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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, July 08, 2009

Now it gets interesting

First things first: Charlie Baker is not Tim Cahill. Or Mitt Romney. He is a serious policy wonk who knows his way around two of the toughest portfolios in state government -- administration and finance and health and human services. He presided over the turnaround of a major health insurer.

But while the Massachusetts Republican Party has good reason to rejoice over Baker's decision to throw his hat into the 2010 governor's race, they shouldn't be getting ready to measure the drapes and select a new official gubernatorial chariot just yet.

While Deval Patrick has presided over the state during the most serious financial downturn in recent history, it's not his doing. He can make a legitimate claim that the fiscal house collapsed thanks to the mistakes made at the federal level under a Republican president.

And he can -- as he already has started to do -- pin the tail on the donkeys who run the Massachusetts Legislature for not reacting more quickly and efficiently to meet the challenges.

But most importantly, Patrick has, after taking serious lumps, learned how to play the political game. That is something Baker is the first to admit is not his strong suit. It will require a steep learning curve.

He is also not getting an immediate mano-a-mano showdown. He may face a GOP primary with Christy Mihos -- something that may actually help toughen him up. But when he emerges on top in the primary, he would have a short sprint to the finish in a three-person race.

And as long as Soon-to-be-UnTreasurer Tim stays in the hunt -- as a fiscally conservative, socially liberal candidate, much like Baker -- it means that Patrick needs only 34 percent to win-re-election.

Plus, while Baker can truly claim deep knowledge about health care and fiscal policy, he is not a wizard. He cannot singlehandedly turnaround a state that has been brought to its knees by a federal disaster. Rest assured Patrick will remind voters of that.

Let us also not forget that Baker has been an insurance executive for the last decade. That's almost as popular a job as an elected official.

And in our rush to bury Deval, we ignore at our own risk the reality: Patrick issued an ultimatum to the Legislature: pass ethics, pension and transportation reform or I croak the sales tax you guys proposed without considering other options.

And when all is said and done it was the Legislature, not Patrick, who blinked.

So 2010 just got a lot more entertaining for political junkies. There are two serious candidates (and a spoiler) for governor. Let the games begin!

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Blogger Peter Porcupine said...

I'd like to ask you to please keep on pushing the Deval-Wins-At-34% meme.

I cannot THINK of a better way to ensure that voters will vote Republican!

(George Bush caused the MA economic crash? Not the Governor whipping out the credit card, issuing 8 bonds in a single calendar year which now aren't selling very briskly since the basic laws of supply and demand were ignored in the spending spree? What WILL you all do without him?)

July 09, 2009 2:30 PM  

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