John Connolly — Marty Walsh ; time to prospect the numbers

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Enough polls have been taken of Boston’s Mayoral Final now that we can already conclude much about the race. By the numbers, taking the average of all five recent polls, John Connolly holds a lead of about 43.4 % to Marty Walsh’s 37.3 %. The remaining 19.7 % of voters say they’re undecided. The next ,most important statistic is how steady the two candidate’s support has been. Since the first Final polls appeared, Walsh has polled either 36 % or 37 %, with the exception of one poll that gave him 39 %; Connolly, meanwhile, has polled 44 % or 45 % since before the primary, although two of the five recent polls showed him backing to 41 and 40 % respectively. And in those two polls, his lost voters did not move to Walsh. They became undecided. Walsh’s okay performance in the first debate moved some, his endorsement by a platoon of well-known’s moved the rest — but as i said, not to him; only to undecided.

My former editor in chief at the Boston Phoenix, Peter Kadzis, says that the race is now all about Walsh; that Connolly is “holding on” — his words — and Walsh is moving ahead. I see it just the opposite. Connolly’s support seems consistent, unshakable. The question in the minds of the 55 to 60 % of voters not yet moving to Connolly is whether he really SHOULD be the next Mayor. They are either giving Walsh a second look or — more likely — just learning who he is and willing to hear more. that does not translate, in my mind, to “moving Walsh’s way.”

A closer look at the Globe poll’s numbers seems to weaken Kadzis’s argument. If the poll’s “leaners’ are added to the committeds, Connolly has 47%, Walsh 38% of the vote, with only 15% undecided. this is a significant gap. A candidate who is 9 points down with only 15% undecided practically has to win every undecided vote or else lose.

The poll also suggests that all the energy that Walsh put into winning his spate of endorsements hasn’t helped him much,. Though he gets Arroyo’s September voters by 15 to 9, and Barros voters 13 to 9, he loses Charlotte Golar-Richie voters 19 to 26. Winning his three endorsers; votes by 47 to 44 won’t cut it.

No poll yet done reflects Connolly’s commanding performance in the second debate, held two nights ago. My guess is that that debate moved a measurable chunk of the 14.7% undecideds to Connolly. Even if that is true, however, even if a new poll shows the race Connolly 46-50 and Walsh 37-40, the race is far from wrapped. This is not a presidential election, where almost every voter is sure to vote. many voters won’t bother unless they are TAKEN to the polls. Which means organization, a field army, as all pollsters take care to point out. Walsh is the field-army candidate. That his army may be mostly union activists is a problem impression for him to risk, but on election day that doesn’t matter. Even if the burliest union guy who ever snarled on a picket line shows up at your door to take you to the polls, you will go, because yes, you know it’s your duty to do so. And your almost uncast vote will count just as much as the most dedicated supporter’s.

How much is a dedicated field army worth ? In the many Boston city campaigns that I field-directed, each election day door-knocker could bring eight to ten voters to the polls, of whom maybe half would not have voted without that contact being made. The biggest precinct organization I ever worked with had about 16 people aboard. So, assuming all 16 do their job all day long, good “field’ can add about 64 votes to the total. Walsh probably can’t do much “field” in Wards 4, 5, and most of 3, but in the other 19 he can do plenty. They total 227 precincts. If all his “field people” do their job all day, they can add 227 x 64 = 14,528 votes to the total turnout. that equals about 9.5% of the likely final turnout number.

Of course his “field vote” WON’T total 14,528, for four reasons:

1.On Primary day his people already turned out almost all its vote, in walsh’s strongest precincts. There isn’t much new vote there to get.

2.Some voters whom “field people” bring to the polls don’t vote for that candidate. Not many, probably, but some.

3.All of Walsh’s field people can NOT “do their job” all day long. Traffic, missed communication, voters not answering the door — the fog of election war degrades even the finest field organization. From personal experience I can attest that if Walsh’s field works accomplish two thirds of their goal, they’ll have done well.

4.Connolly may not have a ready-made army of union activists, but he is hardly without committed, hard-working volunteers. Whatever vote Walsh people bring to the polls, Connolly can bring at least half that.

My conclusion ? Walsh can probably add about 8,000 votes to the total, Connolly 4,000. Which gives Walsh a net plus of 4,000 votes. that will likely be about 3 % of the total turnout.

in the Primary, of course, that 4,000 additional vote was good enough, with 12 candidates on the ballot and nobody having a huge number, to move Walsh past Connolly into first place. He managed slightly over 20,000 votes on that day. His field 4,000 comprised 20 % of it. No such bump will Walsh get on November 5th. If he is to win — and he well might — he will have to EARN it, not bring it.

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^ 1967 : Tony D’Arcangelo, who was John Sears’s East Boston guy in that campaign


Melnea Cass : what Clayton Turnbull and the Black Ministers have been to John Connolly, she was to John Sears in 1967.


^ John Sears, 1967 :much of what John Connolly is this year, he was in 1967.

POST SCRIPT : Is this 1967 again ? It seems that it is. Then we had a patrician urban reformer, John Sears — a Republican, even — running against the ultimate, South Boston Irish traditionalist, Louise Day Hicks. Sears did not win in the Primary — being a Republican hurt — but Kevin White, who did win, stepped right into Sears’s shoes. And what sort of voters did Sears command ? The young and well educated voters of Wards 3, 4, and 5; italian voters; and the black community. Does this look familiar ? Of course it does. John Connolly has John Sears’s vote, to which he has added his own Wards 19 and 20 and his mother’s home Ward 2 in Charlestown.

It almost amazes me to see how little has actually changed in Boston’s voting patterns and community alliances. The one thing that Has changed is the political party. in 1967, high-minded, education-oriented, parks and green, visionary urban reform was the hallmark of the Massachusetts Republican party — and still very much in power — as was the party’s solid connection to Italian voters and the Black Community (Melnea Cass, after whom the Boulevard was named, was a pillar of 1960s Black Boston — and was, in those days of senator Ed Brooke, a Republican state Committeewoman very active in the Sears campaign.) Today, the policy and community descendants of the 1967 Republican party are almost all Democrats : Obama Democrats, in fact. But then, is Barack Obama himself not precisely the educated, urban, high-minded reformer who would have been that kind of Republican two generations ago ?

— Micahel Freedberg / Here and Sphere


Walsh endorsed

^ receiving the blessing : Congressman Mike Capuano says that Marty Walsh is OK

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It is said, by Marty Walsh’s campaign, that it has “momentum.” Well ? What campaign doesn’t ? Every campaign worth a shiny ha’penny moves ahead with its things to do and tries to move more mightily. What “Team Walsh” — this year’s cant for “volunteers” — really means is that are catching up. As evidence they cite the bushel of endorsements they’ve received from current or past elected officials. (By my count, it’s now Connolly 9, Walsh 16.) But winning the endorsement skirmish comes at a price., In the 1959 Mayor election, John E. Powers had all the endorsements, John Collins none.

Collins won.

At a time when many people are fed up with elected officials’ inability to keep promises, and when many more no longer believe what an elected official says, having endorsement by elected officials as your big magillah may not be the win-win the endorsee thinks it is. Already Connolly is doing the John Collins move : pointing out in his speeches that, as he said this morning at a rally, “so many politicians have endorsed Marty Walsh I almost expect Barack Obama to endorse him !” (He laughed. So did the entire room.) “All I’ve got,” he continued, are the people !” Saying it as he nodded to the 170 or so leaders and people gathered to support him.

There does seem to be a gathering strength to Walsh’s campaign. I sense it. He is drawing larger gatherings than Connolly (although today’s rally at Roxbury’s Hibernian Hall drew plenty) and has more of them. Connolly continues to do house parties — tons of them — but at house parties he reaches 20, 30, maybe 4r0 people. Walsh at his rallies reaches 100, 200, even 300. This is what you’d expect, of a candidate scantly known to most voters but now endorsed by “big names.” Tons of voters must be asking “who is this Walsh ? I never heard of him before. But Big Pol # 6 is supporting him ? Guess I ought to go see what he’s all about.”

This is good politics. Marty Walsh has huge clout with the unions local and national, but his name recognition doesn’t match up to the clout. So, use the huge clout to draw the voters’ attention to (1) who you are and (2) that you have huge clout. It’s a simple tactic, and it is working. Walsh is by now a known name probably throughout Boston. It also impresses voters that the Endorsing Big Pols are, in some cases, working their supporters on his behalf and even are working themselves. This gives credence to the message that Walsh Has Clout.

Clout matters. Voters like to kn ow that their mayor is a Big Gun, a Giant who can make the State House salaam and the Feds say “Yessir !” Don;t we all want that Strong a Mayor rather than a merely local biggie. So the Walsh message does resound.

Of course the Big Pols pushing his clout have a purpose to their passion. I have written about their purpose often during this campaign — no need to revisit it right now. Today I’m merely recognizing that it is there and that voters are weighing seriously a man they hardly knew or didn’t know at all even two months ago.

Connolly today^ John Connolly endorsed by few, supported by many. But HOW many ?

John Connolly’s task is harder. As he is already fairly well known, having been elected to the Council citywide three times, he does not evoke voter curiosity as to who he is. The voters already know who he is. What Connolly has to do is say, “you know me, you know what I’m about, now I’m asking you to support what I’m about.” The phrase “what I am about” implies a MOVEMENT, not just “momentum.” But it is not easy to move people. If it were, there would be hundreds of Jesus’s and Mohammeds; but  there were only two. Movements rarely arise. Even at the lower intensity of political movement they come only now and then. Gene McCarthy for President was such a movement. Reagan in 2000. Obama in 2008.

All these were geared to huge national purposes. City politics does not rise to that level. John Connolly seeks to lead a school transformation movement (and, since the Primary, has connected it to several mother reforms and transformations). Yet at today’s rally, Connolly’s endorsers talked of his “independence’ and that he would give the community of color “not just an ear but a seat at the table” and “not just a seat at the table but a partnering.” To me it sounds like nuance.

Can Connolly’s school transformation and nuanced view of access to power beat Marty Walsh’ s “this who I am, and I have clout” ? We will see. Myself, I say this : IF it weren’t for the contradictions in his campaign, and the smallness of the single interest that it represents, Walsh would be the winner on November 5th. If.

Of course, if if’s were horses, beggars would be riders.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere