^ Pressing the flesh and speaking : Charlie Baker at the Greater Gardner Chamber of Commerce’s breakfast this morning

—- —- —

How quickly things change in politics ! Two weeks ago, as the GOP-induced government shut down ended, Charlie Baker, as the Republican candidate for Governor, looked poisoned. Today, as the President finds that his managerial failings have tanked the people’s trust and imperiled his signature legislation, the ACA, Baker as the Republican looks almost anointed. It’s Baker’s hour. All that he has to do now is not flub the moment.

So what do I, Coach Michael, suggest of his star receiver ? Just this :

1.Baker made his all-pro status as an excellent manager. precisely what President Obama is not.. Almost as exactly what Governor Patrick also has not been. The contrast shouts itself.

2.In a state like Massachusetts, heavy with institutions and even weightier with institutional government collaboration, being an excellent manager matters tremendously.

3.None of the Democratic candidates for Governor except Steve Grossman comes even close to Baker’s mastery of institutional management.

4.Managerial competence may be a dry theme, a calorie-free kind of Diet Coke, but with managerial failing so luridly splayed across the Washington wide screen, the story achieves epic dimensions. Being competent, we see, does matter — Odysseus, not Achilles.

Charlie Baker must run as the Manager in Chief.

It makes sense within the Republican context too. The GOP even in “forward” Massachusetts has been flayed by theorists, whipped by negativity, bent to the purposes of anti-tax mind block, extorted by gun zealots, roasted by social-issue regressives. to the point that we have almost forgotten that in Massachusetts for the past 60 years at least, “Republican” meant civil rights, social justice, big projects, and benefits for all. The record, in that context, from John Volpe and Frank Sargent to Bill Weld, Paul Cellucci and, yes, even Mitt Romney stands ; but has been obscured, if not overwritten, by recent GOP “party of no.” But the GOP is a palimpsest, not an eraser board; and the Republican past is there, in full cry, once we scrape away the negative overlay. As the Master Manager, Baker scrapes away the “no” and substitutes a “yes.”

And there is, in Massachusetts state governance, much to be managed. i cite the following challenges :

1.the vast transportation improvements for which money was approved, contentiously, this year.

2.the 1.4 billion affordable housing bond that St. Rep. Jay Livingstone shepherded through to passage this week.

3.public school transformation, which became almost a defining issue in the Boston Mayor election

4.establishing innovation Districts, in Roxbury, Hyde Park, and probably Central Massachusetts, similar to Boston’ Innovation District already working.

5.assuring immigrants in Massachusetts that they’ll be welcomed into the community — and thus the economy — rather than harrassed out of it.

So the question is, “will Charlie Baker run as the Master Manager ?” Or, “Has Baker sufficient rigor to steer clear of recent Republican apoplexies ? The discipline to not get deflected, even once, throughout an entire campaign ?” The personality to stray positive, to be Mr. good Guy always ? If so, he will very likely be Massachusetts’s next Governor.

That said, Baker’s potential Democratic opponents are not sitting on their duffs. Juliette Kayyem is barnstorming the entire state, talking to Democratic activists — and drawing significant numbers of them to hear her pitch. Donald Berwick is doing the same : drawing less numbers, but making a distinctive, and very moving case, for the Governor as moral leader, the voice of “do the right thing.” In contrast Steve Grossman is proceeding more matter-of-factly, but raising the most money; and Martha Coakley — the common wisdom’s front runner — is presenting herself on big stages, the candidate of institutional presence. (This seems to me not at all a wise strategy. Voters even in institutional Massachusetts don’t readily cozy up to candidates garbed luxuriously in ceremony.) Then there’s Joseph Avellone, an affable and intelligent guy, successful in medicine and business, but very underfunded and quite — so far — the underdog even among underdogs.

The Democrats will choose their candidate at a party convention, whence a candidate must draw 15 % of the delegates’ votes in order to have his or her name appear on the Primary ballot. (A candidate can also get to that ballot by submitting 10,000 valid voter signatures.) My guess is that none of the five has anything close to a majority, and that at least three and possibly four, will make it to that ballot. All the more reason for Baker to run as the master manager and not get squeezed into this or that policy crevasse.

Baker’s easiest opponent to beat ? Martha Coakley.
His toughest to beat ? Probably Juliette Kayyem
His most down-to-the-wire closest fight ? Steve Grossman.

But wouldn’t be fun were the voters of Massachusetts to have the choice of Charlie Baker and Don Berwick ? So far, as I see it, that’s the best outcome for voters who put high-minded state reform first on their civic agenda.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere