^ too many nuances, too much rockstar ; the Baker campaign needs to re-gear
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Yesterday David Bernstein, my old Boston Phoenix colleague and now one of Boston’s premier political reporters, tweeted a Boston Globe story — one that i had missed — about Baker changing his leading advertising consultant. Bernstein noted that this is an unusual move or a candidate to make with election day so close. He is right about that.
The move may or may not signal distress within Baker’s inner circle : but it well might. Baker has for months now been campaigning like he’s already the Governor. This is a big mistake, because governor he isn’t. He’s a candidate.
It’s unsettling to watch : wherever he goes, media greet him like a rockstar; their attention aggravates the mistake.
He addresses the issues like a Governor — gives nuanced answers, parsing rather than passionate. He says what he thinks he’ll actually be able to get the legislature to agree to, not what he’ll go all in on behalf of
But all-in is what voters want from a governor. Martha Cakley’s advocacy of universal pre-K is all-in. Her call for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is all-in. Her uncompromising advocacy for womne’s helath care, equal pay, and workers’ rights are all-in. Can Coakley get most of this done ? Unlikely. Can she even get any of it through the legislature ? Probably very little. But the voters want a Governor who goes all-in, because they know that if their chief executive doesn’t make as loud a noise as possible, nothing at all will change.
Baker does go all-in on two topics, but they don’t help much. He;s all for repeal of the indexed gas tax and he waxes intense about transformation of state administration. The first is a negative, and very rarely do negative policies carry an election day. As for transforming state administration, as badly as it’s needed, the issue motivates very few. If this issue moved many, Deval Patrick would have put his mind to it and dropped the all-in I have a dream rhetoric,
Time and time again during this election, Baker has made a statement, on a major issue — think the Hobby Lobby matter and the Buffer Zone law — that sounded temperate, where intemperance was called for; or cooling things off, where heat was what the voters want. He seems not to grasp that a governor candidate must be a kind of walking, breathing referendum question. The voters want to know that their would-be Governor is committed to their interests, not merely “think-tanking” things and ranking the difficulties of this or that.
A lot of Baker’s diffidence has to do with his assumed dependence, for part of his vote, on the 11 percent who identify as GOP. Many of these reject the very ideals that almost all the rest of us passionately want. Baker is trying like the dickens to keep these voters from staying home. My own suggestion would be — except that now it’s really too late, sadly — that he should just seize the majority — not concede it to a weak, often vague, glib candidate like Coakley ! — and if the rejectionists stay home, so what ? After all, if Baker wims, at least 82 percent of HIS vote will come from voters who do NOT reject what we all want.
Baker’s tall with movie star looks, he basks in media cameras; and the gets an Oscar winner’s share of it. He’s become great at people politics : talks neighborhood, reaches out to neighborhood guys (guys, yes; but shows less knack for the gals), campaigns tirelessly. He climbs fences to shake a voter’s hand.
All good; but without the passionate advocacy of what almost all of us want, he risks falling short. It would be the state’s loss as well as his..
Why isn’t he yet an advocate ? He supports most of the advocacy issues that Massachusetts voters care a klot about, from expanding the EITC and raising minimum wage wages to marriage equality, women’s health care, and an expansion of pre-kindergarten education. But he doesn’t go all in. He quibbles, he makes exceptions, he balances interests.
That maybe works for a governor. It does NOT work when you’re only a candidate.
UPDATE 11:00 A.m. 09/26.2014 : at a rally last night in Revere, baker went all-in on his major points : better schools, a fairer economy, “doing the job’ as chief executive. all in and with passion. He sounds like a candidate now. And noon too soon.
—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere