Pennsylvania next in Rust Belt flood?

Democrats have lost Ohio just four years after staking their claim in the state, with Republicans leading all of the statewide races by wide margins and probably close to recapturing a number of House seats held by Democrats as well.  The wave appears to be rolling east, to a state long held by Democrats in national elections.  Republican Tom Corbett now has a double-digit lead over Democrat Dan Onorato for Governor to replace Democrat Ed Rendell, according to Quinnipiac, and gathering momentum that will likely be felt in down-ticket races as well:

Republican Attorney General Tom Corbett holds a 54 – 39 percent lead over Democrat Dan Onorato, the Allegheny County Executive, in the race to become Pennsylvania’s next governor, fueled by a 56 – 29 percent margin among independent voters, according to a Quinnipiac University poll of likely voters released today.

Corbett also leads Onorato when it comes to rebuilding the state’s economy, handling its budget problems and sharing voters’ values, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University survey, conducted by live interviewers, finds. This is the first general election survey of likely voters in Pennsylvania in this election cycle and cannot be compared to earlier surveys of registered voters.

Only 7 percent of voters say they are undecided while 16 percent of Corbett backers and 22 percent of Onorato supporters say they might change their mind before Election Day, making Corbett’s competitive position slightly stronger.

The loss of Ohio will be a problem for Democrats.  The loss of Pennsylvania would be a disaster for them in 2012.  Quinnipiac did not test for Barack Obama’s approval ratings, but as they note, this election has become a referendum on Obama and the Democratic agenda.  This kind of reaction is unlikely to abate in 2012, especially given the latest economic projections, and that means Obama could lose Pennsylvania — and that makes the path to re-election almost impossible for him.

The numbers on the political environment are stark.  Only 36% of Pennsylvania voters consider themselves satisfied, while 64% say they are dissatisfied.  Rendell gets an overall 35/57 approval rating, but on the economy, it dips to 33/62.  Rendell certainly owns a part of that himself, but the view of the economy impacts the leading party on a national level — and those 62% are not going to be looking for another round of Hope and Change in two years if unemployment is still at 8% or higher.

Ohio was a warning.  Pennsylvania is the panic button, as will be Wisconsin if it goes Republican in six weeks.  At some point, Democrats may start wondering if they need to find a centrist to run against Obama in the 2012 primaries just to save the party from utter collapse.