Chris Christie, Hillary Clinton dive into Pennsylvania governors race

(L-R) Gov. Chris Christie, R-New Jersey, and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton


PHILADELPHIA -- Pennsylvania's gubernatorial candidates are drawing some big names to the state on Thursday, with potential presidential contenders Hillary Rodham Clinton and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie heading to the Philadelphia area to join the would-be governors on the trail as they compete for votes in the state's populous southeast corner.

Christie planned a Thursday afternoon appearance at a rally in Wayne, Pennsylvania, for Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, who's considered perhaps the most vulnerable incumbent governor in the country this year. Christie chairs the Republican Governors Association, a fundraising arm that helps the GOP's gubernatorial candidates around the country. The association is Corbett's biggest campaign donor at $5.8 million so far in this campaign cycle.

Clinton will headline an evening "Women for Wolf" rally at the Constitution Center in downtown Philadelphia to help Corbett's Democratic challenger, Tom Wolf, a businessman and former Peace Corps volunteer.

A high voter turnout in Philadelphia would favor Wolf. Almost 80 percent of the city's 1 million-plus registered voters are Democrats, although just 40 percent cast a ballot for governor in 2010, when Corbett won his first term by 9 percentage points. Voter turnout in the rest of the state was 48 percent that year.

Meanwhile, the candidate who wins Pennsylvania's four heavily populated suburban counties is nearly assured of a victory. Pennsylvania has nearly 8.3 million registered voters, and one in three lives in Philadelphia or its suburban counties.

Independent polls show Wolf with a comfortable lead over Corbett, as the campaign spending threatens to break Pennsylvania's record of $69 million. A Quinnipiac poll released Tuesday, for example, found Wolf up 55 to 38 percent.

Corbett is Pennsylvania's former two-term attorney general from the Pittsburgh area. Wolf, a first-time candidate, ran his family's York-based building products distribution business for much of the last three decades.

The two candidates squared off for their third and final debate on Thursday night, clashing with each other over the economy, voter identification laws, and marijuana policy.

Wolf said Corbett failed to jump-start the state's economy, but Corbett said Wolf refused to level with voters about his own economic prescriptions.

"In my administration, we told people what we were going to do, and we did it," the incumbent said, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "He won't tell the people whose taxes are going to go up and whose are going to go down."

Wolf emphasized his business background, saying he'd bring a fresh perspective to state government.

"I'm not the kind of candidate you've seen before," he said. "I think Pennsylvania can do better."

Corbett defended his decision to sign a controversial voter identification law, saying he'd do it again if he had the chance, but Wolf said the measure, which was tossed by the courts before it was ever implemented, was merely an attempt to block Democrats from voting.

And on marijuana policy, Wolf said he would like to see the drug legalized for medical use, and he'd like to see possession of small amounts decriminalized, according to the Post-Gazette. Corbett, citing his experience as a prosecutor, called marijuana a 'gateway drug" and said he only favored a limited study of the drug's medicinal uses.

Christie has been in Pennsylvania three times already since June to raise money or campaign for Corbett. Clinton's visit is her first in support of Wolf, one of several gubernatorial campaigns she is giving her stamp of approval to this fall.

At a women's event held by the Democratic National Committee in September, Clinton promoted Wisconsin Democrat Mary Burke, who's challenging the state's Republican governor, Scott Walker. Clinton has raised money for the Democratic Governors Association, and headlined a Florida fundraiser earlier this month for Charlie Crist, who's facing off against incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Clinton was in Chicago on Wednesday to aid embattled Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, who's facing Republican Bruce Rauner, before heading to Philadelphia.

Clinton's schedule before the Nov. 4 election includes stops for Martha Coakley, who is seeking Massachusetts governor's post, and for New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan.

Christie is also is beating a path across the states holding gubernatorial races. He campaigned last week for Bob Beauprez in Colorado; on Monday for Tom Foley in Connecticut; and on Wednesday with Scott in Florida. Christie is expected in Rhode Island on Friday to campaign for gubernatorial candidate Allan Fung and next week in Maine for Gov. Paul LePage.