; there is no need, however, to create at the outset the appearance of some Manchurian candidate-like drama. The GOP and Gov. Corbett did nothing more or less than the Dems, and former Gov. Rendell did (or tried to do) in countless races.
Well, they fell down in one area– fundraising. If only those GOP Rainmakers had Ed’s planning and pool of funds.
(Want to know more about Bob Asher, just click on Rock The Capital.)
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