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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Oasis in the GOP desert?

The one thing that has sustained the Massachusetts Republican Party during its steady decline into irrelevance is its ability to win the state's top office while losing just about everything else. And, just as spring is rumored to be around the corner, a political crocus is popping its head through the soil.

Harvard Pilgrim chief executive Charlie Baker is making tentative noises about mounting a 2010 challenge to Deval Patrick. The GOP faithful are flocking to him like desert travelers spying an oasis.

Make no mistake: Charlie Baker is the real deal. He served as secretary of health and human services and administration and finance under Bill Weld. In the private sector, he delivered Harvard Pilgrim from receivership.

Unlike the past four Republican governors he has the street cred when it comes to knowing how to run a bureaucracy and a business (and knowing where the bodies are buried). He knows how to blog. He also has a commitment to making it in Massachusetts.

What Baker does not have is the electoral experience, save for one term on the Swampscott Board of Selectman, a second job he gave up two years ago. Not disqualifying by any means -- what office did Deval Patrick hold before? But we don't know whether Baker can give -- or more importantly take -- a political punch.

Past whispers suggested Baker might not have the stomach for the rough and tumble in a state where the last Republican governor swooped in from Utah to ambush a weak incumbent in his own party, then headed right back out after establishing a stepping stone for a presidential run.

There is a far lesser buzz about Wrentham State Sen. Scott Brown, who has the electoral experience Baker lacks but is short on the accomplishments side.

Baker is showing all the requisite caution, giving Patrick an "incomplete" and coyly declaring that there is "not a heck of a lot" to find attractive about the Corner Office these days.

Actually that's not being coy. That's the truth.

Patrick is in for a hellacious year. How he emerges on the other end will determine if he even wants the job again, never mind whether voters will give him a second term.

Dealing with the budget nightmare, the painful cuts and likely "revenue enhancements" is a more than full-time job. Toss in casinos, the MBTA, housing and the homeless you have more potential third rails than most subway systems. If Patrick navigates these waters successfully, he will be invincible.

If not, and the administration's seeming inability to get plans out these door on time is not a good sign, he will likely be an easy target for the Last Republican Standing.

Stay tuned.

CORRECTION: An eagle-eyed reader reminds me to read dates as well as stories. Baker gave up his selectman's job in 2007, not this year.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gave you an award: http://runningahospital.blogspot.com/2009/02/political-crocus.html

February 18, 2009 6:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Baker left his Swampscott gig a few years ago.

February 18, 2009 3:51 PM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

Thnaks Anon -- I paid more attention to the story than the date on it.

February 18, 2009 7:25 PM  

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