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August 28, 2014
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Massachusetts Democrats Prepare To Help Republicans Retake Governor’s Office
By Brett Arends
AUGUST 27, 2014
Massachusetts is one of the most politically liberal and Democratic states in America. But the Republicans may have a good shot at winning the governor’s mansion this November.
The reason has little to do with national politics, Obama, “Benghazi,” illegal immigration, or any of the other issues which conservatives think everyone cares about.
The reason is much simpler.
The Republicans, despite their tiny numbers in the state, are preparing to nominate as their candidate Charlie Baker, a popular and respected businessman and former state cabinet minister.
Meanwhile the state Democrats, despite their huge numbers, are preparing to field attorney-general Martha Coakley.
Who is Coakley?
She is the Bill Buckner of state politics – the candidate who blew one of the surest things in Massachusetts history.
Buckner was the Red Sox first baseman who bungled a simple ground ball in the 1986 World Series, helping cost the team the title
Coakley is the politician who was selected to hold on to Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat back in 2009 after Kennedy died – and who promptly blew it.
Coakley’s astonishing self-inflected defeat back then infuriated state Democrats, embarrassed President Obama and the national party, and imperilled the president’s signature Obamacare healthcare reform.
Coakley’s loss cost the Democrats their filibuster-proof 60-seat majority in the Senate, and forced them to pass Obamacare through the messy “budget reconciliation” process instead. That was a political windfall for Republicans, who used that to challenge Obamacare’s legitimacy.
David Paleologus, the polling guru at Boston-based Suffolk University, tells me that a couple of months before the January, 2010 vote the Democrats enjoyed a 31 percentage-point lead over the unknown Republican candidate, Scott Brown.
In the event Brown beat Coakley by 5 points, meaning that Coakley threw away 36 percentage points in a few months. That’s quite some feat.
Coakley’s defeat was entirely down to Coakley. She ran one of the worst political campaigns in history. Even President Obama couldn’t save her – he came to campaign for her a few days before the vote, and she still lost.
Coakley was already the state attorney general at the time. She had the full support of the state’s entire Democratic party machine, broad name recognition, and plenty of cash. She was running in the reflected glow of Kennedy’s memory.
You have to work hard to blow something that easy.
There were so many low points in Coakley’s campaign it seems to unfair to pick one out, but it became the stuff of legend when she tried to dismiss baseball player Curt Schilling (a Republican) as a New York “Yankees fan.”
This was the same Curt Schilling who was the hero of the Boston Red Sox’s 2004 World Series team – the one who pitched against the Yankees with his injured ankle restitched, leading to his famous “bloody sock” on the pitcher’s mound.
Imagine running for mayor of New York and calling Yogi Berra, say, a Red Sox fan and you get the idea. You couldn’t make it up.
Massachusetts is famous nationally for its Bad News Bears presidential candidates – Michael Dukakis, John Kerry and Mitt Romney all ran inept campaigns and lost elections they could have won. But even by their standards, Martha Coakley stands out.
I remember watching Coakley’s concession speech on TV the night she lost the race. Her speech showed that she had learned nothing. Instead of showing humility and apologizing to her supporters for the loss, she acted instead like she had been a valiant underdog who had fought the good fight. Don’t worry about me, she said, I’ll be fine.
The odd thing about the current governor’s race is that Massachusetts Democrats have the choice instead of nominating state treasurer Steve Grossman, who is widely respected across the political spectrum, and who won the endorsement of the state party convention earlier in the summer.
I have lived in this state for many years but I still don’t understand its politics. Unless you were born here and went to high school here it is a great mystery. Polls say Coakley is a strong front-runner for the primary, which takes place on September 9. Insiders tell me the nomination is generally about various urban “machines,” unions and so on.
Charlie Baker, and the Republicans, must have their fingers crossed.