Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Some Republicans Ready to Give Up Already?

Earlier today, GOP News suggested that Kerry Healey should throw the Governor's race and spread her vast fortune around to legislative candidates instead. The idea is that we Democrats will screw things up so badly in four years that a GOP legislative victory would be near assured in 2008, and Republicans could easily reclaim the corner office in 2010. Local blogger John Daley is waiting for someone at Blue Mass. Group to respond, but for now he'll have to settle for a third stringer of Massachusetts progressive blogospheric discourse. Herald Reporter Jay Fitzgerald also also posts his thoughts which are worth reading. The consensus seems to be that this would be a monumentally foolish idea.

As an unrepentant supporter of one of the Democratic gubernatorial candidates, I'm tempted to cry "Don't throw us in the briar patch, Brer Fox!" but I think we've had enough of Uncle Remus for the time being. Look at it this way, without the governor, the highest elected Republican official in 2007 would be State Senator Richard Tisei (R-Wakefield) assuming he succeeds the retiring Senate Minority Leader Brian Lees (R-East Longmeadow). Who will be the advocate for the Republican point of view in the absence of any statewide officeholder? They risk being completely shut out of the public discourse.

Let's forget for a moment that the GOP tried something similar in 2004 and was stingingly rebuked, losing a total of three seats in their effort. Forget even that 2008, the year that the GOP blog expects to make legislative gains, will be a presidential election year and hordes of Massachusetts voters will be coming out to vote for the Democratic candidate. Forget also that this year Massachusetts is poised to have the fewest percentage of contested races this year of any state in the union. If the Democrats were as hopelessly out of power as the Republicans are, I would also call for a renewed focus on the Legislature -- though I would never suggest abandoning the chances of winning an open seat. In fact, there are tales of repentant Nader supporters from 2000 who thought that teaching the Democrats a lesson and casting a protest vote for Ralph would do the same thing that the GOP News folks suggest, namely if Bush ended up winning he'd screw things up so bad (he did) that people would be begging for progressive leadership (how'd that work out in 2004?).

One thing that no one mentions is apart from the wisdom of this strategy, the very idea that Kerry Healey would take a dive for the state GOP is ridiculous. The Massachusetts Republican party is a wholly owned and operated subsidiary of Affiliated Managers Group, and its CEO Sean Healey. Electing Kerry Healey governor is now its sole purpose, just ask Christy Mihos who had to leave the party because he could not count on them being honest brokers. He's not the only one to be frustrated by the Healey takeover, either.

The other thing is the fallacy that it's easier to win an election without media attention. Dan Kennedy noted this as well. In the absence of other information, people are more likely to vote for the party than the candidate. While it's true that voters unenrolled in any party make up the plurality of voters in the Commonwealth, that doesn't really tell the whole story. In January, I took note of a Gallup survey on party identification which found that the majority of voters in Massachusetts lean Democratic (big surprise, right?). While unenrolled Democratic leaners may be swing voters in a gubernatorial election, in the absence of other information, they may be more likely to vote for a Democrat. This jives with the electoral experience of Massachusetts -- low profile races almost always go to the Democrat, unless they're legislative seats in highly Republican areas.

That all said, I think some of our Democratic legislatures could use some competition, if only to remind them that they still have to earn our votes. It's never good for politicians to get too comfortable.