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known beats less known : Martha Coakley (top) edged out Steve Grossman (bottom)

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Campaigns do matter. It’s not enough to be the better candidate; one has also to run the better campaign. It’s the only way that voters can find out who is the better candidate.

Thus yesterday, in the Democratic primary, She much better prepated Steve Grossamn fell about six points short of his rival, Martha Coakley, becaise his campaighn never mounted a clear theme that voters could buy into. Grossman counted on being supremely well known, and respected, by the entire political community. He was that, but even in a low turn out — maybe 600,000 Democratic voters, about 20 percent of eligibles — far more voters voted than just the political community; and to those voters Grossman remained quite iunknown right to the end. Polls taken only two weeks before Primary day had him “not known” by close to 40 percent of respondents.

But being so not known was not Grossman’s only allure as a candidate. Don betrwick, far less known thane ven grossman, managed a very respectible 22 percent of the primary vote even thoiugh more than 50 percent of poll respondents aid they didn’t know him. Berwick, however, ran a passionately ideological campaign full of change agents ; single payer health care, no casinos, a graduated income tax (this, however, he didn’t say much about during the closing campaign weeks). Berwick engaged lots and lots of voters, most of them well outside the usual politocal community that was Grossman’s comfort zone — and his undoing.

Yet Coakley’s win argues against my assessment, because she presehted the same vagueries and glibness, throughout the Primary season,l that she had shown in her failed 2010 US Senate run. She had some union support — SEIU 1199 endorsed her — and some activity in communities of color, and she definitely won a huge share of female voters statewide; but for a candidate who began the campaign unknown by less than ten percent of voters, she cannot be happy to have won the votes of only 42 percent of yesterday’s Democratic ballots.

Nor can Coakley claim anything like a similar share of November’s female voters. the women voters for whom “women’s issues’ are a priority voted yesterday. Those who vote in November are likely to have a more complicated batch of concerns than just ‘women’s issue.”

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captivating the voters : Maura Healey at a Charlestown meet & greet

Coakley cannot be happy, either, that Maura Healey, who was one of her Attorney General office’s division chiefs, so completely outperformed in her own race to be the next Attorney General;. Healey, who had never run for any elected office, swamped the well-known, highly regarded Warren Tolman by 62 percent to 38 percent. Healey won more votes than anyone else on yesterday’s ballots of either party. She captivated voters : has personal charisma and infectious charm and outlined a vision of the Attorney General’s office that voters could buy into. Tolman ran a kind of Grossman campaign ; authoritative competence and strong respect from the political community. it got him just about the same vote percent that Grossman got.

Meanwhile, if there oi a November women’s vote, Healey looks in place to capture it — and Treasurer candidate Deb Goldberg too, patrician in the grand manner and also a convincing winner yesterday — and leave Martha Coakley looking even less inspiring than she already is not.

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1 Seth Moulton

see-ya versus well, hello there : John Tierney out, Seth Moulton in

The Democrats also made quite clear that when voters turn on you, you are toast almost no matter who your opponent is. My Congressman, John Tierney, an accomplished man seeking a ninth term, had barely survived Republican Rich Tisei’s challenge in 2012; so it wasn’t exactly a surprise to see him beaten by newcomer Seth Moulton. Voters never forgave Tierney for his wife’s family’s well-publicized criminality. It was an unfair rejection, perhaps,; but in a time when voters despise Congress (and rightly so), the smell of scandal was reason enough , it seems, for 6th District voters to show John Tierney the door. How else to explain his defeat by Seth Moulton, arrogant at times, vague on the issues, with an appealing personal story but not much else ? How otherwise to explain the tons of money that came his campaign’s way, other than the voters — and some of the political community — wanting nothing more to do with John Tierney ?

I can’t remember when last a sitting Massachusetts Congressman was beaten in his own party’s primary. And trounced 49 percent to 41 percent, not even close. Wow…

Whether Moulton can beat the likeable Republican nominee, Rich Tisei, who has an appealing personal story of his own and is far better known, in November, is an open question. The same is true for martha Coakley facing Charlie Baker, a man both personally appealing and aggressively specific as a reformer. But Primaries aren’t about beating the other party. They’re abnout who will command the party itself. To that end, Democratic voters did as well as they could, given the campiagns piut to them by their candidates.

NEXT : The Republicans

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere