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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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Tuesday, September 04, 2012

All eyes on...

As Democrats gather in Charlotte most attention will be focused on Barack Obama. But a significant subset will be turned to a Senate race in Massachusetts.

The Boston Herald "Truth Squad" set the tone of the convention sub-story, resurrecting the Native American saga, complete with a picture of Harlan Geronimo, yes, that Geronimo,  a Democratic delegate seeking an audience with Elizabeth Warren prior to her convention speech tomorrow night.

Memo to Warren staff: do it and make sure your own cameras are there. And be prepared to answer the questions from the heart, once and for all.

Yep, Warren is likely to be the under card for this event. To the national media, she is one of the party's "brightest stars." To her hometown press, she's the rapidly fizzling phenom, the candidate whose party keeps stepping into traps sprung by Republican Scott Brown.

While Warren has the love of the party faithful, she's done a tepid job of wooing the rank and file -- and the independents -- who have been taken in by Brown's commercials that highlight his personalty rather than his votes.

Labor Day marks the unofficial start of the real campaign -- what's taken place so far has been so much sparring. And it's clear Brown has won that phase with his treacly commercials combined with some surgical strikes at "Professor" Warren. A Democratic-leaning telephone survey gave him a five percent advantage last month.

Warren has failed to make a real connection with a lot of voters, despite her own compelling personal story. Small example: I've been bombarded by fund-raising letters from the Obamas, Bill Clinton and the Democratic Party fund-raising apparatus. Not one piece of mail from the Warren camp.

The candidate has been out and about according to Twitter posts, the same source for party bragging about a lot of grassroots campaigning.

But the campaign apparently believes everything starts this week -- from yesterday's Labor Day breakfast to tomorrow's prime time national speech.

If that's the case, she is setting a very high bar, particularly with a media contingent that believes her efforts to date have been a lot of smoke and very little fire.

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Saturday, June 02, 2012

Lies, damned lies and polls

She's up! She's down! She's OK. She's in trouble. If you know what will really happen in November's U.S. Senate race, please remain standing.

The polls on the Scott Brown-Elizabeth Warren Senate race are as solid as the numbers on whether Warren will be able to avoid primary battle against Marisa DeFranco in September -- and in turn whether that is a good or bad thing.

The only thing that is clear is that after five weeks of incessant coverage of her heritage and her past life by the media arm of the Republican Party, is that no one has an obvious advantage.

And that includes the widely popular incumbent whose radio commercial today proclaimed Celtics love.

Warren's glow has certainly been diminished by her inability to effectively answer and end the brouhaha over Indian heritage. And it has served the purpose of taking the spotlight off Brown's record as a Wall Street friend.

Time lost? Perhaps. But given the majorities in the most recent polls show the public unimpressed with Cherokeegate it, like everything else in this contest, is impossible to predict.

Today is the chance for Warren to shine -- particularly since the sun won't. With the Celtics off, her speech will likely lead newscasts tonight and tomorrow. A strong and stirring speech introducing her to many media consumers for the first time is crucial.

And while there is certainly truth that a primary test might be a good thing, a Warren team that has allowed a one-day story to morph into a five-week headache needs to prove itself. Convincing delegates to give Warren a clear shot is what Doug Rubin and company need to do to earn the right to put their feet up with a few cold ones tonight.

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Sunday, June 05, 2011

Waiting for Elizabeth

The late Nebraska Sen. Roman Hruska certainly never had the current crop of Massachusetts Senate Democratic hopefuls in mind when he issued his defense of mediocrity. But then again, he probably wasn't thinking about the office's current occupant either.

Nonetheless, diehard Massachusetts Democrats spent a glorious June Saturday in the Tsongas Center listening to six wannabees for the right to take on Scott Brown. Their collective name recognition and/or political experience has party leaders wringing their hands in angst over the thought of giving Brown what amounts to a free pass.

No offense to Alan Khazei and Bob Massie, earnest men who have already failed at tries for statewide victory.

Setti Warren and Tom Conroy? Come back when you have some more experience under your belt.

Herb Robinson and Marisa DeFranco? Admire your interest in public service but who the heck are you?

The Democrats' problem is similar to one that has plagued the Massachusetts GOP for decades -- no farm team. Members of the congressional delegation aged in place waiting for an opening after John Kerry snatched the mantle dropped by Paul Tsongas in 1984. The one-time young bloods are now eligible for Social Security and Medicare, even if their federal benefits are probably better.

Even "youngsters" like Mike Capuano and Steve Lynch are waiting for a more surefire shot when/if Kerry steps aside to become Secretary of State in the second Obama administration. The best of the rest was Martha Coakley, and we all know how that turned out.

So Democrats are hoping for a lightning strike similiar to the one that found Brown in the right place in the right time. The GOP incumbent has popularity and a war chest, but could be vulnerable to a well-financed opponent who highlights his sorry record of siding with bankers over the unemployed.

And that's where Elizabeth Warren comes in. The Harvard Law School professor has given national Republicans agita with her defense of consumers over bankers.

The GOP is adamant they will not approve Warren as the first head of the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau created by the Dodd-Franks law to rein in financial abuse. So adamant they won't allow the Senate to recess and give Obama a chance to make a recess appointment.

Naturally that has the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee drooling, but leaves local leaders chafing at the intrusion. Not that state Democratic chairman John Walsh has a problem with a high-profile national candidate).

Warren hasn't said no, only that she is focused on creating the office that Republicans insist she will never be allowed to lead. Her appearances on talk shows suggest she will be a well-spoken, articulate candidate. And unlike the incumbent, she has never posed nude for a national magazine (as far as we know).

So the hand writing may indeed be on the wall for a showdown between the friend of consumers versus the friend of bankers.

All we have to do is get through the preliminaries.

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Tuesday, April 05, 2011

"Wrapping both hands around third rail"

Remember the battle cry of the town hall meetings that launched the Tea Party? "Keep your god damned government hands off my Medicare?" Well, that's exactly where House Republican Budget Chairman Paul Ryan is headed.

And in the words of his House colleague, the Wisconsin Republican "wrapping both hands" around what has long been considered a "third rail" of American politics -- instant death to anyone who touches it.

But given the sorry state of congressional Democrats and the White House, Ryan may only suffer minor burns if he is allowed to re-open what has been a 40-plus year settled debate over the government-run health insurance system.

Ryan is expected to unveil a plan today that would eventually turn Medicare into a private insurance program -- with higher costs to beneficiaries. Medicaid would become a state block grant -- making the vulnerable who now rely on it for health care even more dependent on the political whims.

And if Ryan holds true to the outline he unveiled last year, he has already dealt with a major political roadblock, grandfathering anyone over the age of 55 from the changes.

Smart politics. But what about policy?

The plan as discussed sounds like massive cost-shifting: away from the government onto the backs of those in need of health care. Coupled with the avowed aim of repealing "ObamaCare" -- and with it once more allowing insurers to decide who gets care -- it would make good health available only to those who can afford it.

Hardly a compassionate conservative stance.

The time has come for Barack Obama and his Democratic colleagues to draw a line in the sand, Plaintive pleas for bipartisanship have not worked and conservatives have exploited what has been perceived as weakness to propose a radical and fundamental shift in who we are as a nation.

Coupled with the massive tax cuts for millionaires that have played a pivotal role in the yawning budget deficits they now decry, it is another effort by Republicans to take from the shrinking middle class and give to the rich.

Enough already. Ryan and the GOP need to suffer the consequences of grabbing that third rail.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Showdown at the GOP Corral

Like the irresistible force slamming into the immovable object, House Republicans are poised to shutdown government, eyes firmly focused on politics and not the best interests of the nation.

Although Democrats have already agreed to $10 billion in budget cuts, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is issuing deadlines for Democrats to cave to GOP demands for another $50 billion or so, while sidestepping public discussion about the major ideological policy changes they also want to ram through in the spending bill.

The changes -- to gut environmental enforcement and wage war against abortion providers -- are ancient battles that appear to have little to do with the alleged small government dreams of the Tea Party activists who took over the House in November.

And they are unlikely to appeal to the vast majority of Americans who are sick to death of the partisanship that has made it impossible to deal with the real issues the nation faces.

There's an undercurrent of suspicion that GOP leaders themselves are divided, with Speaker John Boehner recalling the damage done to his party by the 1995 shutdown. And with Boehner struggling to control his own forces, it's likely we will see a symbolic and unnecessary shutdown of services.

But it's also worth recalling that Democrats historically fail to muster the backbone to stand up for what they believe. And they ought to believe that they have taken important steps to heal the nation from the ravages of the last era of unfettered GOP control, an era when regulations toppled, Wall Street ran amok, the economy tanked and millions lost their jobs.

House Republicans want to return us to those days and it is important to stand firm against that would-be tsunami.

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Towering Dwarfs

When Mike Dukakis ran for president in 1988, he and his fellow Democrats were derided as Gary Hart and the Seven Dwarfs. That field is begging to look like giants compared to the 2012 GOP wannabes.

On Huckabee and Romney, Palin and Gingrich. On Barber, and Thune, and Daniels and T-Paw.

The first group carries name recognition -- and high negatives. The latter, adding DeMint, Santorum, Kane and Karger, produce head-scratching in most activist homes, let alone a public increasingly fed up with politics and the endless election cycle.

(For translation, see the Washington Post's Chris Cilliza's tout sheet and the Boston Phoenix's David Bernstein's critique).

There's another major reason the traditional 2011 presidential start-up is a little slower than quadrennial's past: the Republican Party still finds itself at war with itself, facing a Tea Party movement that is showing increasing sophistication, not only at in-fighting, but also at the grassroots.

There is a GOP civil war brewing among the religious right that captured the heart and soul of the party nearly three decades ago and the front-burner boil of the Tea Party. The re-emergence of social issues such as abortion and gay marriage as key congressional themes is not going to sit well with Tea Partiers upset over excessive government spending (except for THEIR Social Security and Medicare).

And as that famous Republican, Abraham Lincoln once declared: "A House divided against itself cannot stand."

Same as it ever was.

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Calm before the storm

It's all over except for the shouting on cable.

Congress is going home after what should be seen as an enormously successful two years for liberals and progressives. Historic health care legislation. A start at reining in Wall Street excesses. The beginning of a recovery from the economic havoc caused by the Bush years.

And now add to that repeal of don't ask, don't tell. A treaty to rein in some of the excess nuclear weapons that threaten our security. And, after exposing Republican hypocrisy about the heroes of 9-11, help for them meeting the cost of the health problems tied to their rescue efforts.

So why aren't we feeling better about ourselves?

Aside from a seemingly innate ability to reject success by squabbling amongst ourselves because we allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good, the next two years don't seem to offer any sense of improvement.

Listen to the GOP talking points:
“They have been enormously successful in one sense in passing their legislative agenda,” Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, said of Democrats. “The problem is the country just doesn’t like it very much.”
Says who? The verdict is still mixed on the historic law, despite the equally historic lies about "death panels" and "government takeover of health care." There is little doubt that the reforms are more popular than the men and women of Congress who passed it (and those who lied about it).

Republicans are vowing to spend the next two years repealing the good work accomplished so far. Don't count on it. Democrats still hold a majority in the Senate and there are nowhere near the two-thirds majorities in both branches required to override a presidential veto should backsliding legislation ever emerge.

Instead we should expect two more years of GOP blustering. Except now with a place at the table the expectations for the Party of No should be higher, although it's up to the politically-obsessed press corps to hold GOP feet to the fire in the face of the inevitable screech about liberal bias.

We should celebrate what has been accomplished, knowing a tough road lies ahead.

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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Declare victory and go home (II)

One reason progressives can never sustain their agenda is a preference for circular firing squads.

The tax cut compromise negotiated by the White House, to the apparent annoyance of congressional Democrats who failed to take a vote when they held a firmer grip on power, is far from perfect. I've railed as much as anyone about tax breaks for millionaires.

But there is something for everyone in that measure -- from millionaires to those qualifying for the Earned Income Tax Credit to the long-term unemployed who have been removed from hostage status for awhile.

The estate tax has even been reinstated after a year of freebies for the families of the wealthy.

Yet just as during and after passage of historic and long overdue health care reform, my friends on the left are in a snit, threatening to walk away and blow up the agreement. And leave us all with higher taxes, especially those of us in line for payroll tax cuts that can be used to try and stimulate a sluggish economy that needs one more jump start.

Liberals and progressives have a tendency to let the perfect be the enemy of the good, as Barack Obama noted during a news conference:

“So I pass a signature piece of legislation where we finally get health care for all Americans, something that Democrats had been fighting for for a hundred years,’’ he said. “But because there was a provision in there that they didn’t get that would have affected maybe a couple of million people, even though we got health insurance for 30 million people and the potential for lower premiums for 100 million people, that somehow was a sign of weakness and compromise.’’

OK, maybe a tad too much self pity, but a reality. Same as this fact of political life:
Obama said if that is the type of standard Democrats expect, “then let’s face it, we will never get anything done.’’
Democrats failed to celebrate their accomplishments in health care, financial reform and stimulus and got a "shellacking." There is good in the deal, even if it is not total victory. Take credit for standing up for the vulnerable who would have gotten bupkis from Mitch McConnell and friends.

It's a basic truism: Democrats govern better than they campaign, while if Republicans
brought half the skill they show in politics to governing we would not be in the GOP-dug hole we're trying to climb out of.

When the going gets tough, Republicans grab talking points and rally around their leaders. Democrats grab verbal rifles and start shooting each other.

Until that changes, Republicans will be able to exploit the disunity and push an agenda that is bad for every one, even while they present it as nectar of the gods.

ADDENDUM: OK, so the Times did some better reporting than the Globe. But my premise holds true that Democrats squandered their opportunity to shape the package before the election and continue to be their own worst enemies.

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Something for everyone to hate

The outline of likely recommendations by the bipartisan commission to reduce the debt is hardly rocket science. What happens with the suggestions to cut spending and raise taxes will be revealing about our elected officials -- and ourselves.

It's interesting that congressional Republicans have held their fire -- so far. Speaker-elect John Boehner will take the gavel in January with a majority pledged to reduce the federal deficit, voted in by a public that has grown impatient with both parties failure to address our nation's major concern -- a lack of jobs. And this won't do anything on that score.

The commission headed by former Clinton chief of staff Erskine Bowles and former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson is calling for a massive dose of castor oil: deep cuts in domestic and military spending, a gradual 15-cents-a-gallon increase in the federal gas tax, limiting or eliminating popular tax breaks in return for lower rates, and benefit cuts and an increased retirement age for Social Security.

There's clearly something for everyone to hate: higher taxes and reduced defense spending for Republicans; domestic spending cuts and changes in Social Security and Medicare for the Democrats.

But there's also some tough stuff for Mr. and Mrs. Average Citizen, particularly the senior citizens and Tea Party folks who rail against health care reform while yelling "Keep your god-damned government hands off my Medicare" and Social Security.

These folks, after all, were the base that catapulted Republicans -- who have talked about deficit control while promoting the free lunch of low taxes and high spending for three decades -- into the House leadership role.

In the end, I strongly suspect a gridlocked Congress will be unable to muster the courage to do the hard work. And they will be aided and abetted by constituents who, in the words of former Sen. Russell Long, think: "Don't tax me and don't tax thee. Tax that man behind the tree."

After all, can a tree fall in Congress if no one is behind it?

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tea (Party) leaf reading

Barney Frank trounced a dining room table. Martha Coakley gets a primary pass despite widespread dismay over her Senate run. Three gubernatorial candidates and zero primary. Is it any wonder voter turnout was lackluster?

Yet the day after the day after we are regaled with stories in the Globe and Herald that tell us Democrats had an "enthusiasm gap" and Deval Patrick pulled more voters in Swampscott than former town selectman Charlie Baker. Never mind they were running against each other Tuesday.

The Globe offers the disclaimer, aka weasel words, "That is not necessarily a predictor of victory in November — there’s a seven-week campaign to be run" then regales you in numbers.
and urges you to read on.

You wonder why newspaper readership is declining?

Of course the Globe immediately reports on the 10th District primary, where Republican Jeff Perry beat Joe Malone in a contest where 47,700 votes were cast between the two leading candidates. The story line calling this the GOP's best chance to capture a seat supposed drove the enthusiastic Republican turnout.

So why did the supposedly dull Democratic primary draw about 57,700 votes?

Voters are always more interested in the top of the ticket and a lack of primaries at that level was likely the only significant reason for the lackluster turnout. We are about to be bombarded with seven weeks of debates and commercials, charges and counter charges among Patrick, Baker and Tim Cahill.

While the thought is depressing, turnout probably won't be.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Do the math

If elections were decided in the same way as votes in the United States Senate, Scott Brown would still be on Beacon Hill and Paul Kirk would not be back on the Cape.

Keep that thought in mind as you cheer Brown for his cloture vote on the Senate jobs bill and as you put into context his warning about Democrats using the "nuclear option" in offering a new health care bill that would rely on the reconciliation process to squeak through the Senate.

Brown polled 52 percent of Massachusetts voters in defeating Matha Coakley last month, collecting 1.1 million votes, about 100,000 more than Martha Coakley. If we needed a 60 percent majority to elect a person, we would be gridlocked, much like the Senate is virtually every day.

Both parties have played the Senate rules to their advantage. Republicans have insisted on supermajorities -- up until a jobs bill -- as a measure of party unity. Let's recall the GOP opposed an Obama proposal for a bipartisan commission to deal with the debt problem -- an idea they first proposed.

What's lost in all the heat and noise over Brown's win is Democrats still hold a 59-41 advantage over Republicans in the Senate. And unlike their counterparts, Democrats don't know how to march in lockstep, offering a broader diversity of political beliefs. (That they may also be genetically incapable of getting their act together is another matter!)

With some belated prodding from Barack Obama, Democrats have finally been doing some math of their own. Senate rules allow for a simple majority -- 50 percent plus one -- on any bill that carries financial implications.

Fifty percent-plus one -- the concept of majority rules everywhere else in the world, from student council races to corporate boards except the United States Senate.

By unveiling a new version of a bill days before a televised health care summit, Obama is indeed forcing Republicans to come up with something other than saying "no" or "let's start over" -- a position they have taken for roughly 100 years (ironically opposing a Progressive who left the Republican Party).

Is Obama playing politics? Yes. Has the GOP put politics first since Jan, 20, 2009? Yes.

If Brown thinks this is a "nuclear option" he's been reading too many of his press clippings. This is what legislating and democracy is all about. Using parliamentary maneuvers to gain the advantage

It's called doing the math and Democrats now simple need to corral 51 of their own members, an only slightly easier task than reaching 60. That'a what happens when Barack Obama beat Jon McCain by slightly less than 10 million votes.

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Spine time

It's been a sobering week for Democrats locally and nationally.

Scott Brown has been proclaimed the master of the universe (except by some of his Massachusetts Senate Republican colleagues).

Ayla Brown got a singing gig on the CBS Early Show (how did she pull THAT off?)

And members of the New England congressional delegation, from Olympia Snowe to Joe Lieberman are trying to express their independence -- with Snowe still smarting over what she insists was the majority party's refusal to negotiate with the GOP and Lieberman, well being Lieberman, a smarmy, self-righteous jerk.

Memo to Congressional Democrats: You still have significant majorities and the ability to frame issues to your advantage. Grow a backbone and get things done.

That's particularly true in the Senate, where arcane rules seem to require a 3/5ths majority to get a sneeze blessed. But 59 members in a 100-member body is still a significant majority anywhere else in the sentient world. So start thinking.

There have been suggestions the best approach is to break the massive health care bill into parts and bring each to a vote, requiring the GOP and "41" to actually take a stand on real issues rather than ponder and obfuscate.

Can anyone see the value of bringing a vote on a requirement that ends the insurance industry's ability to deny coverage to people based on pre-existing conditions?

Think Brown wants to run for re-election in 2012 having cast a vote against something we have already have in Massachusetts -- opening him to attack from a competent opponent who could use that as a weapon to show he is nothing but a tool of the No Caucus?

Democrats have tried to achieve a spirit if not a reality of bipartisanship -- only to have it turned on them by Republicans who, in the case of health care have peddled the same "socialist" message since the 1930s. The world did not end with the passage of Social Security and Medicare and it won't implode if Democrats offer up a massive bill in digestible chunks that can't be demonized and demagogued.

All they need to do is show a little spine.

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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Truth -- or consequences

Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

That's the essence of the message Massachusetts Democrats are offering Treasurer Tim Cahill as he promises to change his party affiliation -- but insists he may run for re-election and not governor.

The potential field for treasurer is growing -- with Democratic honcho and one-time gubernatorial candidate Steve Grossman tossing his hat into the ring for the job Cahill holds. The one-time state and national party chief may not be the most formidable candidate, but the symbolism is impressive.

A host of other Democrats eager for a rare vacancy in a statewide office are also being mentioned for the job.

Cahill was too coy by half in suggesting he only wants to express his Independence as a fiscally conservative Democrat -- but not forsaking his current job.

The Quincy pol has lusted for the top job and knows that it's up or out time. He would lead you to believe the fact he probably could not get the 15 percent needed to win a spot on the Democratic primary for governor at a convention controlled by Deval Patrick has nothing to do with it.

An independent bid by Cahill would only strengthen the incumbent's chance in a three-person race that could include Christy Mihos or Charlie Baker as the Republican. After all, he only needs 34 percent. So Patrick is alternating between neutral to feisty, telling the Statehouse News Service:
"If he’s going to be a candidate, then fine. We’ll talk about all that during the course of the campaign. He should bring his A game.”
If Cahill's support is deeper than his record, Patrick would have something to worry about. Count me a skeptic right now.

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Saturday, June 06, 2009

Treasurer Phineas T. Bluster

If words were dollars, Massachusetts state government would be running a surplus. Especially if we put a premium on bluster.

Witness Treasurer Tim Cahill, who takes to excoriating fellow Democrats on the eve of the Springfield issues convention (Why do you need a convention to know the state is flushing down the rathole and the political culture is corrupt? But I digress...)

“I think the party is exclusionary. The party forces you to make deals, and those haunt you in the end,” said Cahill, referencing recent scandals surrounding ex-Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, ex-Sen Dianne Wilkerson and Sen. Marian Walsh’s controversial job offer from Patrick.

“When you cook the books and take kickbacks for legislative decisions on software contracts or alcohol licenses - or you create faulty resumes and job descriptions to justify an outrageous salary - those all go to the core of the public questioning if anything is on the level here.”

I have no quarrel with the message. I do have certain issues with the messenger.

So, in the interest of fairness, can someone please come to the defense of Treasurer Tim? What has he accomplished in his six-plus years in office other than make comments about pension reform, school building assistance and other topics he never followed through on?

How has Cahill challenged the system he holds in disdain -- except through words?

Until then, he sounds like a man who knows he can't scrounge up the minimal 15 percent of support he needs to run against Deval Patrick. And given Patrick's weakened and unpopular state, that rings even louder than Treasurer Tim's hollow words.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

True befuddlement

If anyone insist they know exactly what's happening the the presidential nomination process, they are lying.

About the only thing clear this morning is that John McCain has momentum and a delegate lead heading out of Super Tuesday. Myth Romney's millions have managed to put him into a psychological tie with a resurgent Mike Huckabee.

McCain finally hit the 50 percent mark (in the blue states of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut) but he still faces significant challenges from of all people, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham.

As for our man Myth, he says he's soldiering on, but as always, you don't know which side of the mouth he is speaking from.

On the Democratic side, there's no clearcut winner, although Hillary Clinton certainly can take bragging rights by winning the bluest prize of all, Massachusetts -- despite the decision by our two senators and governor to back Barack. Winning California certainly doesn't hurt either, but the delegate allocation process is a lot harder to call a win that getting into Teddy's face.

Democrats never like to do anything easy and 2008, despite all the obvious advantages, will prove no different. Already out there is a scenario where Obama wins the elected delegates, but Clinton takes the super delegates and the nomination.

McCain-Clinton could be a Democratic nightmare (not that the Arizona senator would win New York over her but let's look where he was strong enough to actually top 50 percent). Hillary seems to be able to draw the white working class vote, but what about all those men who despise her? But what if Limbaugh and Co. are true to the bluster and support Hillary over McCain, who hasn't been able to collect a majority in any of the Red States?

It's also entirely possible that large numbers of voters could simply sit on their hands in November, unhappy with both choices.

Confused? You're not alone.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

What the huck is goin' on?

Waiting for California, it's clear that Mike Huckabee has had a very good night and Myth Romney, not so much. As of this writing, Romney has taken his home states of Massachusetts and Utah, while John McCain and Huckabee have cleaned his clock elsewhere.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton proved I have to broaden my circle of friends, none of whom said they were going to vote for her. Nonetheless, Clinton -- backed by Mayor Tom Menino, House Speaker Sal DiMasi an Senate President Terry Murray, thrashed Barack Obama dn his team of John Kerry, Ted Kennedy and Deval Patrick.

Nationally, Clinton appears to be a bit stronger than Obama, but the big unknown is delegate distribution.

The most interesting comment I heard on ABC (and can't find on their website) are exit poll numbers that show Obama and McCain with significant crossover appeal -- that is the ability to pull independents into their column. For the Democrats, it was something along the lines of 58-31, which means Obama will definitely live to fight another day.

As for Romney, that will hinge on his ability to take California and other Western states. No one foresaw the re-emergence of Huckabee -- but that will be the takeaway message of the night.

Off to sleep.

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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Don't count those chickens yet

Many of us up here in the Northeast are rejoicing about the fact we have good choices rather than false ones when we head to the voting booths. After all, George Bush is becoming an increasing irrelevancy and a Clinton-Obama choice is an historic one.

Not so fast.

Down there in the Heartland, as we like to call it, things look different, as a reporter from the liberal New York rag found in a visit to Columbia, Tenn.
I wish there was somebody worth voting for,” said Buford Moss, a retired Union Carbide worker sitting at the back table of Bucky’s Family Restaurant here, with a group of regulars, in a county seat that — as the home of the 11th president, James K. Polk — is one of the ancestral homelands of Jacksonian Democracy.

“The Democrats have left the working people,” Mr. Moss said.

“We have nobody representing us,” he continued, adding that he was “sad to say” he had voted previously for Mr. Bush. He was considering sitting out this election altogether. “Anyone but Obama-Osama,” he said, chuckling at a designation that met with mirthful approval at the table.

That not so mirthful moment was followed up with another snide remark:
“You get Peloski up there and they say we’ve lost the war, and that just fuels our adversaries,” said Mr. Hickman, incorrectly pronouncing the name of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Remember, these are the "values voters" (as opposed to the rest of us heathens) and they usually turn out to vote, although that may be tested if the Republican select John McCain. These have been the voters who decide elections -- shenanigans in Florida and Ohio would have been irrelevant without them.

Whether they were just playing with the reporter from the Yankee rag, or as clueless as they appear, their votes count, something liberals should remember as they pick sides in a personality conflict between two Democrats who would be just fine.

And it's something those Democrats should recall as they (and one spouse) keep slashing and burning the other.

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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Mass. always liked you best

We are about to witness a rarity in presidential politics -- a candidate who actually needs to wonder if he can capture his "home" state.
While Myth Romney has as many homes as he has positions, he did allegedly serve four years (well, actually only two) as governor of the Commonwealth and his primary residence is in Belmont. So the "favorite son" concept should be in play. Right?
"It will be a very close race here," said Todd Domke, a veteran Republican analyst who is unaligned in the race.
Romney mouthpiece Eric Fehrnstrom likes to point out 18 of the 19 Republican House members support him (skipping right over the fact that only two of the five GOP senators are in his corner.) Of course no one mentions that under Romney Republican registrations dropped more than 5 percent while Democratic enrollments rose by just under 5 percent (subscription required).

Also little mentioned is the fact that of Romney's three GOP gubernatorial predecessors, only one has backed him -- none other than Bill Weld, who abandoned the state to pursue his dream of becoming ambassador to Mexico.

No problem says Fehrnstrom, reflecting the viewpoint of a man, who like Romney, has spent a lot of time the past few years with Massachusetts in his rearview mirror.
"People locally take pride in Governor Romney," Fehrnstrom said. "They remember what it was like when he took office - the economy was losing jobs, the budget was out of control, and state government was a mess. Mitt Romney turned the state around, and he can do the same for our country."
Yeah, sort of like the pride of being a vegetarian at a cattle convention. And by any chance Eric, do you mean this record?

Romney's biggest saving grace might be the depth of the antipathy toward him -- and the fact that the Democratic race actually means something this year as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama fight tooth and nail.

That's because unenrolled voters who may have otherwise been tempted to take a Republican ballot and vote for John McCain as an act of mischief now have an incentive to vote on the Democratic side.

But what do the former governors think? Paul Cellucci offered no words of wisdom on the day his guy, Rudy Giuliani dropped out.

Jane Swift, who Romney submarined on his way to the Corner Office and who is no doubt relishing her role as McCain backer, offered this:
"There is a sense that Governor Romney lost his enthusiasm for Massachusetts and people like me and like my neighbors, who are raising our children here and building businesses here," she said. "This is the first time I won't have voted for Mitt Romney when he was on the ballot."
So the last word goes to Big Red, the last Republican to abandon Massachusetts for "greener pastures" and who many speculate backed Romney only to get back at Giuliani for dissing Weld's failed bid for New York governor:
Asked whether his State House successor has to win Massachusetts in his bid for the presidency, Weld, a Romney backer, said, “Not in my view.”
Personally, I prescribe to this view:
Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said Romney would be “laughed out of the race” if he can’t carry his own backyard.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

The elephant in the room

If you think race in American politics is a simply a bad memory of the past, can I interest you in buying a Bridge to Nowhere?

Pundits and exit polls have been quick to label Barack Obama's resounding win in South Carolina as somehow less than impressive because he relied on a heavy African-American turnout.

Better yet, there are already suggestions that something may be amiss because Obama received a higher percentage of support from white voters in Iowa and New Hampshire than in the Palmetto State.


The spin, like the final days of the campaign, reflect the influence of William Jefferson Clinton, who was roundly criticized for the tone and substance of his efforts on behalf of his wife. But while Clinton may have behaved more like a vice presidential hatchet man that a former president, he wasn't doing anything the the eventual Republican nominee will do -- with far less subtlety.

Starting with Richard Nixon's Southern Strategy right through Karl Rove's microtargeting, Republicans have been electing presidents by playing the race card. Some of the finest purveyors of that strategy have even hailed from South Carolina (a reason to look askance at the spin about Obama doing better in lily white Iowa and New Hampshire than in a state still embroiled over whether the Stars and Bars should be on its flag).

The Republican Party is in serious trouble. The presidential hopefuls are running away from the current two-term occupant of the Oval Office, a man pushing the record for longest time without majority approval. It's a standard line in the GOP playbook that when the going gets tough, the tough go negative.

If the nominee is Hillary Clinton, the race will focus on the 42nd President. If it is Barack Obama, it will focus on his resume and his skin color (and the intersection of the two when he was a community organizer).

So while it is appropriate to lament the Clintons' injection of race into the campaign, it's also appropriate to note they were simply acknowledging The Elephant in the room. It's better to bring out the trash now, sift through it and hopefully move on than wait until the fall campaign.

It will also prove a test for Obama's ability to deliver the message of hope that the majority of Americans are ready to accept after decades of government based on fear and smear.

So on to Super Duper Tuesday.

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