Our opinion: What happened?

Tom Corbett became governor of Pennsylvania under circumstances any incoming governor would covet: Both houses of the legislature were commanded by members of his own party.

Now, nearly four years later and another campaign season about to cross the starting line, something is amiss.

The governor’s poll numbers have collapsed. His signature legislation has gone nowhere in the legislature, indicating his influence over his own party has waned, much to the elation of those in that other party.

It may very well be when analysts look at the first and, perhaps, only term of the Corbett administration they will conclude that holding all the cards might not be the best hand if you play them wrong.

Tom Corbett took the office of governor with some grand plans in mind. Some of his goals would redefine some of the most visible parts of state government. A true-blue (red?) capitalist Republican, Corbett looked at the landscape of Pennsylvania government and saw areas where he believed private enterprise could do things better.

First, there was the sale of wine and liquor, and the closely regulated sale of beer, both of which had been established at the close of Prohibition nearly 80 years before. Corbett used a fairly logical argument in his quest to privatize the state’s liquor business and ease the restrictions on beer sales: The state should not be in the liquor business and we need to end that chop-chop. Just think of the windfall from all of those licenses; don’t think about the long-term loss of revenue.

The problem was that beer distributors and retailers had designed their businesses to conform to the state plans, making it difficult and prohibitively expensive to change. Thousands of state liquor store employees faced unemployment, hardly a circumstance suitable for chop-chop.

Then there was the lottery. We’ll contract that out to a private gaming company. Unfortunately, some people asked why, since the lottery seemed to be doing so well. Add to that a legal snag which appears to have indefinitely postponed the award of the contract to the only remaining bidder, a company from the United Kingdom.

And, while we’re at it, let’s look into selling the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Along the way, there were other bits that haven’t played well to the broad spectrum of potential voters: his steadfast support of a 1996 law prohibiting same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania and his widely perceived pandering to an industry that has donated so richly to his campaign coffers.

As the polls began to decline, Republican legislators in both houses started to assess their own tenure and decided that lock-step with the titular head of the party might not ensure longevity. After all, when it comes down to it, keeping your seat is more important than keeping the other guy’s.