Friday, March 31, 2006

Johnston Inserts Himself in Tax Return Debate

John Keller notes today in his blog and on his segment at CBS4 that the real news is not the story that Attorney General Tom Reilly is calling on the other candidates to disclose their income tax returns. Instead, the story is that Democratic Party Chairman Phil Johnston has taken sides in the debate with Reilly and against fellow Democratic candidate Deval Patrick. According to Johnston, the only way for a candidate to avoid an appearance of a conflict of interest is to release all their financial information, above and beyond what is required by Massachusetts law. Reilly has done this, but Patrick, Republican Kerry Healey and Independent Christy Mihos all have refused. As Keller noted with barely concealed glee, "Who needs Republicans? Democrats are fighting amongst themselves!"

In Keller's piece, he notes that Senator Kennedy does not release his tax returns, but Johnston does not have a problem with this because Kennedy is a Federal candidate and the federal financial disclosure forms are more comprehensive than anything the state-level candidates have to fill out. If this is the case, then is seems to me that the problem is not with the candidates, but with the disclosure requirements. After all, it's silly to expect candidates to disclose any information that they are not required to release. If candidates faced any electoral consequences by not releasing their tax returns, Governor Shannon O'Brien would be seeking her reelection this year. It does not make sense for a self-funding candidate to make their tax returns public because that information will tip off their opponents as to how much they can spend on themselves. The advantage of not disclosing far outweighs the the disadvantages. As such, the only way to get this information out of candidates is to compel them.

The bottom line: don't blame Deval Patrick, Christy Mihos and Kerry Healey that the rules are lax. Work to change the rules, because trusting any candidate to disclose potential financial conflicts out of the goodness of their heart makes no sense.

Barrios: Address Root Causes

State Senator Jarrett Barrios was in Watertown last night talking to our Democratic Town Committee about his candidacy for Middlesex County District Attorney. Also present was Teddy from Sports, Politics and Revenge, who posted his thoughts there.

Barrios' message was that Middlesex County needs a DA who is not only tough on crime, but also tough on its root causes. The theme of the evening was that "justice in the future means less crime" -- and that the job of the DA is not only to put criminals behind bars, but also to create and manage public safety programs aimed at reducing recidivism. Barrios reminded us that 99.8% of those incarcerated will be back on the street eventually and it's important to make sure that they are not just going to wind up in front of a judge again.

Throughout the meeting he touted the Anti-Gang law he sponsored in the Senate and the anti-Identity Theft initiative that is currently pending.

Barrios downplayed the importance of courtroom experience for a district attorney. The DA never appears in court, he said, and leaves that to his assistants. He noted that he has as much courtroom experience -- including criminal defense work -- as Scott Harshbarger did in 1982, and more than now Congressman Bill Delahunt (D-Quincy) had when he was appointed Norfolk County DA in 1975. Some of the most creative ideas, Barrios claimed, often come from those who have never been prosecutors since they are coming from outside the system and can offer a different perspective.

When asked about the biggest problem facing Middlesex county, Barrios pointed to drug addition and substance abuse. He noted that in these cases we need to deal with the underlying problem of addiction, otherwise the offenders are almost certain to repeat. He pointed to the drug court in Framingham and other localities as examples of a way to combine treatment and punishment for these types of offenses.

Barrios wants to frame this as a choice between a single-minded one-dimensional prosecutor and someone with a broader experience in public safety. He bolsters this argument by pointing to all the work he has done in the Senate during his tenure as Chair of the Public Safety and Homeland Security committee, particularly in working and talking with other groups to try to address the causes of crime. The implication (I thought) was that his opponent, former Assistant US Attorney Gerry Leone, is not interested in such collaboration. Frankly, I don't think that this is quite fair to Leone, and ignores his own history of bringing groups together to stop crime, particularly his work in the Community Based Justice program at the DA's office. This, I think, underscores the difference between the two candidates. Barrios is already fairly well known for a state Senator, and as such, he's free to talk about what he'd do as DA. Leone is still introducing himself to the voters, and he has focused more on his resume than what his plans are, leaving his opponent to fill in the blanks. Now, Leone's resume may be enough to win him the election by itself, but my feeling is that if he is not able to get his message out, Barrios will gladly do it for him.

As an aside, I've spent a lot of time recently looking over 1998 election returns and in that year Martha Coakley, who had previously lost a state rep bid but had no other experience in electoral politics, won every town in Middlesex County and lost only in Lowell (by a handful of votes) and Cambridge. She was running at the time against two well-connected Democrats in the primary, then and current Cambridge city councilor Michael A. Sullivan, former mayor and candidate for Middlesex County Clerk of Courts, and Timothy Flaherty, son of former Speaker of the House Charlie Flaherty. I was not in Massachusetts at that time, so I can't speak as to how that campaign unfolded, but it seems to me that those results show that it takes, or at least took, more than political connections to win Middlesex County DA.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Barrios in Watertown Tonight

State Senator and Middlesex County DA candidate Jarrett Barrios will be addressing the Watertown Democratic Town Committee tonight at 8pm at the Watertown Town Hall. I got back home from my short break just in time, and I'll be there. Expect more on that and a whole bunch from the backlog tomorrow.

Also, the Watertown for Deval kickoff meeting will be Monday night at 7pm. Send an email to for more details.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Review of Crashing the Gate

A few weekends ago, I read Crashing the Gate by Markos Moulitsas, of Daily Kos, and Jerome Armstrong, formerly of MyDD. A few hours in an airplane gave me the perfect excuse to finally write up a quick review. The book describes the problems with the national Democratic party in particular and the wider progressive movement (such as it is) in general. Regular readers of their blogs will notice some familiar themes in the book; Moulitsas and Armstrong cover little new ground here, but are able to go into much greater depth in book form than blog form. While you might expect a book by bloggers to be about blogging, most of it is dedicated to real-life party and grassroots organizing, with a focus on how the Internet can be used as a tool to facilitate organization.

Curiously enough, the book reminded me of Moneyball by Michael Lewis, about Billy Beane's Oakland A's, particularly the chapter that covers the quality of political consultants on the Democratic side. Baseball managers, scouts, and political consultants are all concerned with making the move that will not get them fired. Scouts evaluate prospects based on whether or not they "look" like baseball players, regardless of their measurable ability; likewise, political consultants are often evaluated more on who they know than on their ability to win elections.

So, here's my question for those people who have been involved more heavily in campaigns than myself. Is there any way to objectively measure the performance of a consultant? Won-loss record? Dollars spent per vote? Year over year turnout increases? I don't know what criteria you would use, but I do know that there is so much data associated with an election, and it's available at such a discrete level (down to the individual voting machine, even) that there should be some way to quantify the performance of a campaign team, if not an individual consultant. Is there some way to move political consulting into a "Moneyball" era? Is it even possible to measure effectiveness without creating a new set of incentives that are just as dysfunctional as the current ones?

Of course, Crashing the Gate is about more than just the weaknesses of Democratic political consultants. As I mentioned before, Moulitsas and Armstrong spend much of the book expanding on themes that they have developed through their respective blogs over the past few years. Two particular failures of the progressive movement stand out. First, it lacks cohesion. Interest groups -- environmental activists, reproductive rights groups, labor unions, etc. -- tend to work within their narrow issue silos, without consideration for the success of the broader movement. The example most often given is that pro-choice groups will often work with or for a nominally pro-choice Republican, even though the Republican party as a whole is anti-choice and increasing the number of Republicans increases the strength of anti-choice Republican leadership and the likelihood of unfavorable legislation being on the agenda. Conversely, if the election of a pro-life Democrat tips the control of a house of Congress to the Dems, they will be less likely to have the opportunity to vote on abortion restrictions since Democratic leaders can control whether those issues ever come to a vote.

Additionally, progressives have not developed a professional infrastructure as much as conservatives have over the last thirty years or so. This is, perhaps, related to the previous point in that what infrastructure on our side exists does not tend to work in concert, but it's also that Conservatives have done a much better job creating and funding think tanks and other "idea factories." These institutions serve a double function -- as a source of policy, and as an incubator for up-and-coming conservative operatives. Progressives, Moulitsas and Armstrong argue, are less likely to mentor their youth than conservatives and particularly are less likely to pay them at market rates when they're on staff.

Unfortunately, the authors offer little by way of suggestions for improving the situation. The two recent Democratic victories they focus on -- Colorado and Montana in 2004 -- were won in nearly opposite ways. In Colorado, interest groups came together, shared information and formed a large grassroots organization that won the Democrats a majority in both houses of that state's legislature. In Montana, now Governor Brian Schweitzer led the Democratic ticket and eschewed help from interest groups, refusing to even fill out any questionnaires except for the one from the NRA. Even if we could take something away from those victories, our situation locally is fairly different than the situation nationally. While the gates of the Massachusetts Democratic party certainly could use some crashing, the book is less of a field manual and more of a description of the playing field.

All in all, the book is certainly worth spending a few afternoons reading if you're a fan of their blogs. As a blogger myself, I was hoping that they would spend more time discussing the role we can play in politics. Still, the book is a pretty good accounting of where the Democratic party is now and how it got there.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Friday Miscellany

This Friday post gives me a chance to clear out the clutter before I go on vacation. More on that below. Here's a couple of things I noticed this week:

  • Deval vs. Grover: The Phoenix's Adam Reilly has the text of Deval Patrick's ProJo op-ed where he takes on Gover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform and Republican golden boy for inserting himself in the Massachusetts Health care debate. This is not the first time that Norquist has inserted himself in Massachusetts politics. Last year, he stopped Gov. Romney from tightening up tax loopholes.

  • Return of No-Show Angelo: Longtime readers of this blog (both of them) may remember posts last year on "No Show" Angelo Buonopane, the GOP fundraiser who Governor Romney made head of the state Labor Department -- a job with no official responsibilities and unlimited vacation. Globe reporters tailed him and found him working an average of less than three hours a day for a six-figure salary. This week, Buonopane paid $28,000 to the State Ethics Commission in restitution, the largest fine ever given out by that board.

  • Ruthie's Story: Globe columnist Ellen Goodman talks about her family's experience with gay adoption.

  • Invisible? No wonder we never see him in Massachusetts: ABC News has their 2008 Presidential Invisible Primary Ratings and Gov. Mitt Romney comes in third among Republicans -- ahead of Rudy Giuliani, but behind Sens. John McCain and George Allen. The "invisible primary," in case you were wondering, is what the ABC News Political Unit calls the jockeying for position that candidates do before the first campaign button is made or first caucus vote is taken.

  • He's less high maintenance than Celine Dion: The Smoking Gun has acquired Vice President Dick Cheney's list of suite demands for when he's traveling. Some highlights: all TVs must be preset to Fox News, and he must have four cans of Diet Sprite and a pot decaf coffee ready for him on arrival. Also, don't worry about the microwave, those pacemaker warning signs are mostly unnecessary. (via Metafilter, and elsewhere)

  • Barrios in Watertown Next Week: State Senator and Middlesex County DA Jarrett Barrios will be speaking at the Watertown Democratic Town Committee meeting, Thursday, March 30th, 8pm at the Town Hall. In other Middsex County DA News, candidate Gerry Leone has been endorsed by Martha Coakley, who currently holds that job.

Just so you're all aware, I'm going to be out of town for most of next week. I'll likely be posting on a more limited schedule than usual until I get back on Thursday. Try not to make too much of a mess while I'm away.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Another Skeleton in Reed Hillman's Closet

Former State Police colonel and current Republican Lieutenant Governor candidate Reed Hillman has tried to explain away the 1997 policy that kept pregnant troublesome broads female Troopers off the street and prevented from getting overtime. How, then is he going to explain away this? According to the Boston Herald, Hillman advocated for a pardon of former state Senate candidate and self-described "buddy" James Mitchell, who was thrice arrested for OUI, and once for assaulting a police officer. Mitchell apparently sought the pardon (which was eventually denied) after his application for a gun license renewal was denied.

So, let's get this straight. Reed Hillman, who now is on a Republican ticket trying to take credit for Melanie's Law -- which toughens penalties for repeat OUI offenders -- thinks that his buddies should be exempt from those consequences. After all, if Mitchell was pardoned and re-offended, prosecutors would presumably not be able to use his previous conviction when seeking his punishment, nor would he be forced to install the interlock Breathalyzer device in his car, like other repeat offenders are now forced to do. Whatever he was before, Hillman is now just another politician who talks tough on crime when the cameras are rolling, but pulls every string he can to make sure his political allies don't have to face any consequences.

More on this from Blue Mass. Group and Kerry Healey - Out of Touch.

Can't Someone Else Do It?

David Martin, author of "My Friend 'W'," has a hilarious op-ed in today's Boston Globe. The piece, entitled "A generous Bush always thinking of others," riffs off of the president's recent statement that "future presidents" would end up being responsible for withdrawing forces from Iraq. Martin imagines other problems that Bush might suggest are better handled by someone else. Here's a sample:

"Given the precarious state of the economy," said the US president, "it would be irresponsible of me to interfere at this point in time. I really think it's best if someone else handles it."

Suspending tax cuts for the wealthy is another issue apparently best left to future presidents.

"I handed out those tax cuts," said Bush. "So how would it look if all of a sudden I took them back? Again, I think it's better that someone new make that decision."


Asked how he intends to spend his remaining political capital, the president said that he would not be undertaking any major new initiatives in the next two years. "Let's face it," said Bush. "Anything I tried to do now would just need to be fixed up by some future president anyway. I think it's best for the nation if I just do nothing."
If only that were true...

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

We Get Letters

Ever since my wife and I were elected as a delegates to the State Democratic Convention, we've been getting a steady stream of mail from candidates pleading their case. The current leader in those standings is Worcester Mayor Tim Murray, whose campaign for Lieutenant Governor has sent us four pieces of mail in addition to two phone calls. Yesterday, my wife got a letter with no return address on the envelope from John Gabrieli, asking her to be one of the 500 convention delegates his brother Chris needs to get on the ballot for governor. Usually these materials are sent to both of us (Bill Galvin is the only one so far that's assumed that since we share and address and a last name, we can share a copy of his letter). Since I didn't get a copy, I thought back to the mysterious call I got last week and figured that my hunch was right -- Gabrieli's people were probably behind the survey. How else would they know that I am already supporting a different candidate?

Sure enough, today's Globe has more information about Chris Gabrieli's campaign activities, where he gives the results of his survey of convention delegates. Here's what he found:

Gabrieli, the party's nominee for lieutenant governor in 2002, said yesterday that he is encouraged by a survey he commissioned. The poll indicates that about a third of the convention delegates elected at caucuses in February are uncommitted to other candidates, Gabrieli said.


The survey of about 2,000 delegates suggests that Deval Patrick has a 3-to-1 lead over Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly, according to Gabrieli adviser Joe Ganley. Reilly was slightly above the 15 percent mark, and Patrick was just below the 50 percent needed for the convention endorsement, Ganley said.
Keep in mind that he could only survey the delegates elected in the caucuses, and not the add-on delegates (who have yet to be chosen) and other ex-officios who the article does not say were polled. I would refrain from extrapolating any data that Gabrieli got from that survey to the wider population of delegates, since they have different motivations -- though, of course, they are all "elected."

Anyway, the curious can read the text of the letter on Gabrieli's newly re-launched new campaign website. The sales pitch is that Chris has dropped a lot of money on Democrats and Democratic causes in the past few years, and he's got unspecified fresh ideas that are better than those of the other candidates. Now, it's true that Gabrieli is a good Democrat, but if he wants to make the ballot, he's going to have to have a stronger message than he's paid (literally) his dues and deserves a shot.

Quantum Polling: to Observe is to Change

A new 7NEWS/Suffolk University poll was put out yesterday (via Adam Reilly) and, in some respects it's like many others that we've seen so far. Tom Reilly leads Deval Patrick by roughly 8-10 points, and with Christy Mihos in the race as an Independent candidate, both Democrats lead him and Republican Kerry Healey in the general. That said, what's different about this poll is that it reads like a big sloppy kiss to Christy Mihos. A total of eight questions ask about the respondent's opinions on Independent candidates in general and Mihos' positions in particular. Showing that the act of observing changes the phenomenon being observed, after the pollster describes a number of proposals put forth by the Mihos campaign, his poll numbers predictably jump up by ten points. In addition, Tom Reilly's numbers in that second question drop by 8 and Kerry Healey's drop by 6. One can't assume that this is because Mihos drains more votes from the Democrat naturally since respondents just heard about Mihos' campaign promises, and two questions pervious they were reminded that if a Democrat were elected Governor, Republicans claim that spending would be out of control (64% of those polled disagreed with this statement, to their credit).

If Suffolk is going to keep doing polls like this, Mihos won't need to hire his own pollster. In my opinion, this poll did as much to publicize the stands Mihos has taken as it did to measure public opinion. Did it cross a line into advocacy? No, but it did seem rigged to produce the overall outcome that the pollsters wanted -- that an Independent candidate has a shot at the corner office. Maybe I'm overreacting, but I think it's always good to be skeptical of polls that first ask who you're going to vote for, then tell you all the things candidate X is going to do, then ask "Now, who are you going to vote for?"

The poll was not all Mihos all the time, however, and it did provide some useful name recognition numbers. I like these because they break out the "never heard of" numbers from the undecideds. They show a couple of interesting things, one that Tom Reilly and Kerry Healey's favorable and unfavorable numbers are identical and also that Chris Gabrieli has roughly the same name recognition as Deval Patrick, while Christy Mihos lags slightly behind in that area. These numbers are always very sobering for me, because as someone who follows politics closely I often forget how early it is in the election cycle and how many people still have yet to tune in to the race. Here is the raw data:

FavorableUnfavorableNever Heard OfHeard of, Undecided
Mitt Romney49%37%2%12%
Tom Reilly36%31%9%25%
Kerry Healey36%31%12%22%
Chris Gabrieli21%8%33%38%
Deval Patrick19%13%33%35%
Christy Mihos15%17%37%31%
Reed Hillman9%9%50%33%

In addition, the poll shows that 88% of voters cannot name a single accomplishment of Kerry Healey's. 59% of them responded that she'd accomplished nothing and the other 29% plead ignorance. This has already been a topic of political ads, even this early. Yesterday morning on the way to work I heard a radio ad put out by the SEIU which attacked the Romney/Healey administration for exactly this. The spot was in the form of a quiz show, and the last question asked "Name one Kerry Healey accomplishment." The correct answer: "I can't think of one!"

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Healey vs. Gabrieli - 2002 Version

Today the aptly named and always excellent Kerry Healey - Out of Touch sets the wayback machine to 2002 and gives us an excellent recap of the 2002 Lieutenant Governor's debate between then-candidates Kerry Healey and Chris Gabrieli, both of whom are now seeking their party's top billing. Here's the sum-up:

Just a cursory look back at the Healey-Gabrieli back-and-forths yield that Kerry Healey flip-flops on civil rights, is unable to create jobs, fails at party-building (not to mention economy-building) and blames others for her failures, has no idea what it takes to teach young students English and prefers not to give schools local control, and fails miserably on improving the housing situation in the Commonwealth.
That sounds about right to me. Go on and read the whole post for links to articles and commentary published just after the debates.

Gabrieli Campaign Revving Up

Chris Gabrieli has all-but officially announced his gubernatorial candidacy. He said as much at Sunday's St. Patrick's Day breakfast, noting that "I'm here, and I'm wearing a green tie." Now, in today's Boston Herald we learn that he's paying Spoonworks, Inc. to collect signatures for him. While Gabrieli is not saying how much he's paying the firm, Spoonworks is offering $1 per signature to workers. That means the company is ready to shell out at least $10,000 plus a buffer to guard against fraudulent signatures -- a persistent problem with paid signature-gatherers. In addition, Independent candidate Christy Mihos says that he will also be hiring a company to circulate petitions for him. The other gubernatorial candidates, Attorney General Tom Reilly, Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey and Deval Patrick, are all relying on volunteers to get signatures. A spokesman for Patrick had this to say to the Herald:

"Paying people to volunteer is one approach, but we find people actually want to give their support to Deval's campaign," said Patrick's spokesman Kahlil Byrd.

It seems to me that there are two types of thinking around political campaigns. One is the idea that all you need to do is have a ton of money to get on TV and agree with the positions of the most people in the state and they will come out to vote for you. The other is the idea that people are not naturally inclined to come to the polls, so you need a network of volunteers to make face-to-face contact and convince them to come out. Doing something simple like collecting signatures yourself forces you to build this network, and that is what is going to be the difference in this election. I hate to harp on this again, but if Democratic turnout is high -- my estimated target is roughly 70%, or a million Dems -- even if Democratic loyalty is mediocre and less than half the Independents vote D, the Democratic candidate will win through sheer force of numbers. My feeling is that a media-focused campaign just can't do that.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Slow Going for GOP Recruitment

The Globe South had a pair of stories yesterday on the state GOP's trouble recruiting candidates in the region south of Boston. Of the 15 Democrats who faced Republican challenges in 2004 in that area of the State, eleven are currently unopposed. This is especially bad, in my opinion, for the state Republican party because places like Plymouth county could break for Kerry Healey in the gubernatorial election, if the voting patterns from 2002 hold. In those areas, she would have no coattails if there are no Republicans down ballot.

Matt Wylie, the ever-optimistic executive director of the Mass. GOP claims that not only will candidates emerge well before the June deadline, but that the state Republicans will "pick up seats." Well, Matt, it's like the old lottery slogan -- You can't win if you don't play.

The other Globe story reports on what happened to the GOP class of 2004, none of whom were able to win their elections. It's no small wonder, either, since that crop included notable luminaries as disgraced Brockton GOP chair Larry Novak (whose adventures in money laundering we've chronicaled earlier) and Matthew Sisk of Braintree, who was arrested March 1 on a drunken-driving charge. Sisk, by the way, was the first candidate that Governor Mitt Romney stumped for, according to the Globe. I guess he really knows how to pick 'em.

Campaign Ad Season Already?

Buried in the Boston Herald's story about yesterday's St. Patrick's Day Breakfast is this nugget of information:

Independent candidate Christy Mihos was vacationing with his family yesterday, and did not attend. But spokesman David White said he will begin airing radio ads today "in the same vein" as the roast.
Now, I know Mihos needs to get his poll numbers and name recognition up, but it's March. The election is eight months away. Do people really want to be subjected to eight months worth of campaign ads? Most people think that campaigns are too long as it is.

Am I wrong? Maybe this is a smart move by Mihos to get his side of the story out as early as possible. Personally, though, I think that running an attack ad -- and what else would be "in the same vein" as the roast? -- this early could do as much to turn people off as help his cause. Let me know if you hear the ad and what you think.

Update: Jon Keller has a link to the ad's audio on his blog (which is great by the way -- the blog, not the audio). The Mihos campaign also put out a press release today with the full text of the commercial:
Comedian Steve Sweeney: Welcome fellow politicos and assorted power brokers to the annual St. Patrick's day breakfast, or, as we're calling it this year, "Greek on a Skewer!"

Here's a short top o' the mornin' to you, and I do mean short: Christy Mihos! Somebody says gyros to him, he thinks they said hero, the next thing you know he's decided to run for Governor!

Christy thinks the Big Dig should work just because it came in about $10 billion over budget. Hey, funny, you'd think a convenience store clerk would know a little somethin' about markup!

Version 1: And what's this Proposition 1 thing he keeps talking about? Prop 1 -- Isn't that the name of your boat, Senator?

Version 2: Hey, speakin' of the Big Dig: Just wakin' up from a ten-year nap to sue the Big Dig, Rip Van Reilly! Good morning, Tommy!

Female Announcer: When the good-old-boy politicians get together, it's the people of Massachusetts who end up paying for their jokes. There's a way you can have the last laugh: Declare your independence. Vote Christy Mihos for Governor.
According to Adam in the comments, it aired after Keller's report on WBZ about the roast. To me, it still smacks of "I didn't want to come to your party anyway," but maybe after watching that whole thing yesterday my tolerance for this sort of thing is completely diminished.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Friday Odds and Ends

It's another Friday, so it must be time for me to clear out my backlog and post some of the things that I found interested but haven't posted yet. Feel free to add your own!

  • Mike Festa endorses Gerry Leone: On Wednesday, Rep. Mike Festa officially endorsed Gerry Leone for Middlesex County District Attorney. Festa had dropped out of the race for DA himself earlier this year siting a fundraising gap with his opponents. Check out The Alewife for pictures from the press conference.

  • Mihos Caught Fudging His Web Bio: Christy Mihos, who once claimed that he was never handed anything, has now changed his website's biography. A sentence claiming that Mihos paid his own way through college by playing music at Greek weddings has been removed and Mihos now says that his parents actually paid his tuition, though he did do some jobs for spending money.

  • Googling for Grades: Check out this Google ad campaign by the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy. They graded every New York State legislator on their 'middle class' voting record and for the next month, whenever you Google their names, you'll see their grade as one of the sponsored links. I tried it with my old state Senator, Majority Leader Joe Bruno, and he got a "D". This is a really creative idea, and I'd be interested to see what the click-through rate is on those ads once the campaign ends.

  • Shorter Joan Vennochi: We took down John Kerry, and you're next, Mitt.

  • Kennedy Opponent Collects Signatures: Republican Ken Chase, who last ran unsuccessfully against Congressman Ed Markey in 2004, was out collecting signatures by himself at the Waverley Square Shaws in Belmont on Wednesday. If either Chase or former Wakefield Selectman Kevin Scott get enough signatures to get on the ballot against Ted Kennedy, the National Republican Senatorial Committee will be able to spend money in Massachusetts. Of course, that money won't go to trying to unseat Senator Kennedy, but will probably go to pay state party field staff to help drive up turnout for the gubernatorial contest.

  • LNG Plan Dies: The plan to put an LNG terminal on Outer Brewster Island has been shelved. The proposal had a lot of hurdles to go through, needing a two-thirds vote in the legislature, since the facility would be on parkland, plus approval by state and federal regulatory agencies. I still think that it's a better place for an LNG terminal than Everett, but since the Everett terminal wouldn't be going away if the plan were enacted, I'm not particularly upset.
There's lots of other stuff going on, so I'm sure that I left out something important. What's on your mind?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Herald Slams Healey/DeLay Judge Plan

Yesterday, the Boston Herald unveiled Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey's plan to destroy the independent judiciary, one that seemed more inspired by Tom DeLay than John Adams. Today's Editorial page slams the idea as not only political posturing worthy of our current governor, but also entirely unnecessary.

[P]utting aside the fact that her idea would require amending the Massachusetts Constitution, a difficult and time-consuming exercise (in other words, folks, don't hold your breath), it would also make the final arbiter of who stays and who goes the Governor's Council. What on Earth could Healey be thinking!

Yep, that's just want you want to do, give this body that should have been abolished decades ago more power. Way to go, Ms. Gubernatorial Wannabe.

Rather than following the example set by Gov. Mitt Romney and engaging in governing by press release, Healey could propose a real reform.
The Herald goes on to describe a much simpler reform that would make public the results of judicial evaluations that are currently only for internal use of the court system. Right now lawyers, court personnel and jurors fill out anonymous questionnaires which ask about a judge's demeanor, knowledge of the law, and other criteria. Rather than creating another complex layer of bureaucracy, just letting the public know which judges are, in the Herald's words, "doing a good job and who a bad job and what is being done about the latter" would make the system more transparent and give the public more confidence in it. Personally, I don't buy into the idea that there's some judicial crisis of accountability, but if these procedures are already in place, then I see no reason why the public should be kept in the dark.

Update: AmericaBlog has a full list of poisonous GOP rhetoric on judges. Why does Kerry Healey want to associate herself with these people?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Did AMG Pay For Mitt's Strong Showing in Tennessee?

Today, the feisty Cyndi Roy, Communications Director of the Mass Democratic Party jumped all over a story in today's Globe which claimed that supporters of Governor Mitt Romney paid the expenses of delegates to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference this past weekend. From the Globe:

Roughly 200 Romney backers camped out at the Marriott hotel in Memphis, and some had all expenses paid. One of the financiers was John Kingston, general counsel of AMG Inc., a Beverly investment management firm. AMG is run by Sean Healey, the husband of Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, Romney's most prominent ally.
Now to be sure, there were some people who voted for Romney in the poll without being paid, some of whom reportedly wore black and orange T-Shirts bearing the slogan "The left's worst nightmare -- the religious right for Romney." Still, it's a little disturbing how tightly wrapped around AMG the state Republican party is -- funding Romney's 2008 election, Healey's 2006 election, and at the reigns at party headquarters. Of course, there's no reason to worry. AMG wouldn't do anything unethical. Would they?

Bay State Poll Results and Cross Tabs

Yesterday, Merrimack college released the full report on their Bay State Poll, which they do every few months for the Eagle Tribune Publishing Company. The results are similar to other recent polls, in that Attorney General Tom Reilly is leading Deval Patrick in the Democratic primary, but not by nearly as much as he had just a few months ago, and both Democrats poll higher than Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey in a hypothetical general election that includes Christy Mihos as an independent candidate. Here are the findings in those matchups:

Tom Reilly37.5%
Deval Patrick21.8%

Tom Reilly (D)39.2%
Kerry Healey (R)21.2%
Christy Mihos (I)14.6%
Deval Patrick (D)32.0%
Kerry Healey (R)28.0%
Christy Mihos (I)13.0%

They also asked questions about head-to-head general matchups. When you compare those numbers to the above, you find that with Mihos in the race, Kerry Healey loses 11.4 points against Deval Patrick and 12.4 points against Tom Reilly. On the other hand, Mihos only steals two to three points from the Democratic candidate. That right there is why Republicans tried so desperately to convince Mihos to run in the GOP primary instead of turning the race into a three-way contest. Also, if you look at the party breakdowns of the general election, you find that Kerry Healey again does not have the Republican vote locked up to the extent that she will need it if she is going to win in November. She loses almost 25% of the GOP vote when matched up against Mihos and either Democrat.

Another piece of good news in the poll was that 58% of Massachusetts residents favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, with 32% opposed and 9% undecided. The number who favor marriage equality just seems to keep growing. While it's true that this sort of poll result is not very trustworthy (people are likely to give the answer they think the pollster wants to hear, rather than how they'd really vote) the trends look favorable for the forces of good should it come to a vote in 2008.

One other thing that I noticed about this poll also does not bode well for Kerry Healey and the state Republicans. The poll asked respondents about their top priority for the Massachusetts government. I've provided those results here, ordered by the number of independents who responded with that particular concern.

Top Priority for MA GovernmentDemocratIndependentRepublican
Healthcare and Health Insurance23.8%26.2%16.2%
Jobs and the Economy12.6%11.7%16.1%
The Cost of Housing/Living5.7%6.3%7.8%
Moral Values1.5%4.8%5.9%
Government Corruption2.9%3.6%6.0%
Roads and Transportation Infrastructure1.1%2.9%1.7%
Energy Costs3.8%2.7%4.2%
Some Other Issue2.4%2.1%0.7%
The Environment5.2%1.6%4.8%
The Business Climate2.4%1.4%3.6%

Independent Massachusetts residents are first concerned about Healthcare -- in fact that ranked as everyone's highest priority. After that, Education, then Jobs, poverty, housing costs, taxes, and so on. What's interesting about this to me is how low a priority crime is on this list, even despite how it has dominated the local news as an issue in the past year or so. It's eighth, behind Moral Values and just above Government Corruption. Could this be a problem for the Healey/Hillman 'law and order' ticket? Will the public, and independent voters in particular, respond to a campaign that touts their (real or imagined) crime prevention bona fides if people are more concerned about whether or not they have health insurance or if their kid is going to a good school?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Mitt: Attracting Business Not My Job

Today's Boston Herald has an editorial criticizing Governor Mitt Romney for claiming that he did not have a team in place that could attract businesses to Massachusetts. The Herald editors rightly point out that Romney had no problem going out of state to boost his own presidential stock, so claiming that there was no one available to promote the Bay State is a little far-fetched.

Fresh from his weekend appearances in Memphis and Iowa, Gov. Mitt Romney went before the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce yesterday and without even blushing said that what Massachusetts really needs is a cadre of 20 sales reps to sell it to businesses looking to expand.

In what was likely his last appearance before the chamber, Romney apparently saw no irony in having spent the past several months selling himself to Republicans across the country (often by disparaging his blue state roots) and yet wanting a team of hired guns to sell the state for him.
Indeed. Romney could have spent the past three years selling the state, but instead he was only interested in promoting himself. Now he has the gall to say that someone should have been responsible for promoting Massachusetts. It seems to me that that would have been a great job for, say, the Governor -- especially one that spent so much time out of state anyway. This explains why Mitt's plan to bring jobs to Massachusetts consists of little more than a lame web page. He apparently was waiting for some slick marketing team to do it for him all this time.

Globe Ed Has Harsh Words For Mitt

One of today's Boston Globe editorials has some harsh words for Mitt Romney on the subject of Catholic Charities vs. gay adoption:

It was in 1960 that John F. Kennedy confronted anti-Catholic bias in a famous speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Alliance. "I believe in an America . . . where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the pope, the National Council of Churches, or any other ecclesiastical source," he said. "I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the Church does not speak for me."


Nearly a half-century ago, John Kennedy challenged bias against the Catholic Church. Now, Romney is defending bias from the Catholic Church. Romney works for all the people of Massachusetts. It is a shame to see him doing exactly what Kennedy forswore nearly a half-century ago: accepting instructions on public policy from the pope.
One more comment on this issue. I keep hearing that allowing the Church to discriminate in adoptions would somehow be a 'compromise'. That doesn't make any sense to me, because I always thought that in a compromise both sides give up something. It seems to me that this is a binary situation, where no compromise is possible -- either the Church can discriminate in adoptions (as they want to) or they can't (as state law requires). It's like a light switch, either it's on or it's off. There's no middle position that I can think of, unless maybe we let Catholic Charities discriminate Sunday through Wednesday, but not Thursday-Saturday, and that doesn't even make any sense. If you want to blame the legislature for the end of the Catholic Charities' adoption services, that's fine, but don't pretend it's because they failed to compromise; if anything, it's because they refused to capitulate.

Monday, March 13, 2006

One Foot Out the Door Already

This weekend was not all good news for Mitt Romney. During the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, the head of Romney's Commnweath PAC, Trent Wisecup, resigned. Here's the scoop from the Washington Post's blog:

Wisecup's departure comes as a surprise since he had decided to stay on with Romney even after the Governor parted ways with Mike Murphy -- his longtime media consultant and the founding member of DC Navigators, the consulting company in which Wisecup is a partner. A source close to the situation said that Wisecup's decision was due in large part to conflicts with Beth Myers, the governor's chief of staff. Myers is expected to play a major role in the expected Romney presidential bid.
Wisecup not only had ties to Romney's former consultant, Mike Murphy, but also was a spokesperson for Mitt's former sister-in-law, Ronna Romney, in one of her Senate bids.

In any event, every crisis is an opportunity, so Romney decided to accelerate his 2008 plans by giving responsibility for the PAC to his current spokeswoman, Julie Teer. Blue Mass. Group has the story, along with former State Democratic Communication Director Jane Lane's prediction a year ago that this is exactly why Teer was hired.

Just by way of reminder, Teer was the spokesperson for the 2004 Bush/Cheney campaign in New Hampshire, the only state that Republicans lost that year, but won in 2000. Romney is obviously not concerned about her past performance if he is putting his own presidential hopes in her hands. In any event, as Wisecup moves back to Michigan, the rumor mill has Romney following him once his term is up. After all, Mitt's familial base is there, he's got name recognition, and he's basically already told us as much.

What does this mean for us in Massachusetts? Very little. We already knew Mitt was running for president, and at least now we save some money that would have otherwise paid Teer's salary. One thing, however, that this does reveal is how little the state Republicans can expect Governor Romney to do to advance the fortunes of Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey and the Mass GOP. If Romney's planning on moving back to Michigan in January to boost his 2008 chances, how much time can he spend stumping locally?

Two Poll Weekend - One Real, One Fake

The Boston Globe announced the results of their latest poll yesterday, showing Attorney General Tom Reilly leading in the Democratic Primary and all three potential candidates coming out ahead of Republican Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey in a hypothetical general election.

The full results hold a clue as to why Deval Patrick has so much ground to make of regarding his still-low name recognition. When asked how interested respondents where in the 2006 gubernatorial election, 20% said 'extremely', 39% said 'very', and a whopping 41% said some or little. Given that people love to over-represent their civic engagement to pollsters, I think it's safe to say that half the electorate isn't really paying much attention to the race, and is not particularly interested in doing so. It's no surprise that Patrick has yet to break through to those folks. That said, Deval Patrick has gone from 0% name recognition to 50% over the course of a year when no one other than political junkies were paying attention to the gubernatorial race, which is no small feat.

Here are the splits for the Democratic candidate, Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey and Independent candidate Christy Mihos:

Tom Reilly (D)40%
Kerry Healey (R)26%
Christy Mihos (I)15%
Deval Patrick (D)36%
Kerry Healey (R)29%
Christy Mihos (I)13%
Chris Gabrieli, who pulled papers to run for governor as a Democrat over the weekend, polls about even with Healey, winning 31% to 30% with Mihos getting 13%. The poll is great news for state Democrats if only because Healey can't seem to break thirty percent. What's even worse for the Republicans is how many Romney votes from 2002 they lose. Here is the breakdown for only 2002 Romney voters by who they chose in this poll, for each triplet:

Versus Reilly45%19%21%
Versus Patrick51%13%18%
Versus Gabrieli50%12%19%

According to these numbers, Kerry Healey could lose as much as 40% of the 2002 Romney vote. She would gain some support from people who voted for Shannon O'Brien that year, but not nearly as much as she loses. As I've tried to show before, state Republicans must be extremely loyal to their party to be successful. If thirty to forty percent of them abandon ship on Healey and vote for either the Democrat or Christy Mihos, then they're not going to have a chance at holding on to the governor's office.

Speaking of the Governor, Mitt Romney himself was the star of a straw poll held at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference on Saturday in Memphis, Tennessee. While Senator Bill Frist won the poll of potential 2008 presidential candidates with 36.9% percent of the vote on his home turf, Governor Mitt Romney came in a surprising second with 14.4%. The results of any straw poll are generally for entertainment purposes only, and in this case Frist was accused of bussing people in to vote for him. Not only that, but Senator John McCain, who came in fourth, was urging his supporters to vote, not for him, but for President Bush, as a show of support for the President. Bush came in tied for third with 10.3% with Virginia Senator George Allen. Again, the results of this poll are not only so early as to be meaningless, but also so manipulated as to be worthless even as a snapshot of how southern Republican leaders are thinking. Still, Governor Romney's second place finish was about as good for Mitt as he could have expected. I guess all those trips to Spartanburg, SC have paid off. If we're lucky, maybe he'll stay down there.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

What if You Had a Rally and Everybody Came?

Earlier today, my wife and I ventured across the river to Deval Patrick's rally at Faneuil Hall. We got there early, but not early enough, as the line was already stretched around the building and snaked around near the statue of old Sam Adams (brewer, patriot). Candidate for Secretary of State John Bonifaz was working the line, as were representatives from Deb Goldberg's Lieutenant Governor campaign (Sam Kelley was at the reception later). I overheard that the capacity of the hall was around 800, so there were at least more people than that ahead of us in the line, because we didn't get in. We were still around the corner when they told us that the fire marshall wasn't letting anyone more in the building. I had mixed feelings about that -- it was obviously great for the campaign, but it was not so great for those of us outside.

That said, the campaign did provide a simulcast for those of us outside and even though the vertical hold on one of the monitors was sub-optimal, there were several hundred people gathered around, all waiting to hear from Deval Patrick. That outside area between Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market looked like a solid wall of people from my vantage point. Not only that, but as the speech went on the crowd stayed, transfixed, and even passers-by were stopping to listen.

Here's the full text of his speech. It was a good one, I thought, and if you have a chance to read or watch the whole thing, I recommend it. Here's one of my favorite parts:

I want more than short-term band-aids. I want more than government by photo op and press release. I want real and lasting and meaningful progress. And I want you to see what I see about what's possible in Massachusetts.

And while we're at it, let's forget about labels.

Who cares whether they call a program "liberal" if it helps someone who needs help and it works. Who cares whether they call a tough fiscal judgment conservative if makes good fiscal sense.

Enough already with "the right" versus "the left." Let's focus on right versus wrong.
Despite the crowd, we ended up seeing a lot of familiar faces, and I'm happy to say that a large Watertown contingent showed up. Also there were Bill from Under the Golden Dome, who I saw, and Mass Marrier from Marry in Massachusetts, who I missed, and both of whom have already posted their impressions of the event. I also chatted with Lynne from Left in Lowell and Susan from Beyond 495, and saw Michael Forbes Wilcox from across the room at the reception, but he disappeared before I could flag him down.

In all it was a fun event, even though we couldn't get in the door. Like I said at the time, it's a great problem for a campaign to have -- too many people. Kudos to all the campaign staff and volunteers who made it happen.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Friday Roundup

Last week, I was too busy to do my usual Friday roundup, and to my surprise people actually noticed! Here is my effort to give the people what they want:

  • Support Local Bloggers: Voting is open for the 2005 Koufax Awards for excellence in progressive blogging. Our own Blue Mass. Group was nominated for best local blog. If you haven't already, cast your vote for them here by just leaving a comment on that thread.

  • Blame Romney?: The National Review asks whether a Healey loss hurts Mitt Romney with his presidential ambitions. Would Republican voters blame Mitt if Democrats take back the corner office? I don't think so. Republicans already think of Massachusetts as a lost cause, despite the fact we've had Republican governors for 16 years now. (via Talking Politics)

  • Two Don't Miss Articles: This week's Boston Phoenix has two must-read articles on Kerry Healey. Adam Reilly asks us: should we believe Healey when she says she's a moderate? At present, Massachusetts Republicans are changing their issue stances right and left (mostly right). Witness Governor Romney and former Governor Weld who have both recently moved right as they run for president and NY governor, respectively. David Bernstein wonders why, if Healey is such a great criminologist why she hasn't stopped crime from rising? "Urban crime strategies" was one of her responsibilities as lieutenant governor, yet crime has risen in most of Massachusetts' major cities under her watch. (Via KHooT)

  • LNG or Hot Air?: Yesterday's Globe featured an op-ed piece on the proposal to build LNG terminals on Outer Brewster Island. While there are good reasons to oppose the move, let's not pretend that Outer Brewster is a pristine, unspoiled paradise. The island is already home to, among other WW2-era buildings, an abandoned water-desalination plant that makes the island too dangerous for the public.

  • Who?: The Boston Globe reported today that Bolton Republican Earle Stroll wants to run for State Auditor against Joseph DeNucci. Is this the first Republican candidate that's announced for a statewide office besides Governor or Lieutenant Governor?

  • Anyone Else Get Polled?: Yesterday I got a call from some anonymous 'pollster' asking me who I supported at the convention for governor. They hung up abruptly as soon as I gave my answer which made me wonder which campaign they were working for. Is Gabrieli still trying to find undecideds?
It's been quite a week! What's on your mind?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Impressions From Last Night's LG Forum (Now With Audio)

I didn't get a chance last night to comment on the Lieutenant Governor forum I went to yesterday, so I'll just briefly give my impressions. First of all, I just want to say that I think all four candidates are great, and they all bring their own unique strengths to the ticket. Thanks to the Harvard Dems for putting it on. The forum was moderated by former New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen, but I thought she was kind of wasted. All she did was ask a couple of questions that the students provided her in advance and then pick people out of the audience during the Q & A session.

This is the first time I've heard Deborah Goldberg since Tim Murray joined the race, and she seems to be going for a 'jack-of-all-trades' approach. She played up her experience in business and creating jobs while at Stop & Shop, moved on to talking about her experience as a Brookline Selectman and how cities and towns were suffering, and explained that the most important issue we face is the health care crisis. It seemed to me that she's trying to present herself as a blend of the best of the other three candidates.

As for Sam Kelley, I'm glad he's out there forcing people to talk about health care. I also find his demeanor very calming, but at the same time you can tell he has a lot of passion for his topic.

Andrea Silbert summed up her campaign as "jobs, jobs, jobs," stressing her work as founder of the Center for Women & Enterprise. One thing that Silbert pointed out is that the Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor has practically no job description, so she thought that an entrepreneurial LG could really make a difference. Frankly, though, I'm skeptical because the reality of the situation is that as LG she could really only do whatever the Governor lets her. That said, having someone on the Democratic ticket who's all jobs, all the time would be great given that the GOP has settled on a law-and-order ticket.

Worcester Mayor Tim Murray, as usual, had a big presence. He focused on the budget cuts that cities and towns have faced in the past few years. One example he gave was with funding for MCAS tutoring and how it's gone from $50 million to $12 or $13 million under this administration. Murray pointed out that Healey likes to hold herself as the state's liaison for cities and towns, yet under her they are really struggling.

Here is the complete audio. I thought about breaking it up into several files, but I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader. The file is huge, though, and I'd appreciate it if you want to listen if you'd save it to your machine rather than play it off the server. Also, it cuts off during Sam Kelley's last answer to the last question. Most of the forum is there, though.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Back From the LG Forum

I just got back from the Democratic Lieutenant Governor forum sponsored by the Harvard Dems. It was a great event and I managed to get almost all of it on tape. I'll break it up into mp3s and put it somewhere on the web if there's any interest. The room was small, but it was pretty crowded, and a bunch of Harvard Undergrads liveblogged the whole debate. I actually brought my laptop, but alas no wireless access for non-students. Check out their impressions to tide you over until I can get the audio up.

Healey's LG Picks Down to Three

The Globe reports today that Kerry Healey has narrowed down her possible lieutenant governor picks to a list of three. Among them are two everyone expected, Senator Scott Brown (R-Wrentham) and US Attorney Michael Sullivan, and one who was not on the radar screen -- former state representative Reed V. Hillman (R-Sturbridge). Hillman left his seat in 2004 and was replaced by his legislative aid, Republican rep Todd Smola (R-Palmer). Hillman has also been colonel of the State Police and was nominated by Governor Romney to be US Marshal for Massachusetts. Should Healey pick Hillman, it would seem to indicate a strong focus for her campaign on criminal justice and crime issues. Here's what he had to say to the Globe:

Asked what his areas of concentration would be if he were elected lieutenant governor, Hillman named public safety, homeland security, and disaster preparedness. He said he was concerned about the environment and would work on that issue at the State House.

Hillman has positions similar to Healey's on several hot-button social issues. He said he supports a woman's right to choose abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy and supports civil unions for same-sex couples.
Kerry Healey -- Out of Touch had a great post yesterday handicapping the GOP LG sweepstakes. Somehow even they missed Hillman, despite listing just about every Massachusetts Republican left.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

New Poll Shows Mihos Competitive

There's a new CBS4/SurveyUSA poll on the governor's race out (via CBS4's brand new Keller@Large blog). There are a whole lot of interesting issues with it, but the most striking one is how high independent-turned-Republican Christy Mihos polls. Here are the high-level results:

Kerry Healey35%
Deval Patrick30%
Christy Mihos20%

Tom Reilly36%
Kerry Healey31%
Christy Mihos22%

I don't really have enough time to dig deep into the results, but here are a couple of quick things about the poll. First of all, according the blurb, "when Reilly is the Democrat, Reilly leads among women by 15 points. When Patrick is the Democrat, Patrick trails among women by 1 point, a 16-point difference." I'm not sure that this gender gap is something that we'll see on election day, after everything plays out, but it's not great news for Deval Patrick. That said, you have to remember that this poll is of all registered voters, and not of likely voters. Figuring out who is likely to vote is, of course, as much art as science, but this early out, it's hard to predict what will happen on election day when you include people who are less likely to be paying attention to the race. That is, name recognition plays a much larger role now before the campaigning has begun in earnest. That Mihos was able to make such a strong showing even under these conditions is very interesting.

The experts remain to be convinced of Mihos' chances, however. Even some of his own friends have doubts, according to the Herald:
"We want our independent candidates to be mavericks, but not too maverick," said political consultant and Mihos friend Scott Ferson. "Ross Perot was a breath of fresh air - until he was crazy."

Monday, March 06, 2006

Politics on the Web: Good Advice Bears Repeating

This weekend I attended the Democratic Campaign Institute in Worcester, put on by the state party. I thought it was really a great event, and not just because I spend most of the time causing trouble with Susan from Beyond 495 and Andy from Mass Revolution Now. Presentations varied from advice on how to get people to Democratic Town Meetings to messaging, to canvassing. I was actually most impressed by the presentations from the DNC, which they gave us on a CD, and may try to see if I can put up without violating any sort of terms of service. If not, I'll try to summarize them later for those that couldn't attend.

The last presentation I attended, though, was hosted in part by David from Blue Mass. Group, and was billed as a "Politics and the Web" session. It turned into mostly a primer on the state party's website and on BMG. Susan, who brought her laptop even liveblogged it.

One thing that I wish we had more time to talk about, however, was how campaigns can leverage the Internet in general and the still-emerging progressive Massachusetts blogosphere in particular. Last August, I wrote a post about a report on the Emergence of the Progressive Blogosphere which was put together by Chris Bowers of MyDD and Matt Stoller, then of Blogging of the President, but who is now also at MyDD.

For the benefit of those who were not reading my blog at the time, I'm going to compound the Internet faux pas I made in August by again reproducing the entire Appendix I from the full report. If the number of people who crowded themselves into a conference room of a Worcester hotel is any indication, there are a lot of people who are interested in this subject. I'm sure that Bowers and Stoller won't mind if I highlight their excellent work once again. Here, again, is the advice that they have for local campaigns on how to encourage participation with local blogs:

The power of a single blog is relatively small -- it is the interlinking of blogs into a larger 'blogosphere' that is meaningful. To harness this power and use it to drive message, money and activism, you must invest in organizing this constituency. One cannot e-mail large national bloggers and expect their attention on local candidates or issues. Instead, you need to create your own blogosphere out of existing small and locally focused blogs, and invest time interacting with local online communities. This structure will in the end be of much more use to you. It is important to remember at all times that bloggers are both campaign activists, and a sort of journalist. They can be your friends, but are also third-party observers of your campaign. Here are some tips on interacting with these unique communities:

  1. Hire a 'Netroots Coordinator' and be prepared to work with him or her on money, messaging and organizing. Most organizations hire one and relegate them to a position where they are asked simply to raise money. If you follow this model it is not worth engaging the blogs. A good Netroots Coordinator can deliver messaging, media, and money.
  2. Put up a link on your web site that says 'Got a blog?' Ask for bloggers to give you their name, email, IM, and blog address. This list is valuable -- it is the list of bloggers who are interested in your issue.
  3. Take your list of bloggers and add them to your press release list. Call through to introduce yourself, and invite them to cover events, and if possible give them press passes and access.
  4. Read the blogs who sign up. If you use an 'aggregator' such as, you can read many more blogs much more quickly. Get a sense of who is on your side and who is not. Go into the comment section of various blogs and add comments when relevant.
  5. Hold conference calls with your strategists/candidate. Treat bloggers like friends and allies, but also realize you are on the record.
  6. Periodically do a 'blog round-up' where you email interesting blog posts on your issue to all the bloggers as well as internally.
  7. Link to interesting blog posts from your web site/blog; make sure you link to a few posts that disagree with you. This will lend your online presence more credibility.
  8. Listen and respond to criticism. These are your friends and often not that experienced in politics -- treat them like they are here to learn, not like they are cynical, hard-boiled reporters.
Like I said at the time, as more and more people get access to the Internet, it will be more important for candidates and advocacy groups to get involved. Local bloggers are going to be important for spreading messages that large national blogs, and sometimes even the local mainstream media, aren't going to be interested in. Thanks to Google, people are searching for this information that they can't seem to get elsewhere and finding it on the blogs. If campaigns are smart, they will engage bloggers to make sure that their side of the story is being presented in as many venues as possible.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Question of the Day

Would Jeff Jacoby have written the same column if the Church had decided that placing children for adoption by Jewish parents was tantamount to "doing violence to them"?

We have to draw the line between protecting religious freedoms and protecting people's individual rights. I'm curious as to where Jacoby draws that line.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Electoral Math Revisited

In today's State House News Weekly Roundup (link will expire), reporter Craig Sandler does the math, and with Christy Mihos in the picture, things do not look good for Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey and the Massachusetts Republican party.

If Kerry Healey wins 85 percent of the Republican vote in November, and 15 percent of the Democratic vote, she'll have 16.6 percent of the total vote. To win 50.1 percent of the total vote Nov. 7, she'll have to earn 68.9 percent of the independent vote. This relies on the very reasonable assumption that the electorate will retain its 49 percent-independent, 38 percent-Democrat, 13 percent-Republican composition.

This sounds like a remarkably formidable feat - yet no Republican has failed to accomplish it in the past two decades, and no Democrat has managed to muster the paltry 35 percent among independents needed to win.
Sandler's math is right, but his assumptions are not necessarily as reasonable as he thinks. Readers of my blog know that according to exit polls, Republicans turn out at greater rates than Democrats or independents. In 2002, the composition of the electorate was 42 percent-independent, 38 percent-Democrat and 19 percent-Republican. You may think that this is a small difference, but it actually makes his second paragraph false. Again, according to exit polls in 1998, Scott Harshbarger got 37% among independents, higher than the 35% that Sandler thinks is enough for a Democratic victory. This discrepancy is due to the higher than expected levels of Republican turnout. In addition, Sandler overestimates the number of Democrats who have historically been willing to vote for the Republican. Again, in 1998, only three-out-of-four Democrats voted for the Democrat, not the 85% that he predicts. Now, of course, it's true that I'm basing all these results on exit polls, but the turnout pattern is similar in both 1998 and 2002, so either the exit polls were wrong in both years (and the 2004 presidential election), or we can assume that GOP turnout is better than what might be predicted just using the numbers of registered voters.

That said, the fact is that if Mihos becomes a credible candidate, the math does not look good for Republicans. By my estimates, the largest subgroup of voters in 2002 was Democratic voters who voted for Shannon O'Brien (28% of the electorate). The second largest bloc was unenrolled voters who voted for Mitt Romney (25% of the electorate). If that bloc splits with Mihos peeling off only a fifth of them (5% of the electorate) then, all else being equal, the Democrat will win.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Will Mihos Destroy the State Republican Party?

Will Ash Wednesday, 2006, be known as the day the Massachusetts GOP self-immolated? Now that Christy Mihos is running as an independent, the GOP looks like it may lose the one foothold it has left in state politics -- the governor's office. Without the governorship, and since they do not seem to be running any other credible candidates for statewide offices, the state GOP will be almost entirely without influence on Beacon Hill -- a tiny coalition of legislators. Now, it's a long way until November, and there's plenty of time for scandals, or for the candidates to come down with foot-in-mouth disease, but after yesterday it just got more difficult for Republicans to win back the corner office.

Let me explain, because some people are skeptical. I am not saying that the Democrats are now guaranteed victory in November. It is possible that Christy Mihos might win, and it's still not impossible (though I think it's unlikely) that Kerry Healey could win. Here's what I want to stress. The Republicans have been winning the governorship with a coalition of registered Republicans, anti-tax independents and disaffected Democrats. While Healey is likely to get the vote of the Republicans, there aren't that many of them, when compared with the size of the other two groups combined. Those independents and Democrats are just as likely to vote for Healey as Mihos (assuming he runs a credible campaign, which is not a given either). The point I'm trying to make is that Mihos breaks up the Republican's coalition. To my mind, that means that Healey will have great difficulty winning in November. The question for the Democrats is to what extent does the entry of Mihos break up our coalition? Mihos will, polls show, take votes from the Democratic candidate, but it remains to be seen if he and Healey will end up taking more votes beyond those already predisposed to vote against the Democrat (about one out of four votes in 1998).

The question I have, and that we'll all find out come Novemeber, is whether Mihos will be a Ross Perot (1996) or a Jesse Ventura (1998). If he's a Perot, he'll manage a few percentage points from disaffected voters, but won't end up changing the outcome of the election. If he's a Ventura, he'll end up squeaking by both the Republican and the Democrat, and muddle through four tumultuous years before declining to run for a second term. I can't see him as being successful as a governor, if only because of what Scott Brown said on NECN last night: he has no political base now. Republicans aren't going to want to work with him after this betrayal, and if he really is a Republican by temperament, the Democrats in the legislature can just ignore him.

On another note, the Herald is reporting that five members of his campaign team resigned yesterday. True, they weren't resigning in protest of his running as an independent, they were resigning because he was "unmanageable". Most of those that left are now supporting Kerry Healey. There is a danger that Mihos has, running as an independent, that he will not be seen as a candidate with a realistic chance of winning. If he spends a ton of money, he can help mitigate this, but if people end up thinking that this is a third-party vanity candidacy, he may not be able to break out of Green Party or Libertarian turnout in November.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Mihos To Run as an Independent

The Globe is now reporting that Christy Mihos is running for governor as an Independent. He's expected to formally announce this tomorrow.

That sound you hear is the Massachusetts Republican party whimpering.

Gov. Romney Will Say Anything

Today, Blue Mass. Group links to a Herald Article wherein Governor Mitt Romney claims he would sign South Dakota's abortion ban into law. His spokesperson says it's because "The governor believes that states should have the right to be pro-life if that is the will of the people," although David points out that if Romney really wanted the will of the people represented, then why has he been so quick to use his own veto power? Don't forget that some of Romney's vetoes were overruled unanimously.

But that's not even the part of this that bothers me the most. It's clear now, if it wasn't before, that Governor Mitt Romney will say absolutely anything if he thinks it will help him get elected. In 1994, he was pro-choice when running against Ted Kennedy. In 2002 there "wasn't a dime's worth of difference" (Kerry Healey's own words) between his position on reproductive rights and that of Shannon O'Brien. And now, even though last year he denied he was "faking" his position as pro-choice, he now says that if an abortion ban -- one with no exceptions for rape, incest, or the health of the mother, mind you -- appeared on his desk, he'd sign it. He'd do this again despite his reassurances last year that he promised to "maintain the laws as they exist in Massachusetts". In fact, if I recall correctly, this promise to maintain these laws was one of the reasons he gave in vetoing the stem cell bill. He was more concerned about keeping his promise to keep the abortion status quo that he vetoed a bill that had nothing to do with abortion, despite the "will of the people" clearly being against him.

Check out this post from Romney is a Fraud from last year that has a fully annotated collection of Mitt Romney's rhetoric on choice up until that point. It's stunning how brazenly he's turned around on this.