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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, March 06, 2013

Sullying his name

This is not your father's Massachusetts Democratic Party. And it's certainly not Martha Coakley's.

A day after the three Republican U.S. Senate hopefuls declined to sign on to the "People's Pledge" against outside money, Democratic Party Chair John Walsh prepared a little home-grown attack against perceived GOP front-runner Michael Sullivan.

Walsh's plan serves clear notice Democrats learned the lessons of the Scott Brown Affair, where they focused so heavily on battling each other that they lost sight of an opponent who then stepped into a moment of time and humiliated them.

While the party is taking a neutral stance in the looming showdown between Ed Markey and Steve Lynch, it plans to train its guns on a Republican field just starting to take shape.

The strategy is as old as the hills, in large part because it works. In a field of relative unknowns, set up one of the candidates as the preferred opponent and hope you can sway the electorate.

In this case Walsh has focused on Sullivan, who is against same-sex marriage and a woman's right to choose -- and a ban on assault weapons.

Those positions and a resume that includes US Attorney for Massachusetts are likely to make him more popular among rank-and-file Republican voters than the (relatively) more liberal Dan Winslow and Gabriel Gomez.

And they are also stances that will not sit well in liberal Massachusetts and the broader cross-section of voters who will turn out for the June final election.

Sullivan also demonstrated more rank-and-file clout by collecting the signatures he needed to get on the ballot the old-fashioned way -- using shoe leather and not cash. That would suggest more of an organization than his primary foes, even the collection of GOP operatives assembled by Gomez.

It's clear Walsh and company learned a very hard lesson from Coakley's loss and are going to do everything they can to prevent a repeat. And that's likely why the GOP candidates decided they need every bit of help -- and outside dollars -- they can scrape together.

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