Before David Axelrod managed Barack Obama, he managed Deval Patrick. Before the senator from Chicago told adoring crowds, “Don’t tell me words don’t matter,” the aspiring governor from Massachusetts told adoring crowds, “Don’t tell me words don’t matter.” In Massachusetts, an electorate selected a charismatic African-American lawyer who made bold, almost-too-good-to-be-true promises to reform government, only to be disappointed by waste, corruption, and a sense that the team around the executive was more interested in the appearance of competence than actual competence.
For obvious reasons, Republicans will want to see how the demo version of Barack Obama performs in a reelection bid once he has an actual record.
For now, the outlook is mixed. Deval Patrick is polling pretty miserably; his percentage share of the vote in the last six polls is 34, 35, 35, 33, 30, 33. Strangely enough, that’s enough to lead all of those polls, because the opposition is split between Republican Charlie Baker and former state treasurer Tim Cahill, who is running an independent third-party bid.
This race may evoke the 2009 New Jersey’s governor’s race, where an embattled Democrat, having a largely unsuccessful first term and a deeply dissatisfied electorate, placed his hopes on a third-party candidate to split the anti-incumbent vote.
The Cahill folks argue that Baker has given conservatives little reason to support the expected GOP choice; he’s pro-choice, he’s pro-gay marriage, and he selected an openly gay running mate. Baker disputes the notion that he can be called a social conservative at all here:
On the other hand, he competed as a Republican in a Republican primary; registered Republicans have a right to register any objections they have to him as their nominee. Charlie Baker was the overwhelming favorite at the state convention (89 percent!), and Christy Mihos, who ran as an independent four years ago, withdrew from the race.
The Republican Governors Association has put up ads on behalf of their guy, Baker, and are hitting the guy who they’ve deemed as biggest competition for available votes, Cahill. (The 30-some percent who are still supporting Deval Patrick are largely the most loyal of loyal Democrats.)
The RGA hits Cahill with a special web site, “The Cahill Report,” depicting him as a flip-flopper:
“Tim Cahill’s million-dollar lottery makeover and 73 new vehicles make Governor Deval Patrick’s shiny new Cadillac and $12,000 drapes look like sound investments,” said Tim Murtaugh, spokesman for the Republican Governors Association. “The people of Massachusetts have had enough of the mess on Beacon Hill.”
The “Reckless” TV spot shines a light on Cahill’s profligate spending in his Lottery office, including a lavish and unnecessary redecoration of his offices, complete with flat screen televisions and art deco-style sofas for the lobby. The ad also recounts his awarding already-highly-compensated pension fund staff with bonuses during a period when the pension fund was experiencing losses in the billions. The ad concludes in agreement with The Boston Globe’s editorial that Cahill’s aggressive fundraising tactics approach the ethical line and demand explanation.
“The bottom line is that Tim Cahill is reckless with the taxpayers’ money,” Murtaugh said. “Even worse, it’s pretty obvious that Cahill’s door is open . . . as long as your checkbook is.”
The radio ad, titled “Receptionist,” mimics a phone call placed by a constituent to Cahill’s state office. The caller is aghast at Cahill’s practices, but becomes more disturbed once the receptionist informs him of even greater fiscal irresponsibility.
Cahill hits Mississippi governor Haley Barbour, head of the RGA, depicting him with the Confederate flag and the theme to the “Dukes of Hazard”:
Meanwhile, Deval Patrick laughs; he may get reelected with an abysmal level of public support.
UPDATE: Our old friend David Freddoso makes the argument that the RGA is treating Massachusetts as their top priority, when there are other competitive races. But thankfully he acknowledges that the purpose of the Republican Governors Association is to elect Republicans, not the most conservative candidate in the race: “Naturally, the RGA is going to back Baker, the Republican, even though he is a liberal with an even more liberal running mate (the sponsor of the state’s “Transgender Bathroom” bill). That’s to be expected. But the question a lot of Republicans and conservatives have to be asking is: Does Barbour really have to try so hard on this one?”