Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Race of the Day- Massachusetts Governor

70 Days Until Election Day

Status: Democrat Open
2012 Presidential Result: Blue State (East)

Outlook: Leans Democrat

In recent decades, most of the occupants of the Massachusetts Corner Office have been looking to move on to different jobs or opportunities. Thus, it was not much of a surprise when Democrat Governor Deval Patrick announced at the beginning of his second term, that he would not seek another one. Currently, the nation's only African-American Governor, Patrick was widely expected to eventually join the Obama Administration and leave Boston. However, that never happened and he is going to be serving out his term. With the office vacant, and with the state's most recent Lt. Governor, having resigned admit scandal, several other Democrats in the state stepped up to make a run.

Under the state's system, candidates must receive 15 percent of the vote at party conventions in order to qualify for the September 9 primary ballot. Back in June, two Democrats were eliminated, but three advanced to the primary. The front-runner for the  nomination has been state Attorney General Martha Coakley, who has been successful winning her current office, but failed miserable, with the entire nation watching, as the party's U.S. Senate nominee for Ted Kennedy's vacant seat in early 2010. She once had a huge lead in that race and her loss to Republican Scott Brown remains one of the greatest political upsets of all time. She would be the first woman to become Governor of her state. Just two years ago, a woman won a U.S. Senate seat for the first time Massachusetts history.

Despite the embarrassment of that losing campaign, Coakley has set her sites on the Governorship. First though, she must get past Donald Berwick, who served in the Obama Administration as a controversial Administrative of the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services, due to all the questions about Obamacare. He seems to be running a distant third though, and the top competitor to Coakley is State Treasurer Steven Grossman, a wealthy businessman who once chaired the state party as well as the DNC during part of the Clinton Administration. He made headlines by getting through a candidates forum a few months ago while suffering from a kidney stone. Activists at the June convention gave more votes to Grossman than anybody else by a 12 point margin, which was another political embarrassment for Coakley. Polls show though that she remains the frontrunner, though the most recent has Grossman moving up and potentially within striking distance.

In the Bay State, there is a separate primary for Lt. Governor, and that winner will then be paired with the eventual nominee for the relatively short general election campaign. The most recent poll shows that nearly three quarters of Massachusetts Democrats have no idea who they plan to vote for. Obviously, these Lt. Governor candidates have not made much of an impression and none of them seem to be affiliated with any of the Gubernatorial candidates.  Nonetheless, either Cambridge City Councilor Leland Cheung, former Lancaster Selectman Steve Kerrigan (is he related to Nancy?), or non-profit group CEO Mike Lake will be on the ticket. The June convention vote went to Kerrigan by under 100 votes.

The Republican side of the equation is a bit more simple. There was some disappointment when Scott Brown, after his 2012 U.S. Senate reelection defeat declined to run for Governor. There was thinking that since he remained fairly well liked in the state, a Gubernatorial bid in a midterm would be far more likely to produce a win than the federal race during a Presidential year in which he lost his seat. However, he decided not to run for office (at least not in Massachusetts), and the party fairly quickly turned to it's 2010 nominee.

Republican Charlie Baker is a former state budget director as well as the former CEO of a health care corporation. He was seen as having a decent shot of unseating Patrick in 2010, but the Governor was able to amount a comeback and Baker fell six points short, despite their being another prominent Democrat on the ballot as an Independent. While that was a disappointing loss that shows the overwhelming Democrat lean of Massachusetts, the moderate Baker is still considered the strongest possible nominee the GOP could put forward. He should be able to easily defeat a Tea Party candidate in the Republican primary. That candidate is currently involved in a legal battle with the State GOP over whether or not he earned a spot on the primary ballot. Apparently, he was willing to withdraw a legal challenge if he was given a large sum of money.

Baker's soon to be running-mate is running as aligned with him and is Karyn Polito, a former State Representative, and someone who like Baker, lost a statewide race in 2010. She was the GOP nominee for State Treasurer but lost to Steven Grossman. Some have claimed that Polito is too conservative politically for the state. She has seemingly moved a bit to the left on social issues since being tapped by Baker.

Massachusetts being what it is means that whomever emerges from next month's primary will have an edge. However, Republicans believe that a strong moderate candidate can win the Governorship, as they did for four elections, starting in 1990. It is very possible that the Commonwealth could be in the mood for change after eight years of a Democrat as Governor. If the wounds from the Democrat primary are slow to heal, Baker will have a real shot of winning. Still it looks like it might still be somewhat of an uphill challenge.

Polls have been showing Baker trailing the Democrat frontrunner Coakley. Those same polls also give him a slight lead against Grossman and a large lead against Berwick. Republicans can only hope the Democrats nominate Berwick, but it will almost certainly come down to the two current statewide office-holders. Based on the polls, Republicans should hope to face Grossman, but it could be that Coakley is just not ready for prime time when it comes to the biggest profile races. She faded down the stretch against Brown in a race she had no business losing and now seems to be losing major steam in her Gubernatorial primary. If she hangs on and wins, she could be damaged politically.

This is a race, where like many others in Massachusetts political history, debates will play a big part in the outcome. There still is much to be determined in regards to which Democrat will be facing Baker and in what kind of electoral shape they will be in. If there is to be a Republican upset, it might not be apparent until the very end. The GOP nominee has the potential to win crossover voters, and the general election may be tightening. At the moment though, it looks like Coakley would still have the edge of being elected. She has seen an even bigger edge evaporate before though.

Baker campaign link:


Gubernatorial races predicted thus far: 8 D (1 Safe, 1 Likely, 3 Leans, 3 Tossup) , 9 R (2 Safe, 2 Likely, 5 Leans)
Overall totals predicted thus far: 15 D, 16 R


At 10:09 AM, Blogger Steve Boudreaux said...

Coakley has a habit of choking in big profile statewide elections.


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