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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Problems in Pride's Crossing

The newest Globe/CBS4 poll spells big trouble for Kerry Healey and signals which direction she's going to take in her campaign. Think Lee Atwater and trees.

A week out from Patrick's primary victory and the ludicrous 34-point lead, this 25 percent gap is more believable. Polling began the night after the Fox 25 debate where Christy Mihos jumped all over the lt-gov -- doing nothing for him or her.

What's most striking about this poll is not the horse race number -- or even the fact voters support Patrick while disagreeing with him on issues that Healey has made the centerpiece of her run.

To paraphrase Sally Field: They don't like her. They really don't like her. The Pride of Pride's Crossing has unfavorables (42 percent) higher than favorables (40 percent). Mitt Romney is the anchor around her neck that he ought to be with a 48 percent unfavorable rating and the owner of the view that 57 percent of voters think the state is seriously off track.

What's Healey got to do? Emulate the former owner of her mansion, Manchester Union-Leader publisher William Loeb. Even making Deval cry may not do it though.

Mrs. Outraged Liberal says Healey reminds her of the most popular girl in high school, every hair in place, always wearing the perfect matching outfit. But she's also the person whose hair you most want to pull and has a streak Barbara Bush once described as "rhymes with rich."

Healey is really a virtual unknown to Massachusetts voters, despite her four years as second banana of the Romney-Healey team. Few realize her electoral record is pretty unimpressive when she runs on her own.

To win, she needs to follow the time-tested GOP tactic of bringing her opponent's negatives down below hers. That in itself will be a challenge given Patrick's sunny disposition -- something that clearly attracts voters tired of the same old nastiness. And Patrick will hopefully begin to change the issues focus when he gets on the air with his own ads, not those courtesy of the party.

But Healey carries an additional burden, which we can call the Hillary Effect. Men who are sharp-edged are called "aggressive." Women? Barbara Bush said it best.

Healey will undoubtedly rely on her second banana -- former State Police Col. Reed Hillman -- to do her dirty work. The smiley images of Hillman on web sites contrasts with the intense, Marine Corps drill instructor who resides in the man. Anyone who has been pulled over by a cop (or lives in fear of that) will not immediately feel warm and fuzzy with him. Putting him in the attack dog role will not work well.

This is not to say it's over, far from it. Democrats, after all, are the party with the innate ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. But it's instructive to note that the Republican Governors Association does not make retaining the Massachusetts Corner Office one of its priorities.

That seems odd for one very simple reason -- the RGA chairman is running for president and wants to put the money where it makes him look best as he runs.

What should it tell you if Mitt Romney is writing off Healey's chances? If nothing else, Healey in the Corner Office would eliminate one very vociferous voice against the wandering Romney's candidacy. But why spend good money after bad?


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