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

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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


photo (18)

^ peopling and good-timing : Charlie Baker meting and greeting at the Water Street Cafe in Plymouth.

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As in all elections, money and people determine the race to choose Massachusetts’ next Governor. Even this early one can count some of each. That is what I shall be doing in today’s report and as often henceforth as the state of the race requires from me. So what do the numbers tell us at 11 : 30 AM on 11/10/13 ?

People ——-

Charlie Baker : 4004 twitter followers
32,056 Facebook Public Figure followers
Martha Coakley : 12,200 twitter followers
18,968 Facebook Public Figure Followers
Steve Grossman : 6,770 twitter followers
no facebook public figure page as yet
Juliette Kayyem : 4,244 twitter followers
1,161 facebook public figure followers
Donald Berwick : 1,876 twitter followers
1,799 facebook public figure followers
Joe Avellone : 336 twitter followers
no facebook public figure page as yet

Money —–

Charlie Baker : 107,643.62 cash on hand as of 10/01/13
261,370.36 receipts for the month
185,880.50 expenditures
203,133.48 cash balance on 10/31/13

Steve Grossman : 709,324.65 cash on hand as of 10/01/13
163,405.00 receipts for the month
119,034.42 expenditures
773,695.23 cash balance on 10/31/13

Martha Coakley : 283,192.95 cash on hand on 10/01/13
88,486.88 receipts for the month
59,141.22 expenditures
303,538.41 cash on hand on 10/31/13

Juliette Kayyem : 202,527.92 cash on hand on 10/01/13
95,572.46 receipts for the month
40,795.36 expenditures
257,305.02 cash on hand on 10/31/13

Donald Berwick : 264,649.83 cash on hand on 10/01/13
33,053.10 receipts for the month
102,542.03 expenditures
195,161.90 cash on hand on 10/31/13

Joseph Avellone : 121,494.72 cash on hand on 10/01/13
19,675.37 receipts for the month
39,294.95 expenditures
101,875.14 cash on hand on 10/31/13

These numbers all look small when one considers that it took $ 80 million to elect a United states Senator for Massachusetts in 2012. Even to elect a Boston Mayor, over $ 7 million was raised and spent. As I see it, two problems pressure all of these candidates :

photo (19)

^ 775,693.25 in the bank — now some people too : candidate Steve Grossman (at the Depot Diner in Peabody with Mayor Bettencourt and the Diner’s owner)

1. five (5) noggins seek the Democratic Party nomination. The winner even of that battle faces a serious GOP opponent in a state in which four of the last five governors have been Republican (Weld, Cellucci, Swift, Romney). That’s long odds for donors with shekels to sprinkle.

2. Charlie Baker so far has no challenger for the GOP nomination, but his “strong favorite” status seems grievously imperiled by the toxic state of the Republican brand among Massachusetts voters and by the powerful tilt toward poisonous policies even among Massachusetts’s GOP primary voters.

DeLeo the Speaker

^ Robert DeLeo, Speaker of the House…. and the REAL Governor of Massachusetts

And hanging over all the hopefuls is the knowledge that Massachusetts is governed — even dictated to — by the Speaker of the House. Time and time again we have seen this. The Governor can want a piece of legislation more seriously than a heart attack ; it doesn’t matter a whit unless the Speaker wants it too. If he doesn’t, the Governor can just whistle Dixie.

The Speaker has this power because, by the rules of the house, he appoints all committee chairmen and all committee members. Until these rules are changed — which they never will be — the Speaker rules. Indeed, one wonders why people even bother running for Governor ? True, the position has a great deal of prestige attached to it. That plus the bully pulpit, a lot of voter comfort, and some public policy feel-good and perhaps a shot at becoming the POTUS. But heck, the future POTUS (ha !) can’t even get his judicial nominees appointed without sweet-bunning a majority of the Governor’s Council. Good luck with that, in an era when patronage jobs can’t be given without earning a slam column from the likes of Howie Carr.

Oh wait… the Governor does appoint cabinet members — worthy men and women, some of them my friends — to operate whatever the Speaker allows them. He or she also has power to commute sentences or award pardons : but the present Gov and his precdessor almost never have done so. What good is a power unusued ?

Of course our would-be US President DOES run the state Police. Which means that a wise governor keeps the “staties” from harrassing immigrants, whereas a Gov “severely conserative” can’t wait to eat immigrants for breakfast. I suppose that that does matter. But is it worth the tens of millions of good funds that will likely be spent to elect a Goverbor decent to or devouring of immigrants ?

It was fun to cover the Boston Mayor election. A Boston Mayor wields actual poweer — a LOT of power. The Governor wields a limp biscuit. Oh what joy this coming year is gonna be…not.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere