Thursday, August 23, 2018

Massachusetts Governor- Race of the Day

75 Days Until Election Day

Massachusetts Governor

Status: Republican Incumbent
2016 Presidential Result: Blue State (East)

Outlook: Likely Republican

As the saying goes, "pound for pound", there may not be another more pro-Democrat state in that country than Massachusetts, yet it's Republican Governor may also be the most popular Governor in the nation. Very similar to the Gubernatorial race in Maryland, this all leads to a contrast, but one which looks likely to be decided based on personality not party.

In 2014, which was a tough midterm for Democrats most everywhere, Republican Charlie Baker won the Governorship on his second try. His victory came via plurality and it was at least a modest upset. Many Democrats pointed to the fact that their nominee once again turned out to be weak. Indeed, now former Attorney General Martha Coakley is the only member of her party to lose statewide since 2002.

Despite having a target on his back from the beginning, and needing to work with an overwhelmingly Democrat state legislature, Baker has proven to be pretty popular and relatively successful in enacting his agenda. While he certainly leads towards the conservative side on many economic matters, on social issues, such as abortion and same sex marriage, he has sided with Democrats. Both during and after the 2016 Presidential election, the Governor has distanced himself from Donald Trump and voters seem to have gotten the message. After saying he cast a blank ballot for President (his former boss in state government, ex-Massachusetts Governor William Weld was also running as the Vice Presidential nominee of the Libertarian Party), Baker opposed Trump and Congressional Republican efforts to draft a new healthcare law. After the Trump Administration briefly implemented a policy of separating children from parents at the southern border, Baker said he would no longer send his state's National Guard troops to help at the border.

While Larry Hogan in Maryland avoided any sort of primary challenge, Baker is facing one in the September Republican primary by conservative pastor Scott Lively. The challenger also ran for Governor in 2014 and focuses strongly on social issues. At the state party convention, which overwhelmingly voted to endorse Baker, Lively still received nearly 28 percent of the vote, and qualified for the primary ballot. All things considered, Baker, who would still be strongly favored to win a primary, should be grateful that a conservative challenger with a broader message and appeal did not emerge.

Baker's popularity aside, some Democrats realized that any member of the party should still have a reasonable shot at victory in a midterm election of a Republican President. Still, almost all the state's most prominent Democrats decided that this race was too risky. For a time, the perceived front runner was Setti Warren, the African-American former Mayor of Newton, who had also run for the U.S. Senate in 2012. Running on a strongly liberal platform, Warren (who shares a surname with the state's prominent junior Senator), surprised many in April by ending his campaign, basically conceding it was not winnable.

That leaves two Democrats as the challengers to Baker. At their convention, Democrats voted strongly to endorse former state Finance Secretary Jay Gonzalez, who now works as a healthcare executive, a job Baker used to hold as well. Coming from a working class background, Gonzalez is the son of an immigrant from Spain. Also running, albeit without the party endorsement is author and activist Bob Massie, who was the party's unsuccessful Lt. Governor nominee in 1994. Both candidates have a list of prominent endorsers, do not seem to have any huge ideological differences, and the primary should be closer than the 70-30 convention vote for Gonzalez.

Most likely Gonzalez will win the nomination, although there may still be a huge number of undecided voters. After that, the winner will be matched up with the winner of the primary for Lt. Governor, to face Baker and his unopposed current number two, Karyn Polito.

Running with the party endorsement is former Obama White House aide Quentin Palfrey. (Obama only endorses Democrats after they win primaries though. He could certainly have been helpful to Palfrey here if he wanted to.) Non-profit group founder Jimmy Tingle, who has writing and acting experience in the comedy world is also a candidate. This will probably be closer than the Gubernatorial primary. For the first time in 20 years, the Massachusetts Democrat ticket for Governor and Lt. Governor will be composed of two white males.

Polls show that Baker has a very large lead over both Democrats. He will also be expected to have a huge financial advantage. A recent story about the Governor's 27 year old son groping a woman on an airplane is not expected to be a major party of the campaign. Baker has said that the U.S. Attorneys Office needs to conduct its investigation and that his son should be expected to cooperate.

All things considered, the R that will appear on the ballot next to Charlie Baker's name is going to hurt him, at least a little, as some liberals will be insistent that no Republican can ever be voted for. All that makes is somewhat unlikely that Baker will get over 60 percent of the vote. There seems to be more than enough Independents plus other Democrats though to make the incumbent a solid favorite for four more years, and someone to watch in the future as the Republican Party nationally will be engaged in a fight over its direction.

Gubernatorial Races predicted thus far:

8 D,  (2 Safe, 1 Likely, 2 Leans, 3 Tossup) 
9 R   (2 Safe,  3 Likely, 3 Leans, 1 Tossup)

Total with predictions thus far:

15 D (7 holdovers, 2 Safe, 1 Likely, 2 Leans, 3 Tossup)
16 R (7 holdovers, 2 Safe, 3 Likely, 3 Leans, 1 Tossup)


At 8:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Note: Elizabeth Warren is MA's senior Senator, not junior Senator (Ed Markey won the special election for Kerry's seat in the summer of 2013, around seven months after Warren was sworn in).

At 4:14 PM, Blogger Steve Boudreaux said...

Baker wins reelection easily with 68% of the statewide vote.


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