Monday, March 28, 2005

Old News Roundup

I spent most of Easter weekend in a car or otherwise out of Internet communication so this is a good an excuse as any to clear my desk of some of the things I meant to talk about previously, but never got the chance.

Michael Dukakis Interview: Basie! has an interesting interview with former governor and 1988 Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis. The focus is mostly on national politics, but he has some interesting things to say about the need for Democrats to build the grassroots.

Healey part 1: For those of you who have not yet heard about Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey's recent remark that seniors who are "overhoused" should move into smaller residences to avoid paying higher property taxes. As always, Romney is a Fraud has the best rundown of her comments and how the governor is distancing himself from them. One has to wonder if Healey would apply the same solution to other problems should she become the acting governor. If the solution to the problem of high property taxes for seniors on fixed incomes is for them to move, is the solution to the health care crisis telling people to move to Canada where medical care is free? Should a company complain to the acting governor of high corporate taxes, will she suggest they move to, say, South Carolina?

Healey part 2: Last month I idly wondered if there was more to Ian Bayne's criticism of Kerry Healey. As it turns out, Bayne's consulting group conducted a Poll of Romney campaign donors. As of mid-Feburary, 230 of them had responded to the following question:

Question: Should Lt. Governor Healey resign over a recent incident where she used a state police vehicle to get her through traffic to a social event?
6%YES (she should resign)
81%NO (she should not resign)
13%No Answer/Not sure
I wonder if he got the answer he was looking for.

What if they had an election and no one came: An article in Cape Cod Today from last week speculated that if Romney ends up sitting out the 2006 election, Democratic gubernatorial candidate frontrunner Tom Reilly will end up facing much stiffer competition in the primary.
[If Romney does not run for reelection,] Tom Reilly probably won't get the Democratic nomination either since he's perceived by Democrats as strong against Mitt but an "also ran" against anyone else. We might end up with decent candidates in both parties instead.
While I do think Romney will run, it is true that the dynamic of the race would change completely if he quits. I would imagine that a number of the people who have already said they're taking a pass this year (Joe Kennedy and Mike Capuano, for instance) might change their minds should this turn into an open seat.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

A Second Herald Hit Piece on Patrick

Well, maybe not a hit piece, but the Herald has now devoted an entire article to how wealthy Deval Patrick is.

Patrick's home is far from the more modest homesteads of possible candidates Secretary of State William F. Galvin, who owns a $471,300 home in Brighton, and Attorney General Tom Reilly, who rents a 1,163-square-foot apartment in Watertown.

It's also seemingly far from Patrick's humble roots and the type of people Patrick promised to represent on the campaign trail.
While it might be worthwhile to talk about the financial status of the candidates, this type of editorializing disguised as news is just tiresome. The article goes on to call Patrick "unapologetic" about his weatlh, as if he should be sorry that he brought himself up out of poverty. Presumably this is to negate any disadvange Governor Romney's own personal fortune might pose in a potential contest with Patrick, never mind that Romney was born into the most politically connected family in Michigan while Patrick's life story could have been written by Horatio Alger.

This comes on the heels of a Sunday Herald article that criticized Patrick's campaign for buying a map. Patrick himself gave this article as an example of "politics as bloodsport" during his remarks this past Monday. His response was to note that the map helped him get to parts of the state that Romney hasn't been to in a long time.

That event was the first time I'd had occasion to see Deval Patrick give a speech. While some Massachusetts progressives may have oversold him, I have to admit that he is the most charismatic of the current presumptive crop of Democratic candidates for governor. He took a page out of the Dean playbook by saying that he hoped his campaign would revive a sense of civic engagement. Also, he surprisingly came out in support of the proposal to move the primaries to May or June, in contrast to Galvin and Reilly. While such a move would potentially hurt his campaign, he noted that it would be better for the system. What really impressed me, though, was that his prepared remarks lasted roughly half an hour and he spent the rest of his time taking questions from the crowd. He knew that many of us were there just to check him out and he wasn't afraid to devote the majority of his time to respond to the group.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Nothing Doing

Clearly feeling heat on the Governor's many trips out of state, Massachusetts Republican party executive director Tim O'Brien has released a statement (sub req) blasting the legislature for, among other things, not being productive enough.

"This absentee Legislature needs to stop neglecting the Commonwealth and get to work on the important legislation filed by Governor Romney and Lieutenant Governor Healey, or it needs to stop taking a paycheck from the taxpayers of Massachusetts," said Tim O'Brien, Executive Director of the MassGOP. "Only on Beacon Hill is an 87 percent decrease in productivity rewarded with a full-time salary. Anybody else would be out of business."
"It's ironic that the Legislature likes to poke fun at Governor Romney for his out-of-state speaking engagements, when he has easily accomplished more than Democratic lawmakers who appears to spend their time rearranging offices in the State House," O'Brien said.
O'Brien uses as his measure the number of roll call votes taken since the start of the session this year compared to last year. Of course, that fails to take into account a couple of facts. First, the legislature went through a real reorganization this session. They actually reduced the number of standing committees. Of course, we all know how the GOP hates smaller government... Anyway, when a company undergoes a reorganization it is expected that some time will be lost as people settle into their new roles. The legislature is no exception to this.

Even without taking the reorganization into account, voting is not the only way to measure activity in the Legislature. House speaker Sal DiMasi said he is asking committee chairs to hold more oversight hearings this session. And we know how much the GOP hates government oversight. Oh, wait, that one's true.

O'Brien's claim that the governor has "filed several initiatives and pieces of legislation" does not hold up. Recall way back in November when Romney unveiled his Health Care proposal. At the time even he admitted that he had no plans to commit the plan to paper. We all knew that at some point the governor is going to have to come up with something better than an op-ed and a powerpoint presentation, but it was only yesterday that Romney said he would file a bill at some point in the future -- three months into the legislative session and five months after introducing his plan. I'm not sure what O'Brien would list among Romney's actual accomplishments. So far Romney's only impact on the state this year has been a few vetos that were quickly overridden -- some unanimously -- and a few wisecracks to GOP true believers.

Now, let's turn our attention to Mr. Tim O'Brien himself. What would happen if we applied an aribtrary measure of productivity to him? As we've noted before, O'Brien's salary is paid by the Massachusetts Republican State Congressional Committee. The purpose of that committee is, ostensibly, to promote and support Republican candidates for Congress in Massachusetts. Now, whether it's strictly legal for a state level figure like O'Brien to get paid with funds earmarked for federal candidates is a question for election lawyers, so we'll just leave that discussion for another day. What's interesting about the MRSCC, however, is that they managed to spend over 3.6 million dollars in the 2004 election cycle. How much of that do you suppose went to Republican candidates for Congress? A whopping $385. By my math, that means that 99.99% of the MRSCC's expenditures went to overhead (things like rearranging offices, I'm sure) and not towards their stated goal of funding GOP candidates. And O'Brien has the nerve to call the legislature do-nothing? I wonder if he is going to stop taking his paycheck. I'm not going to hold my breath.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Political Tidbits

Gang of Three Comeback: The Boston Herald reports that the Mass GOP is bringing back their 'Gang of Three' campaign theme from 2002 -- but with a new cast of characters. It's kind of sad, really, because not only is their theme recycled, but only 1/3 of their original gang (Tom Finneran, Robert Travaglini and Shannon O'Brien) is still in office. In any case, this is just further evidence that Romney is going to try to run an outsider's campaign as a sitting governor -- if he even runs at all.

St. Patrick's Day Breakfast: Missing from the Globe and Herald coverage of the annual St. Patrick's Day political breakfast in South Boston yesterday was that Secretary of State Bill Galvin and mayoral candidate and Boston City Councillor Maura Hennigan both completely and utterly bombed. To be fair, I missed Attorney General Tom Reilly's speech so I don't know how he was recieved. Still, Hennigan and Galvin should stay away from cracking jokes if they hope to win the 2005 mayoral and 2006 gubernatorial races, respectively.

Cellucci's Done: Despite speculation that he was interested in a Senate seat, had John Kerry won the presidency in 2004, the Globe is reporting that Paul Cellucci is through with politics. The former governor is dissolving his political campaign committee and donating his entire warchest to Massachusetts charities following his appointment as executive vice president for Magna Entertainment Corp. Strike one more name off of the potential replacements for Romney, should he step down.

Deval Patrick in Newton: Presumptive gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick will be speaking about the erosion of civil rights and civil liberties tonight at the Yamawaki Center at Lasell College in Newton, courtesy of the Newton DCC.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Genesis of a Talking Point

Yesterday, I noted how Mass GOP executive director Tim O'Brien was sniping at Tom Reilly's investigative record. Well, it now looks like Boston Herald Columnist and right-wing radio nut-job Howie Carr is joining the party. Here's an excerpt from his most recent column (sub req):

Attorney General Tom Reilly has a nickname in political circles - "Unfortunately." It's because the would-be governor's investigations always begin with great fanfare. But months later the probes invariably peter out, not with a bang, but a whimper, as T.S. Eliot would say. And the end is always the same: a press release that begins with the words to the effect of "Unfortunately ..."
He then launches into a series of fake questions and answers along the lines of this nugget:
Q: Didn't he threaten once to go after Major League Baseball for collusion or some such thing?
A: Yes, but unfortunately ...
Well, maybe Howie Carr thinks that getting getting an extra $30 million for charity is unfortunate, but I think most reasonable people would disagree. He then goes on to distort Reilly's record and insult him personally, although Carr insulting a Democrat is not exactly a "man bites dog" story.

Normally, I don't pay Carr much attention, but when two Republicans shoot their mouths off about the same subject at the same time, that signals the birth of a new talking point. Look for more GOP operatives trying to push the idea that Reilly is ineffective. As I've said before, they are going to drive up his negatives and they're starting now while his public image is still fairly malleable.

The best way for Reilly to deal with this is, of course, to achieve a high profile victory in his efforts to recover costs from Big Dig contractors. Not only would this be a political victory for him personally, but more importantly, it would be a victory for every Massachusetts taxpayer.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Big Spin

Attorney General and presumptive gubernatorial candidate Tom Reilly is starting up another investigation of the Big Dig in the wake of the recent questions over tunnel safety. In the Herald article, Reilly is criticized by state Republicans:

"It seems every time something happens over the Big Dig, Tom Reilly's knee-jerk reaction is to start an investigation," said Tim O'Brien, executive director of the Republican Party. "Where are the results?"
Well, as Romney is a Fraud pointed out, it seems that every time something happens over the Big Dig, Mitt Romney's knee-jerk reaction is to try to fire Turnpike chairman Matt Amorello. Where are his results?

Now, far be it from me to stick up for Amorello -- after all I'd just as soon scrap the Turnpike Authority and start over from scratch -- but I have a feeling that Romney doesn't really care if Amorello should keep his job or not. What he cares about, in my opinion, is the public perception that the Big Dig is a government problem. People, for some reason, still think that Republicans are going to shrink the government. Therefore, if the Big Dig is a government problem, people may be more likely to vote Republican in 2006. If, on the other hand, the Big Dig is seen as a corporate problem, the Democrats would be the ones who would traditionally have credibility in reigning in corporations. The more of the blame that falls on Bechtel/Parsons Brinkerhoff, the worse it is for our governor.

The truth, of course, is that there's plenty of blame for everyone here. But, in politics, perception is more important than truth. And that, really, is the reason why it is going to be so hard to not only get any sort of results for taxpayers as people on both sides of the political spectrum try to spin the facts to further their political agenda.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Cold Reception for Mitt

Governor Romney is out in Michigan today, raising his political profile in his birth state with a speech in front of the Michigan GOP state senate fundraiser. You have to wonder after Mitt's track record this past election in state senate races here in Massachusetts if the Michigan Republicans really want his help, but that's a question for another day. Today, the Globe reports that a conservative group wrote a letter to Republican state senators in Michigan protesting the "liberal" Romney's positions particularly on abortion and inexplicably on gay marriage.

We hope you will not allow your event or your hospitality to be used to in any way validate or legitimize Governor Mitt Romney's support of legal abortion-on-demand or his endorsement of homosexual activists' political agenda," Gary Glenn of the American Family Association of Michigan wrote in a letter to the Republican state senators Romney will address at a fund-raiser tonight for the Michigan GOP.
I'm sure the so-called homosexual activists in Massachusetts are just as surprised as anyone that Mitt is endorsing them.

This should serve as a clear signal to Romney that he is not going to be able to have it both ways. He can't simultaneously run to the right to position himself for the presidency in 2008 and position himself in the nebulous center where the mythical Massachusetts swing voter lives. If is out-of-state rhetoric allows the Mass Dems to turn him into a Bush clone, he's toast in 2006, but if his in-state rhetoric allows outside conservatives to turn him into the Republican Ted Kennedy, he's sunk in 2008.

Speaking of the Mass Dems, they've brought back Ani-Mitt. If you haven't seen it before, it's worth checking out. If nothing else, you'll never look at Eric Fehrnstrom the quite the same way again.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Get Out and Vote

Unless you've been living in a cave, or have stumbled onto this blog for the first time, you probably know that the primaries for the three special elections to the legislature are today. If you live in the 3rd Berkshire, 12th Suffolk or 18th Suffolk Districts, please take a few minutes out of your day to vote. If you don't know your district, you can look up your election information here. If you're looking to volunteer for progressive candidates, Democracy for MA has more information. You have about five and a half hours left to make a difference!

In addition, Common Cause Massachusetts is conducting an Instant Runoff Exit Poll for the 12th Suffolk (Tom Finneran's old district). I am extremely curious to see the results, and I applaud any effort to raise the profile of IRV for state primary elections.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Another Crank

Former Democratic state senator and gubernatorial candidate George Bachrach had an interesting op-ed in the Globe yesterday on the subject of the new Democratic Primary "reforms." For the half-dozen or so others who have been following this, I think the following section is particularly relevant:

The problem for the Democratic Party is not that primary campaigns are too short or that party leaders have too little control. The problem is that we pick the wrong nominees. We don't need longer campaigns and conventions controlled by powerful institutional interests supporting front-running Beacon Hill insiders.

We need just the opposite. We need open and spirited campaigns that support bold, independent candidates. We need Democratic nominees who offer a progressive vision and an alternative plan, not an echo of the Republican Party or a front for Beacon Hill power brokers and Democratic interest groups.

If the Democratic Party finds a candidate with courage and vision and independence, then the party will unify, no matter how many candidates emerge from a convention or when the primary is held. Reducing the candidate pool via these misguided reforms only reduces the chance of finding that candidate.
I think that speaks for itself, really.

Another Day, Another Smear Campaign

Fred Clarkson has a report this morning about an Anti-gay smear campaign brought to us by the ever-shrill Article 8 Alliance. It seems that they are targeting the 12th Suffolk District, the former seat of ex-Speaker-for-Life Tom Finneran, with this flyer. Fred gives us these choice quotes:

"Kerby Roberson," according to the flyer, "is willing to protect our children from the homosexual fanatics in our public schools;" and "will vote to stop homosexual marriage, no matter what the powerful politicians say."

The fear-mongering flyer asks: "Do you want a State Representative who SUPPORTS pushing homosexuality on your children in the public schools? Or a Rep. who will vote to stop it?"
Then follows a long list of supposed cases where someone affiliated with a school did something that acknowledged that homosexual people exist. Apparently that is what "pushing homosexuality" means. The pamphlet also has two pictures: one of two women in wedding gowns, and the other of a man kissing another man. They actually look kind of happy and goodness knows that the most offensive thing in the world to the Article 8 Alliance is a happy gay person.

The alliance produced a similar flier last November in Somerville, smearing openly gay candidate Carl Sciortino, causing a backlash that some say helped Sciortino win the primary. With the primary tomorrow, however, news of this smear campaign may not get out until after the election has finished.

Speaking of tomorrow's election, Democracy for Massachusetts is looking for volunteers in support of their slate of progressive candidates. I am not affiliated with that particular group, though I did meet briefly with a member (who, to my surprise, is also a reader) at the DCA day on Saturday. While I have refrained from endorsing any particular candidate, I think it would be a shame if the progressive candidates split the vote allowing these seats to stay in conservative hands. I would encourage anyone with extra time who cares about progressive issues to help get out the vote today and tomorrow.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

I Just Had to Ask

Earlier today, I was in Roxbury at the Democratic Committee Activists Day, sponsored by the state Democrats. Phil Johnston gave the opening remarks praising the Massachusetts Democratic grassroots, as did almost every speaker throughout the day. During lunch, they had time for a few questions and answers and I figured this was as good an opportunity as any to voice my concerns. I managed to stammer out some version of this question:

The party has talked a lot about how important the grassroots are now and how important they will be in 2006. How do you square that with the actions the DSC took this past week in reducing the number of spots for grassroots members from the committees and in tightening the rules for ballot access in the primary?
The scattered applause from the crowd after I walked away from the microphone made it seem that a few Internet cranks aren't the only ones who were frustrated by this decision.

It was clear that they were not really prepared to answer my question, but a women from the DSC did speak to the issue. She emphasized that the Massachusetts nominating convention was just too big, especially when compared to other states. California, for example, has an attendance of less than half of what we had under the old rules. She talked up the Dukakis-McGovern commission and its 17 recommendations, 14 of which the DSC approved; these rule changes were a part of that 18 month study. She also reassured the group the proportions of delegates remained the same and the number of add-on youth, disabled and affirmative action spots would also remain unchanged. I should have stayed at the mike to follow-up, but we were running late as it was, so it was probably better that I sat down.

In the meantime, an attendee from Democracy for America Boston came over and told me, point blank, that what the DSC representative was saying was not actually true. He pointed out that apparently one of the recommendations not enacted was the shrinking of the number of ex officio (unelected) convention spots. We did some calculations on paper and it came out that the number of elected attendees in 2006 would drop to something like 60% down from well over 70% in 2002 (I don't recall the exact numbers). If the ex officio spots have, in fact, not been reduced, their power is considerably enhanced by a reduction of the elected spots, despite what the party officials may say.

So, the upshot is that either the State Committee doesn't realize the implications of its actions from a Town Committee perspective, or it's indifferent to their effect on participation from the Town Caucuses. Either one of these is a shame, but the first is at least reversible. I think what should be made clear is that the problem is how the proportion of attendees elected from the caucuses are being reduced, not how the size of the convention as a whole has been cut.

As for the rest of the meeting, about 80% of what the party leaders said was either platitudes or pep rally type stuff. The real value of the day, in my opinion, was in talking to members and chairs of other Town Committees and sharing ideas for outreach and fundraising. It was especially good for me, since I'm relatively new to Town Committees; it acted as a crash course in what they could do. I have to give a lot of credit to the state party (even as I spent the bulk of this post criticizing them) for setting these up and making them free of cost. I think the party is at least trying to go in the right direction with their relations to the grassroots, even if they may need a poke from time to time.

Friday, March 11, 2005

More Poll Woes for Mitt

The Boston Globe is reporting yet another early poll that has Romney coming up short against Democratic frontrunner Tom Reilly. In addition, this is the first poll that I've seen that shows that Massachusetts residents do not want Mitt to run for president:

Who would you vote for ... Mitt Romney or Tom Reilly?
Tom Reilly48%
Mitt Romney41%

Do you think Mitt Romney should be reelected governor in 2006?
Someone Else50%
Don't Know18%

Should Governor Romney run for president in 2008?
Should Not53%
Don't Know19%
Of course the only poll that really matters is still over a year and a half away. The real story again is that Romney is consistently coming up short in the early polling. At no point has Romney polled higher than the low forties in any matchup against Tom Reilly. He also has yet to break 50% in any reported matchup against anyone. This can't be good news for a sitting governor. If his polling numbers stay this flat by the summer, Mitt will have to make a decision. Can he risk losing in 2006 if he wants to win in 2008? Personally, I think his ego will not let him retire and he especially doesn't want to give up the reins of any part of his financing network in the runup to a presidential campaign. In addition, the good news for the governor in this poll, like in the previous ones we've discussed here is that Romney's favorability ratings are still high relative to his re-elect numbers.
CandidateFavorableNeutralUnfavorableDon't Know Enough
Mitt Romney52%8%37%3%
Tom Reilly53%12%14%21%
Bill Galvin37%15%9%40%
Deval Patrick11%7%5%78%
Romney's numbers don't have a lot of room to change unless people start reevaluating their own opinions of him. The Democrats, however, all have very low unfavorable numbers and comparatively high "don't know enough" numbers. Romney's job in the next year is to turn those don't know's into unfavorables for his potential opponents. Given the Democrats' natural advantages in Massachusetts, the most likely course of action for Mitt, should he decide to run for reelection, would be a mostly negative campaign with the intention of convincing Democrats and Democratic leaning Independents to stay home.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Primary Concern

I was all set to be indifferent to the proposed primary changes that were to be discussed tonight at the Democratic State Committee meeting. Blue Mass Group calls it a power grab by party hacks. NoHo Missives wants Democratic Party Chair Phil Johnston to resign. For some reason, though, I just could not get excited about the party tinkering with the primary schedule and eligibility requirements. That is, until I read this:

The current rules call for 6,257 delegates, but the commission wants to reduce that number to 4,777. The largest cut, some 1,100, would come in those elected from the caucuses. Delegates who are party officials and are not elected are given more representation. [emphasis mine]
Okay, I understand that 6257 is a lot of people for a small state, and perhaps it would be better if there were fewer people at the nominating convention. I've never been to one, so I feel that I can't judge. However, taking away spots from people elected in local caucuses -- the people on the ground actually doing the footwork to build the party -- and giving them to unelected party officials really ticks me off.

In addition to paring down the size of the convention, the DSC is considering changing the eligibility requirements for ballot access from requiring the support of 15% of the delegates at the convention on one of two ballots, to just the first ballot. This will mean that there will be no second chances by the time that first vote is taken to determine who will be in the Democratic primary. Since the size of the delegate pool is smaller, potential candidates actually need about 220 fewer votes to get on the ballot, which I thought was an improvement. If the proportion of elected and unelected delegates remained the same, it would be. Given, however, that it will be harder for someone to get a substantial number of supporters to convention through the caucus mechanism it seems to me that this would actually restrict the ability of an outsider candidate to gain traction. Cutting the number of delegates from the local caucuses severs a link from the party to the people. I think that is a shame.

UPDATE: The Globe reports that both restrictions passed unanimously.

The fact of the matter is that elections in Massachusetts are not competitive enough. I understand that the Democrats have no incentive to change this, but the Republicans are not innocent in this either. Still, take a look at these numbers from 2004:
Candidate Unopposed in the General Election:
  • half the county sheriffs
  • 3/4 of Governor's Council
  • 43% (59 Dem/10 GOP) of Representatives
  • 30% (9 Dem/3 GOP) of State Senators
For the Democratic Primary:
  • all Congressmen unopposed
  • 5/14 Sheriffs unopposed
  • 5/8 of the Governor's Council unopposed
  • Only 2 Contested State Senate Primaries
  • Only 28 Contested Rep Primaries
Granted, nearly all the Constitutional offices (Governor, Lt. Gov, Treasurer, Auditor, etc) have competitive Democratic primaries, but in many cases (aside from Governor) the Democratic primary is the de facto election for these positions. The Democratic Party of Massachusetts really has nothing to fear by opening up their Primary, rather than closing it off. In fact, they could probably benefit at the higher levels if they generated a little more excitement down ticket. It's much harder to bring yourself to the polls if half the people on your ballot are running unopposed.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Nowhere to Go But Up has a story on a Marist Poll of the potential candidates in the 2008 Republican Primary. Let's see how our governor is doing at this obscenely early date:

Rudy Giuliani25%
John McCain21%
Condoleezza Rice14%
Jeb Bush7%
Newt Gingrich5%
Bill Frist3%
Bill Owens2%
Mitt Romney1%
Rick Santorum1%
George Pataki1%
Chuck Hagel<1%
George Allen<1%
It looks like all that out-of-state campaigning hasn't amounted to much after all. The good news for Mitt is that polls this early are just a mix of favorability ratings and name recognition. The bad news is that if this is indeed the field of Republican candidates (something we can't predict) it looks like he may be squeezed out of the primaries early. It's not hard to imagine him being too conservative for the moderates who would vote for McCain or Giuliani types and too moderate for conservatives who would vote for Frist or Gingrich types. Again, a poll this early out is mostly just for entertainment value, but it does show that Romney has a lot of ground to make up if he is really serious about running for President.

On Electability

In the comments, David from Blue Mass Group writes:

One comment about your last line: Dems have to avoid the "electability trap" that we may have fallen into in the '04 election by thinking that "other people" would vote for Kerry even if we weren't too jazzed up about him ourselves.
This follows from a larger discussion on electability that has been going on at Left Center Left. I tried to respond to David's remarks in the comments, but it turned out that I had more to say than what Haloscan allowed.

In all fairness, I think "electability" has been used as a way to end discussion about potential candidates by Democrats disgruntled over Kerry's loss in 2004 (and, for some, Dean's loss in the primaries). The argument boils down to this: "my guy" would have won through sheer force of personality, even though "your electable guy" has a better resume. Personally, I don't think that having a resume should be a liability in politics, and in fact having accomplishments that you can point to should be -- in large part -- what we judge candidates on. You can't count on catching lightning in a bottle every time. There should be room to judge who would actually be suited for the job of governing regardless of who makes the better candidate, however you want to judge that.

I think it is important to talk about who is better suited to win an election. In the context of the gubernatorial election, all I know about Deval Patrick is what I read in the papers and what I saw in this NECN profile. What I know about Reilly is that he's a successful attorney general, not without some baggage to be sure, but he's been winning elections in Middlesex County for years. I am convinced that the next governor will have to win Middlesex County to win the election, and the Democrat will have to win it by a large margin. Does this mean I think we shouldn't have a primary and put the candidates to the test? Of course not. It just means that I see more evidence at this point that 1) Reilly would be a better governor than Patrick and 2) Reilly will -- at the very least -- do better than O'Brien and has a decent shot of digging into Romney's suburban base. Patrick has much further to go, as he is a virtual unknown outside of Milton. If the election were tomorrow, Patrick would be crushed by Romney.

The good news is that the election isn't tomorrow, and I'm certainly willing to keep an open mind, as should everyone. I think a primary will be healthy for the Democrats, as long as they all focus on their ideas and attacking Romney, not each other. Most importantly, they have to make the case to the electorate that it is worth having a Democratic governor, despite the fact that it would throw the state into one-party rule.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Romney's Finances

According to the Boston Globe, Mitt Romney's campaign funding includes about $220,000 from out-of-state contributors. That accounts for roughly 14% of his total cash on hand. Most of this money was raised during his out of state travels hawking his book Turnaround, but Mitt also solicited funds in a direct mail campaign that, among other things, emphasized his opposition to Senator Ted Kennedy. If that doesn't squeeze money out of out-of-state wingnuts, nothing will.

These out-of-state donations were earmarked for Romney's gubernatorial campaign fund. An earlier Globe article lists the Romney fundraising network as composing the following five accounts:

  • Commonwealth PAC
  • Republican Governors Association campaign account
  • MA Republican State Congressional Committee
  • MA Republican State Committee
  • Romney for Governor
The Globe reports that these five sources raised about $6.6 million in 2004. Of these, Romney can't use the Romney for Governor or the RSC money in Federal Elections, so building up his other sources of funds shows that he wants to boost his federal profile. Of course, Mitt has played fast and loose with campaign finance regulations before -- having used the Federal funds from RSCC to finance state GOP infrastructure. If Romney runs in '08, the Republican State Committee will likely work as his base of operations in the Northeast. If Romney does not run for re-election in '06, however, the RSC will be forced to spend these funds on someone else, probably Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey. I'm sure he'd rather build the state party on his behalf so that he could send members of the organization up to New Hampshire to campaign for him -- much like the Democrats did for John Kerry in 2004. The RSCC money is technically to be used in support of Republican House and Senate candidates, but Romney may be able to donate a portion of those funds to the RNC after 2006 if he decides to run for President.

Romney is scheduled to become chair of the Republican Governor's Association in 2006. At that point, it is likely that he will use the RGA campaign account along with the Commonwealth PAC to curry favor with out-of-state Republicans. Before the election in 2006, these two accounts will likely be Romney's primary link to out-of-state Republicans. Romney will not be able to form a presidential exploratory committee and run for re-election at the same time without suffering political consequences here in Massachusetts. A sure sign of Romney's presidential ambitions will be increased Commonwealth PAC activity in '05 and '06 and RGA strategic donations targeted in early primary states.

State House Poll Internals

I finally got a chance to look at the internals (reg req) for the State House News poll I mentioned last week. What was missing from the discussion then were the numbers for Bill Galvin and Deval Patrick in head-to-head matchups with Romney. The news is even worse for the Governor as Galvin seems to have a slight edge (though well within the 4.8% MOE) and Patrick still holds him under 50% despite having only slightly better statewide name-recognition than yours truly. Here are the raw percentages:

If the candidates in next year's general election for governor were Mitt Romney and [CHALLENGER] and the election were being held tomorrow, for whom would you vote?
ChallengerRomneyDon't KnowNeither
Bill Galvin44.1%41.2%12.5%2.0%
Deval Patrick32.9%45.5%14.5%6.8%
Tom Reilly49.1%39.6%8.7%2.4%
Of course, maybe this poll is skewed toward Democrats. There was a lot of discussion last year about national polls that oversampled Republicans; maybe this poll has similar problems in reverse:
PartyPollAll MA
Other Party2.6%0.8%
The state party registration percentages are current up to October, 2004 (PDF). Unfortunately, I couldn't find any exit poll numbers from 2002 to determine what percentage of each party actually voted then, but the registration numbers do show that this poll is pretty much dead-on in terms of partisan demographics.

Also included in the poll was a question on the 2006 Democratic Primary:
Among the expected candidates for governor in next year's Democratic primary will be ... If the Democratic primary for governor were being held tomorrow, for whom would you vote?
Tom Reilly41.5%
Bill Galvin10.5%
Chris Gabrieli5.1%
Deval Patrick3.2%
Don't Know36.4%
Reilly beats all candidates in all regions of the state, but does best in the Northeast (Middlesex and Essex). Galvin, for some reason, does best in Worcester & Western Mass, despite being from Brighton. Patrick has his best showing in Norfolk County, where he has his home in Milton. Of course, polls this early are mostly a reflection of name-recognition -- a question which was not asked of the potential Democratic gubernatorial candidates. The 36% undecided means that there's still a ton of room for Galvin and Patrick (and Gabrieli if he's interested) to improve. Clearly, though, Reilly has the momentum right now, as well as the support of a plurality of Massachusetts Democrats. As the primary gets closer and more polls showing Reilly beating Romney come out, we may see a snowball effect as Democrats get in line behind the guy they think can win.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Mitt's Numbers Take a Dive

Are Mitt's out of state chickens coming home to roost? The fine folks at Blue Mass Group point to a new State House News Poll with the following numbers:

Tom Reilly49.1%
Mitt Romney39.6%
That's nearly a ten point spread, though technically not out of the margin of error. While it's dangerous to compare results of different polls, it's certainly the most we've seen Reilly win by. The State House News Roundup article also notes the following:
[Romney's] unfavorable rating surpassed 40 percent. The poll indicated he's well-thought of even among some people who don't think he's turning in a strong performance as governor: his personal approval rating was 55 percent, but his positive job-performance rating was 46.3 percent. Another 8.3 rated his performance "average."
This is pretty consistent with previous polls we've discussed here, though even worse for the governor. The people of Massachusetts seem to generally be OK with Romney as a person, but they are increasingly unhappy with his style of leadership.

In addition to the Romney-Reilly matchup, the poll showed Secretary of the Commonwealth Galvin in a dead heat with Romney, and Reilly winning a primary with Galvin and Deval Patrick. Of course, one shouldn't take poll results this early in the race too seriously, and to his credit Reilly is not. The Springfield Republican quotes:
Corey D. Welford, a spokesman for Reilly, responded by saying there's a long way to go, and the attorney general is not focused on poll results. "The attorney general believes that if you do your job well, the future will take care of itself."
And that's really what Reilly should be doing as the frontrunner. If he can turn his Big Dig investigation into gold for Massachusetts taxpayers, folks who voted for Romney in 2002 will have to consider dropping their guy in favor of someone who gets results.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Phoenix on Galvin

The Boston Phoenix has a good article about Secretary of the Commonwealth and presumptive gubernatorial candidate Bill "Prince of Darkness" Galvin. Galvin's non-campaign seems to be slowly kicking into gear. This Sunday, he spoke out against the Democratic plan to push the state primaries back to May. Tuesday, he hosted a private fundraiser at Anthony’s Pier 4. Plus, Galvin is getting press over his looking into the Procter & Gamble buyout of Gillette on behalf of shareholders. Unlike Tom Reilly's Big Dig cost-recovery operation, Galvin's investigation has largely not been accused of political maneuvering since his campaign for Governor has largely operated under the radar. According to the Phoenix, this is exactly how Galvin wants it.

"He's a master at being low-key while getting headlines at the same time," one Democratic observer says. "Galvin is one of the smartest people I know, and he's smart enough to know that the minute you become a candidate, you start getting killed by the press."
The rest of the article is worth reading, too, as is the March, 2001 bio of Galvin the Phoenix published prior to his entry in the 2002 governor's race.

One thing that I do like about Galvin is that, of all the current candidates, he's the only one who I have heard talk about solving the population loss in Massachusetts. In a January editorial in the Globe, he wrote:
We must act quickly to get Massachusetts moving again. We need to address the root causes of our population loss: high housing costs and job losses.
[T]he records in my office which trace the outmigration of voters to other states show that the largest age group leaving Massachusetts are men and women 30 to 49 -- not just recent college graduates looking for a career but more established younger people who were the most productive part of our workforce.
Stemming the population loss in Massachusetts is very important, not only for the state, but for progressives nationwide. If the census were taken now, Massachusetts would lose one of its Congressional representatives. Not only does that mean that the people of Massachusetts will have less of a say in our Federal government, but that's also one less safe Democratic seat in an increasingly partisan Republican House.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Romney Loves Grover

No, not this Grover.

The folks over at The Fray note that Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Elimination Reform recenty crawled out of his cave to complain about Governor Romney's attempts to close corporate tax loopholes. It seems that Mitt has earned the ire of the anti-tax crusader by deigning to have the state enforce tax laws that are already on the books. He's quoted in a Globe Article as follows:

Norquist praised Romney for trying to cut personal income taxes, but he said the governor should concentrate on lowering the state's corporate income tax rate of 9.5 percent, not "trying to enforce unenforceable tax rates."
Never mind that Norquist considers any rate higher than 0 to be unenforceable, Romney has apparently taken his words to heart. In one of his now trademark turnarounds, Mitt backed away from his proposal to give the state's Revenue Commissioner the discretion to pursue corporations that transfer profits out of state for the purpose of lowering their tax bills.

Norquist isn't the only one criticizing Romney on tax policy. The libertarian Cato Institute gave Mitt a 'C' on their governor's fiscal policy report card. Showing that the Institute knows nothing about Bay State politics, they urge him to "take a page from the Paul Cellucci playbook." Though they weren't talking about ditching the state mid-term, leaving the state with a lieutenant governor with a thin resume. The Herald Editorial board notes that Weld recieved an 'A' despite contending with the same supermajority of Democrats in the legislature, so Romney should "look in the mirror" if he "want[s] to know who to blame."

Consider all this in light of what Romney had to say about his recent cross-country tour:
"I actually haven't seen any criticism of my travel out of state," he said. "I spent one day out of state last week. I don't know that that's terribly excessive. It happened to be a vacation day and I got a chance to speak to a wide number of people and went to my home in the West and did some skiing. Hopefully, I'm allowed to take vacations."
So, Romney hasn't heard any criticism of his out-of-state campaigning? Apparently he hasn't opened a newspaper since he got back in town. It makes me wonder, though. Romney is ignoring his critics in Massachusetts, but he's willing to change his stance on corporate taxation when barked at by troglodytes like Grover Norquist and the Rand worshipers at the Cato Institute. Not only that, but Mitt's pandering to religious conservatives last week did not cost the state anything; his current pandering to anti-government conservatives is actually going to affect the state's bottom line. This is just another sign that Romney is no longer interested in governing now that it conflicts with his presidential ambitions.