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^ not out of touch at all : Charlie Baker touches city voters for real

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Recently the charge has been made by some supporters of Martha Coakley that Charlie Baker is “out of touch.” This is a strange charge to make, stranger still when made by supporters of the candidate who has seemed to me — and I have seen Coakley at dozens of Forums all year long — the most out of touch candidate of all those who ran in the two party primaries. What can these Coakley supporters possibly mean ? And why do they say it ?

The charge is made because, first, Baker has had a way of liking important policies but not supporting them all-in. His inclination to quibble thus and make fine distinctions rather than embrace the paid sick leave referendum ion particular gives Coakley supporters their chance. As I have written in an earlier article, as a candidate you can’t make fine distinctions. do that, and people get the impression that you’re not committed. So you have to do all-in. This, Baker has until recently looked reluctant to do.

That has changed, but only recently, and for voters who do not follow the governor campaign every minute of every hour, the progress, day by day, in Baker’s speeches may not yet have registered. Thus the “out of touch’ change has some legs.

Tat sid, if “out of touch’ is the most negtive thing that opponents can say of Bker, he’s in pretty good shape. I think he ISn pretty good shape. Here’s why :

When it comes to policy priorities, Baker offers a program comprehensive in scope. Coakley ofers a few ciomnmitments to two or three interest groups. Baker is campiagning to all our voters, Coakley only to certain activists.

It’s a problem for a candidate when, five weeks before election day, he or she has to campaign to activists. They should already be aboard — long since. But for Coakley, most are not aboard. With 35 days to go she’s still trying to win activists to her side. Not to mention donors.

Baker has moved way beyond that. He has activists by the thousands — look at the huge size of his donor list — and is grappling now with all the voters.

To be sure, much of Baker’s policy platform is controversial, and yes, I disagree with Baker’s view that businesses create jobs : consumers do that. i also don’t see welfare as an arena for schemers looking to game the system. I see it as a haven for the very unlucky among us seeking to get from today to tomorrow because that’s what it means to have no money at all to call your own. But there’s far more to Baker’s appeal than controversial positions :

1. Baker clearly wants the job, wants it badly, is excited by the prospect of doing the job. it shows, everywhere he goes and to whomever he speaks. Coakley campaigns as if reluctant, as if she were running onloy because State House insiders are pleadiong with ger to win so they can keep their jobs. My impression may be unfair; but it is the impression that i get, nonetheless, from Coakley’s diffidence and vague talk and from her body language.

2.Baker is campaigning to the cities, all of them, and it’s in and from the cities that the massachusetts economy arises and where our state’s culture and passion get their impetus. The cities are also where our state’s diversity of people and lifestyles flourish. Baker is city campaigning with enthusiasm; he’s enjoying doing it. Coakley has only occasionally been seen in the state’s cities and, when she appears, is more likely than not t0o be escorted by politicians mostly. Baker, being the Republican nominee, has no politicians to cloak him when he campaigns in urban neighborhoods. it’;s just him, his running mate Karyn Polito, and the voters. People like that. They like it much more than seeing a candidate wearing a cloak of politicians.

No candidate who campaigns they way Baker is campaigning in our state’s cities can be out of touch. Just the opposite, when that candidate is also well attuned to the issues — and grasping better every day how to word them — and facing city voters with no protective ring of big names.

Baker’s campaign right now is the very essence of “in touch.” The out of touch olks are those who don’t see it.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


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