The Washington Post has a piece today that once again revisits the uncanny commonalities between Massachusetts governor Patrick and President Obama. The most obvious: Patrick is the first black governor elected north of the Mason-Dixon line; he’s a Harvard progressive with Chicago roots; and he’s a client of David Axelrod. If Patrick loses his three-way race with Republican Charlie Baker and Democrat-turned-Independent treasurer Tim Cahill, what will that say about Obama’s chances in 2012?
Well, despite the Post’s talk of a “test case,” not much. The Massachusetts electorate isn’t much like America’s, and a midterm election has a very different dynamic than a presidential year. And how likely is it that Obama’s opposition will be split by two well-known, well-funded opponents? (As of the latest report, Cahill had the lowest poll numbers but the most cash on hand of the three candidates.)
The local take on Patrick’s reelection bid is that he’s doing surprisingly well, considering that one year ago, a poll by MassInsight put Patrick’s approval rating at just 19 percent. In the past three months, he’s consistently led in the polls — though that lead is shrinking, and he has yet to break out of the mid-40s. (Rasmussen’s latest is Patrick 38 percent, Baker 32 percent, Cahill 17 percent.)
The consultants I talk to believe that once the GOP starts running ads reminding voters why they disliked Patrick so much last year — sales-tax hike, toll hike, utility-cost hikes, etc. — he’ll be lucky to get 40 percent of the vote. In other words, Patrick needs a three-way race to win. That’s an unlikely scenario for 2012.
But while Patrick isn’t much of a political preview for the president, Massachusetts is a great place to see the effects of Obama policies. Just yesterday, Patrick got hammered in a debate by Cahill and Baker for the deal he cut to get the Cape Wind “green energy” project going. Massachusetts already has the fourth-highest utility costs in the U.S., thanks in part to a regional greenhouse-gas scheme Patrick pushed Massachusetts into. The electricity generated by the Cape Wind project will cost at least 60 percent more than current rates, and that doesn’t even include the hundreds of millions in promised taxpayer subsidies to build the wind farm.
There’s been a similar pattern with RomneyCare, which Governor Patrick has expanded. As critics predicted, Massachusetts’s highest-in-the-nation insurance and health-care costs are now rising at a faster rate than the rest of the U.S., and our non-profit insurance providers like Blue Cross are losing millions. The cost of government health-care subsidies is millions more than projected, and Governor Patrick has been trying to force price controls on insurance companies to limit the political damage.
The impact of policies like Obamacare and cap-and-trade won’t be fully known across the nation by November 2012, but voters are getting a sneak preview from Massachusetts. And so far, the reviews are awful.