Tuesday, March 08, 2005

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.