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^ Democratic convention nominee Steve Grossman chats up legendary Charlestown pol Gerard Doherty on Union Street, at Bunker Hill Day parade

—- —- —

On Saturday Democratic activists made their choice for our state’s next governor emphatically known. They want Steve Grossman.

Grossman, who currently serves as state Treasurer, won about 35 % of delegate votes. His nearest rival, Attorney General Martha Coakley — once thought the front runner — received only 23 % of votes, barely edging Don Berwick, who won 22 %. Juliette Kayyem, my pick, won 12 %, Joe Avellone 7 %.

The delegates were not rong to favor Steve Grossman. He is well prepared, has every issue at his immediate command, articulates the details in easily understood sentences. He has a long history as Democratic activist, an even longer history operating a family business, understands jobs and economic priorities. Other things being equal, he would be a very strong governor.

But other things are not equal.

First, the real governor of Massachusetts is the Speaker of the House, currently Robert DeLeo. What DeLeo wants for legislation, gets enacted. what he does not want, does not get enacted. time and time again he — like his predecessors — has shown Governor Patrick who the real power is in the State House.

Second, Democratic legislators — there are 130 of these — do not like to be out in a vise between the Democratic Speaker and a Democratic governor. Much easier for them to work with a GOP governor, because then the Democratic party’s State House power is concentrated on the Speaker, and all can follow his lead, unpressured by a Democratic governor’s competing constituency.

The one requirement, for this scenario to work, is that the GOP candidate for governor be credible, as a leader, as a politician, as a vote getter. Charlie Baker this time around is proving himself that and more. He is, simply put, running the most voter-appealing, solid outreach campaign — to big city neighborhoods especially — that I’ve seen from our GOP at least since 1998, the year that gave us the late Paul Cellucci.

Baker has also raised a vital issue : major reform of the state’s technology. Almost every branch of state government needs it. Technological obsolescence is one big reason why DCF, for egregious example, has failed. Baker also supports the $ 10.50 – $ 11.00 minimum wage raise up, with significant add ons that will help low-income families and small businesses too. I’ve seen nothing like it from any of the Democratic governor hopefuls.

This is a fact that even Steve Grossman cannot compete with. For all his command of issues and all of his solid ties to Democratic activists, he still represents division, not unity, in the State House. And unlike Deval Patrick, he is not Black, or an outsider, and doesn’t move the heart of civil rights activists from Salem to Pittsfield and everywhere in between.

Only a GOP governor has an independent power base, in the 63 % of Massachusetts voters who aren’t Democrats, sufficiently large to force the Speaker to deal. This too is a fact. it is the single most important fact in choosing a Massachusetts governor. Right now, my money says that Charlie Baker will win in November by 52 % to 48 %. the polls point to that result as well.

Let the game begin for real.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


1 Baker and Coakley BG

^ closing the gap ; Martha Coakley now leads Charlie Baker by only 5 points, and the lean is in his direction

—- —- —-

About three hours ago the Boston Globe published anew poll showing some significant movement in the relative positions of the leading candidates for Governor. Specifically, the poll showed these numbers

Baker 32  Coakley 37

Baker 32 Grossman 26

Against Juliette Kayyem and Don Berwick, Baker leads. Kayyem and Berwick remain unknown to almost 80 percent of Massachusetts voters.

This is a link to the graphic detailing the numbers in this poll :

Now let us take a closer look at baker’s numbers against Grossman and Coakley and you will see that he is doing better even than these numbers indicate :

Baker is unknown by over 20 % of Massachusetts voters but draws 32 percent.
Coakley is unknown by only 5 % (or less) and draws 37 %. What this comparison actually tells us that Baker is ahead even of Coakley though he polls behind by 5 points. Baker gets his 32 percent from 80% — a “win rate” of 40 %. Coakley gets her 37 % from 95 % of voters : a “win rate of 38 %. assuming that Baker continues to win 40 % of the 20 % who don’t know him, and Coakley wins only 38 % of these voters, the November result would be something like Coakley 44.5 %, Baker 40 %, leaving the decision up to a still large number of undecideds (the two independent candidates draw 9 % and 2 % respectively, but as election day nears their vote will decrease).

Against Steve Grossman, Baker gets, as I said, his same 32 percent from 80 % of the voters; Steve Grossman gets his 26 % from the 60 % of voters who know his name. Grossman’s “win rate” is much higher than Coakley’s. He is getting 42 % among the 60 % of voters who know him. This gives him a November target of 43 %, a margin of three points over Baker’s November potential.

Both Baker results now point to a very close race; and the momentum at present is strongly running in baker’s direction. He is making a strong impression, and — surprise — capturing the interest, and tweaking the imagination, of city voters. Given that about 16 % of Massachusetts voters remain undecided (or supporting one of the side candidates), Baker has strong potential to close the gap with both Grossman and Coakley. A nine to seven break in his favor makes it a one point race versus Grossman and a two pointer versus Coakley.

At that point., all bets are off. Baker can win this thing. Right now I think he will. But yes, there is a long way to go and much can change.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



Arlington, MA, May 10, 2014 — Speaking a la stump to about 100 supporters at Arlington Town hall today, Juliette Kayyem spoke loudly of plans, not promises. Eager to distinguish herself from Martha Coakley, and to override Steve Grossman — the two perceived front runners –she exclaimed, in a finger-pointing voice, “nobody DESERVES to be governor ! We can’t just nominate the next in line, this is no time for caution, we have to be bold !”

“We’ve been cautious before,’ she scolded, “and what did it get us ? from 1990 to 2006 we lost every governor election to Republicans, who mostly ran this state into the ground !”

So much for being the first state to enact universal health care (Mitt Romney), the first Massachusetts governor to embrace gay rights (Bill Weld) and to begin the huge clean-up of our state’s rivers and harbors (Weld again). So much for Paul Cellucci and the huge paydays that the “Big Dig” gave to thousands of union construction workers. So much yet again for Bill Weld, re-elected in 1994 by the largest vote margin ever accorded a governor seeking another term.

But if Massachusetts Republicans thought it was they who Kayyem’s “J’accuse” speech had most in mind, they had it wrong. No Republican, not even Charlie Baker, was attacked by Kayyem as fiercely, or in detail,. as Martha Coakley. said Kayyem, “I sat next to Martha Coakley at a Forum and listened as she ducked the question of sex education in early school. ‘mmm, that’s hard,’ Martha said. Well, it isn’t hard ! Not when teen pregnancies are rising, especially in Western Massachusetts !”
Which, of course, is Coakley’s home area.

Kayyem was far from finished. At length she detailed Coakley blocking Governor Patrick’s gun control plans and delaying his moves for CORI reform. And having thus reminded everyone of Coakley’s “caution,” as she called it — I have a less kindly impression of her — Kayyem attached the “caution’ sign to Steve Grossman, whom she dubbed the kind “Beacon Hill insiders who we Democrats nominated and lost every time.” Which he is.

Kayyem was well justified in pointing out the insider and cautious nature of Coakley’s and Grossman’s candidacies and to contrast them with Deval Patrick’s outsider status, as she called it. Massachusetts voters at least since Bill Weld’s election have made very clear their unreadiness to elect Beacon Hill politicians governor, their insistence on governors un-compromised by legislative deals and big-contract administration.

The bold hopeful then delivered “plans, not promises” — a swipe, perhaps, at Don Berwick, who has promised almost everything, and with whose appeal to progressives Kayyem seemed determined to compete. Kayyem detailed plans for criminal justice reform education improvement, increased funding for social services, and — her signature — “better data management,” which she said means updating the entire state government’s technology, interface and transparency.

Of which proposal she claimed, “I am the only candidate to say this !”

It was an impressive speech, a campaign kick-off affair, by a candidate who has worked hard to become as convincing a political voice as she is a policy researcher. “This is not a time for caution ! We must be bold,” she insisted, over and over again…

Will it work ? Will Kayyem’s version of Bold succeed in gaining her a large enough following to challenge the Caution Twins ? It might. But I have doubts it’ll do much more than that. Here’s why :

1.Kayyem is not as clearly outside as she wants voters to see. She’s had a long career as a top-level policy advisor to one president and to Governor Patrick and advised the Bush administration on interrogation issues. The typical — the most credible — Massachusetts outsider candidate for governor comes from the world of business : Deval Patrick and Charlie Baker both, or from the “Governor GOP” party, whose entire existence is a kind of good-government watchdog agency, — and Massachusetts has many venerable.

2.Kayyem seemed at recent Forums to have accepted that she cannot be the candidate of the Democratic party’s progressives — that Don Berwick owns that role; and that her candidacy stood for realistic management and progress “for right now,’ as she retorted at one Forum to a Don Berwick flight of policy fancy. But her Arlington stump speech embraced the progressive agenda — and the label. I doubt it will change progressive minds.

3.Instead of excoriating Massachusetts’s recent GOP governors, she should have said something like this : “We Democrats have allowed the Republicans of our state to be more progressive, or more effective, than us. We nominated flawed insiders, next-in-line candidates, cautious conservatives, and they lost.

“Look at what Weld, Cellucci, and Romney did after beating us ! Their reforms should have been ours.

“We need to be practical reformers just as they were and, if possible, to do reform even better. Governor Patrick has been a great reformer, but we can do better than even he has done, on many many fronts. Because — believe me when I tell you — if we don’t do it, Charlie Baker will !”

THAT would have been bold. It would also have been the truth.

An insider can fib or fake the facts and get away with it. An outsider cannot. Especially when there’s an even stronger outsider waiting in the wings to see whom he will face in November.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


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As politically savvy, now, as she has always been personally c harming : Juliette Kayyem at Boston’s Ward 3 Forum

—- —- —

About 35 activists in Boston’s Ward 3 gathered in a basement room of the Michael Nazzaro Center in the North End to listen to a line of Democratic candidates for governotr, attorney general, and lieutenant governor. the candidates were introduced by committee chairman Jason Aluia, spoke, then took questions. However brief each’s time, much ws learned. The candidates for governor, especially, now know what they are about, and why; the vagueness of January has left us, its place taken by almost jarring specificity.

Three governor aspirants spoke : Juliette Kayyem, Steve Grossman, and Joe Avellone. All have evolved — Kayyem the most.

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running against Charlie Baker, he is : Steve Grossman at ward 3 Forum

Grossman continues to have succinct answers in great detail for every issue given him, and he has shifted to “general election mode” ; half of his talk attacked Charlie Baker, whose campaign themes — at which Grossman guesses — he was happy to dismiss. Unhappily for Grossman, Baker’s themes aren’t at all what Grossman told ward 3’s Democratic activists they would be.

Avellone has long had his theme : fighting substance abuse — he’ll appoint a cabinet level officer of Recovery and Re-entry. Very good idea; and Avellone had no problem answering my question about the state’s 56 million dollar health connector disaster by calling for an immediate waiver from the Federal ACA. He’s the first Democratic governor candidate to do so.

Juliette Kayyem has grown enormously as a political leader and is evolving faster and more fully every week. This I had already seen. Last night she spoke with great clarity about criminal justice reform — which is coming to be her companion issue to “better data management,’ her first — in ways most voters have already come to agree with, bit which, as she said, has been taken up first by Republican governors “because they can; no one will accuse them of being soft on crime.” She’s right, and persuasive. how can Democratic activists in progressive Massachusetts refuse to demand reforms that Republican governors, no less, are already implementing ?

This is the second time, in as many Forums, that I have heard Kayyem evoke the example of Republican reform as a prod to the Massachusetts Democratic party ; last week, at the ProgressiveMass Forum, when quizzed about her role in Bush-era interrogation discussions, she cited John McCain as taking the same torture position that she advocated. And ;praised him.

I had a longish talk with Kayyem before the ward 3 Forum about how she would deal with the Speaker of the House, who rules all Massachusetts legislation, regardless of governors or anybody else. During our discussion Kayyem suggested ways of dealing but did not mention the method that I now think she has right at hand. How better to move the Democratic Speaker than to show that the reforms she wants are already being done by Republicans ? At the very least, this line of argument puts the Speaker on the defensive even.

Will Kayyem make this an explicit tactic ? We shall see. It has legs, if she wants them.

I also learned much at the ward 3 Forum about three of the Democrats’ Lieutenant Governor candidates. Here is potential embarrassment aplenty for whoever becomes the governor nominee, because none of the three has a resume even close to the long experience of local and state government possessed by Baker’s running mate Karyn Polito. Nor do they have any of her charisma. Still, two of the three spoke well and boast resumes strong on bureaucratic accomplishment.

James arena-deRosa and Steve Kerrigan both claim stints as Obama administrators, to which Kerrigan adds time as a staffer for the later Ted Kennedy. Arena deRosa spoke eloquently about his passion for politics (though to my knowledge he has never been a candidate before now), Kerrigan of his sense of duty. both men discussed a few of the major issues that their boss, the governor, might delegate to them to help with.

Still, neither man can possibly tell who that boss will be; where Karyn Polito have already had three months to synchronise and to combine their long and varied experience of state government both executive and legislative, it’s strictly guess work whether Arena deRosa or Kerrigan will get along with whoever the Democratic nominee is, much less blend well with him or her. And don;t scoff : I well remember how fully Mike Dukakis shunted aside his own lieutenant governor, Thomas P. O’Neill III, or how utterly Democratic governor nominee John Silber, in 1990, threw his running mate Marjorie Clapprood under the bus.

Mike Lake also spoke. His words had more smile in them than mile, however. I do not see a bright future for him as second clarinet to the first Democrat.

But to return to Juliette Kayyem : I have now seen and heard enough to be able to say it : she is my pick for the Democratic primary. This is not a formal Here and Sphere endorsement, as i have yet to talk of it with my partner. But it is my personal choice. Juliette Kayyem is best able to compete with Charlie Baker. She’s less rigid, intellectually or personally, than Steve Grossman, bolder than Martha Coakley, much more realistic than Don Berwick, and of wider experience and personal charisma than Joe Avellone.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ confident enough to say what she is about : Juliette Kayyem (on right) at ProgressiveMass Forum

—- —- — —-

There’s a tendency on the part of so-called “conservatives” to dismiss the five Democrats running for governor as “all on the left.” That’s no more the case than to say Charlie Baker is “on the right.”

Fact is, the five Democrats differ immensely, on policy priorities, in political smarts, job resume, issues positions, personal style. Granted that the differences among them were not as evident at campaign’s start many months ago; each has evolved.

At the ProgressiveMass Forum yesterday, four of the five — joined by independent Evan Falchuk — made clear their evolved candidacies :

Don Berwick speaks rapid-fire his campaign of advanced position papers without offering any indication of how he plans to get from paper to fact. I’m told it’s all on his website.

Martha Coakley coolly touts her work as Attorney General, fighting foreclosure abuses, a situation which she sees as still the biggest destabilizer of our State’s economy.

Steve Grossman reminds voters of long age of former governor Mike Dukakis : detailed answers to just about every question thrown at him, earnestly delivered, no issue too arcane to miss his sweeping attention, no progressive ideal new to his long record of model citizenship. At the Forum he even talked about 1968 and the early 1970s, to a room full of people born mostly after 1984.

Juliette Kayyem, a generation younger than her competitors, looks the stylish, even athletic, cocktail party head-turner she is and speaks the realism — how to we get from here to there ? — that her rivals either avoid altogether or deem no big problem. Her big issue is true to type : “better data management.”

Joe Avellone did not speak at this Forum, but I have seen him frequently of late, and he too has evolved. The self-effaced, former Wellesley selectman now talks of drug abuse, recovery, and re-entry — a huge issue in our state and appropriate for Avellone, who, like Don Berwick, is a doctor.


^ the foreclosure crisis still hurts the state : so said \Martha Coakley yesterday


^ evolving to the Grad Tax ; Steve Grossman

The day also made clear that some of the Democratic hopefuls have devolved. Grossman, for example, started the year as the candidate of job growth and infrastructure spending — reluctant to seek new revenue but not ruling it out. at the ProgressiveMass Forum he sounded less reluctant to ask for new revenue and, surprisingly, stated support for a graduated rate income tax ; an issue that only Berwick had up till then advocated. What other issues surprises might Grossman adduce before Primary day four months from now ?


demagoguing in Salem : Dr. Don Berwick on Fairfield Street

As for Don Berwick, his revelation moment occurred before the forum, at a meet and greet in Salem, my home town. there, speaking to about twenty guests (including a friend of my Dad and Uncle), Berwick answered a question about how would he defeat Charlie Baker if he we nominated by tying Baker to the odious Republican party platform — which baker opposes top to bottom — and by calling him “an insurance executive.”

These were unfair attacks, and especially unworthy of a candidate who touts his lifetime of caring about people and attachment to a co-operative citizenship. Berwick knows very well that Baker (and running mate Karyn Polito) strongly support marriage equality and women’s health choice; knows very well that in 2010 Baker’s running mate was openly gay Richard Tisei, first sponsor of the state’s now enacted transgender civil rights law. Berwick also knows very well, he being a doctor, that the insurance firm that Baker was executive of was Harvard Pilgrim Health care, the state’s best provider.

There are plenty of real issues that Baker and Berwick disagree about. It was either campaign inexperience or a real chink in Berwick’s soul for him to play the demagogue as he did. this was devolution.

As I see it, yesterday was Juliette Kayyem’s day. Asked, at the ProgressiveMass Forum, about her work on interrogation policy, as a Homeland security advisor during the Bush presidency, she did not excuse or back off but defended her work as vital to national security in the context of 9/11. She also mentioned that her policy paper mirrored the anti-torture views of John McCain, whom — said she to the room full of Progressives — “is often good on these matters.”

She is right about that, of course. And said so.

That took guts. it took confidence. She must surely be one of the first candidates, if not the first, to mention John McCain in a positive way to a room of progressive Democrats. I always like it when candidates confront a room of skeptics by conceding nothing of who she is or is about.

One final point. On the issue perhaps most important of all, to a potential Governor, there has been no evolution at all. Asked the question “if progressive legislation is blocked by conservative forces in the legislature, what will you do ?” none of the four Democrats at the Forum had a good answer. All evaded the question — or answered a different question. Because to give the real deal would undercut their pretensions. The real governor of Massachusetts is the person whom no one in the entire room mentioned by name : Mr. “conservative forces in the legislature,” Speaker Robert DeLeo. A Democrat.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


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^ a scene he’ll have to repeat about 500,000 times : Charlie Baker wins a voter

—- —- —-

Both new polls of the Massachusetts Governor race make clear that Charlie Baker has a 30 percent chance of winning. Give or take, about 30 percent of Massachusetts voters support him no matter who his November opponent will be.

It’s a simple calculation. 30 percent support means 30 percent chance of winning, just aa 60 percent support means 60 percent chance of winning.

I say this even though about 33 percent of our state’s voters poll “undecided.” If Baker is to win, he will need to carry the undecided voters about two to one. Very rarely does a block of voters that large — in Massachusetts, 33 percent equals about 1,000,000 voters — pick any candidate by two to one.

Yesterday’s U Mass Poll gave us a more detailed look at the governor race than did Western Mass University’s poll last week. Let’s look both polls’ numbers now :

U Mass Poll                       Western Mass U Poll

Baker 34                             Baker 25
Coakley 45 ( und 21)     Coakley 54 (und 21)

Baker 29                              Baker 29
Grossman 35 ( und 36 ) Grossman 38 ( und 33 )

Baker 32
Kayyem 32 ( und 36 )

Baker polled much better in the U Mass Poll against Coakley, no better at all against Grossman. But this poll allows us a peek at something more ominous : how Baker polls against Juliette Kayyem. She draws a mere 3 % of the Democratic Primary vote — according to the poll — and so is, basically, a “generic Democratic vote.” Against a “generic Democrat,” therefore, Baker polls dead heat — but no better. This cannot be good news for a man now running his second statewide campaign for governor.

I said, last week in analyzing the Western Mass University poll, that Baker has a very narrow window to victory. The new poll confirms it. Against Coakley, he is down by 11 points with only 21 percent undecided. To beat her he’d have to win the undecideds by 17 to 4; that will not happen. If he wins the undecideds by 12 to 9 — which could happen — he loses to Coakley by 54 to 46, only a two point difference from the result suggested in the western Mass poll.

Against Grossman, U Mass’s poll offers Baker a marginally better chance than did the Western Mass. From that one, I suggested a 52 to 48 Grossman win (and an opportunity, among legislative insiders, for Baker to turn it around). The U Mass poll has a full 36 percent undecided; if Baker wins them 21 to 15 — a result very doable — he and Grossman tie at 50-50. If that happens, the insider action that I suggested in my previous column would almost certainly give Baker the corner office.

I say “would almost” rather than ‘will” because there’s other factors at work that the U Mass Poll highlights. You will note the “word cloud” statistic ? OK, what words do come to mind — in descending order of frequency — when you think of Baker ? Of Coakley ? Of Grossman ?

For Coakley : 1st, smart; 2nd, liberal; 3rd, honest; 4th, good’; 5th, strong. Democrat / that comes 6th.

For Grossman ; 1st, unknown; 2nd, unsure; 3rd, know; 4th, none.

For Baker : 1st, Republican; 2nd, unknown; 3rd, conservative; Businessman ? Hardly appears at all. Good ? Only a little better. Experienced ? way down the list.

These are hardly good associations for Baker. To be known chiefly as a Republican is, in Massachusetts, to have some ‘splainin’ to do. Conservative, even more ‘splainin’. Baker needs badly to rebrand himself, and he has very little time to do it. And no chance at all to beat Coakley to the words that generate a vote : smart, good, honest, strong — not to mention Democrat.

Baker’s associations do look more vote-productive than Grossman’s. How can an elected statewide office holder, the State Treasurer, poll unknown, unsure, none ? Grossman has spent tons of money to become known, so it seems, only by Democratic activists. With about seven months remaining in the campaign he is not on most voters’ radar. And yet — and yet ! — against the much better known — but “Republican, conservative” — Baker, he polls 6 to 9 points ahead.

The word cloud tells me that my prognosis for Baker in a contest against Grossman has been far too optimistic . If “unknown, unsure” Grossman beats Baker by 6 to 9 points, what will Grossman poll once he does become better known ?

Baker has to be sweating it. But this is what it’s like when you are a “conservative, Republican” drawing about 30 percent in Massachusetts. You have a 30 percent chance to win.

When it’s like that, and you’re in it, you gamble. You throw the dice as far ahead of you as you can.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

UPDATE : April 18, 2014 at 10 AM — turnout might help Baker a little,. In his home Congressional District, the 6th, there is an expensive, very close contest underway between incumbent Democrat John Tierney and Republican challenger Richard Tisei. This is a re-match for the two men; both are well known. Turnout will almost certainly tally higher than otherwise, by maybe 20,000 votes; and as Baker lives in Swampscott — the heart of the contest — he can only benefit. — MF



^ 29 point lead in latest poll : Martha Coakley (D)

—- —- —

For the past several months of covering this year’s Governor election I’ve been of the opinion that Charlie Baker was the favorite; that he had the most compelling case to make; and that the tax revolt under way in the outer suburbs would surge him to victory. But now, after looking at Western Mass University’s new poll, i am changing my mind.

Prior polls showed Baker losing to Martha Coakley by some big numbers : but in them, neither candidate topped 45 percent, much less a majority. In the new Western Mass poll, Coakley wins 54 percent to Baker’s 25. As Coakley’s numbers have risen, Baker’s have fallen.

All of this is bad enough; and there is more. The poll has Baker not known by a full 30 percent of voters. how can a man who ran for Governor in 2010, in a hotly contested and well-journalized election, be not known by that many people ? The only explanation is that baker’s name dropped out of the news ; and that now he is playing the most basic of catch-ups, very late in the game.

The solidest votes that candidate has are the early votes. the earlier, the better. Later on, the doors start to close ever more quickly. The doors haven’t yet begun to close — 21 % of voters remain undecided in a Baker Coakley election — but they will soon begin to. Meanwhile, the poll numbers detail the bad news :

Independents go Coakley, 49 to 27.
Women choose Coakley 62 to 16
Even 10 % of Republicans prefer Coakley to Baker; only 3 % of Democrats prefer Baker to Coakley
Baker loses every region of the state; his home region (North Shore and South shore suburbs he loses by 12. in Boston he is wiped out : Coakley 60, Baker 20.

Baker’s apologists point to Scott Brown’s come from way behind victory over Martha Coakley in the January 2009 special senate election. Sorry, but that election is an exception, not a model. Brown was a fresh face; baker isn’t. Coakley ran an ignore-him campaign. She won’t do that again, isn’t doing it now. the Democratic party GOTV operation took a pass in 2009; it is fully geared up now.

Baker’s apologists reply that Coakley continues to be a poor candidate. She is that. But she has become smoothly glib with a gentle smile — enough, probably, to not lose a 29 point lead.

Will the race tighten ? Of course it will. Baker’s favorable-unfavorable number is 31 to 13; Coakley’s is 51 to 27. Baker looks well positioned to gain a majority the 21 % still undecided, perhaps too win a few votes away from Coakley as well. By all means, give Baker a 2 to 1 break of the 21 percent undecided. But that only makes the race 61 to 39. It is axiomatic that a candidate can take 10 % of his opponent;s vote away — probably not more — if he campaigns well. So let’s do that. Now the result is Coakley 55, Baker 45.

That was the result in last year’s Gabriel Gomez – Ed Markey US Senate race.

If everything breaks for Baker — if he runs a near perfect campaign — if Coakley continues to be the dicey, underexposed photograph that she has been, then a 55 to 45 loss is doable for Baker. Such an outcome means Baker will win all the places that the current GOP always wins : central MA, most of the South Shore, much of the North Shore. He might carry a city or three ; Chicopee, Melrose, Methuen. Elsewhere, he will be beaten where he cannot afford to be beaten (Peabody, Quincy, Brockton, Framingham, Norwood) and wiped out where current GOP candidates are always wiped out (Cambridge-Boston-Brookine-Newton, the West, the Outer cape, Worcester and Springfield). There the margin will be 30 points, maybe more.


^ looking gubernatorial, and against Steve Grossman, he might be : Charlie Baker

Baker does much better against State Treasurer Steve Grossman. The Western MA Poll has it Grossman 38, Baker 29. Partly that is because Grossman’s favorable-unfavorable is only 21 to 14 : people who know him (44 % don’t) don’t like him nearly as well as they like Coakley and Baker. So Baker’s actual vote goes up from 25 to 29, and the undecideds go up from 21 to 33.

Facing Grossman, Baker actually wins two regions of the state ; Central MA by 18 points (45 to 27, 28 % undecided) and his home region by 3 (34 to 31, 35 % undecided). But he loses the West by 17 (39 % undecided) and is smashed in the Boston core (47 to 23, 30 % undecided).

Clearly a Baker win against Steve Grossman is doable; but it’s not quite probable. losing by 9 — and winning only 8 % of Democrats while losing 9 % of Republicans (!) — Baker has to win the 33 % of voters who remain undecided by 2 to 1. Can he do that ? Maybe : but there are more undecided voters in Democratic areas of the State than in GOP sections. My own guess is that he will probably — if he runs that excellent campaign I mention above — and continues to raise the big money he has gained thus far — win the undecideds by somewhat less : 19 to 14. That would make the November result Grossman 52, Baker 48.

Baker has one more card to play in a race this close, but it’s a highly sophisticated one : so bear with me as I explain what many highly moral readers do not want to hear :

Historically, strong GOP governor candidates have been able to bring aboard many Democratic legislators, in the cities especially, and with their active support either carry that city or come close. Many Democratic legislators (and I will specify no further) would love to see Baker elected, both for policy reasons, public works, and issues of House governance. But none of these will come actively into a Baker campaign unless they feel pretty sure they can make the difference. (The reasons for this should be obvious.) 52 to 48 is exactly the kind of race of which 20 or 30 Democratic legislators could turn the result around. BUT : of all the Democrats running, Steve Grossman is the candidate closest to exactly that kind of Democratic legislator. Would 20 or 30 of them turn on him ? Nobody is better positioned to make that happen than Baker, with his connection to the Big Dig and its huge dollars paid out to Building trades workers. But it definitely WON’T happen unless ( 1 ) the Democratic nominee is Grossman ( 2 ) the race is as close as I estimate and ( 3 ) Grossman can’t counter it.

Baker’s fate is in the hands of key Democrats. Since John Volpe’s 50.3 to 49.7 win in 1960, it has always been like that for GOP governor candidates. Believe me, he knows it.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ tantrums, attacks, and back look : Steve Grossman loses his grooming

—- — —-

The Democratic party of Massachusetts seems determined to degrade this election — thus to discredit itself : because a party whose first response is to demonize its opponents is unfit to govern, unprepared for citizenship.

I had thought, until recently, that Steve Grossman was the class of the Democratic #magov14 field. My opinion began to shift when i saw him attack Martha Coakley at candidate Forums; attack and disrespect her. On his own his always fully groomed answer to every question had begun to annoy me : was he human or just a policy bot with bryl creem ? Then came the tantrums, the childishness.

And then came the attack on Charlie Baker, the GOP nominee, an attack outrageous in its overkill : Grossman attacked Baker for throwing transgender rights under the bus during the 2010 campaign,

Huh ?

Dear Mr. Grossman :

This is 2014. Four years ago, Baker handled transgender rights very wrongly, indeed handled much of his campaign wrongly. And he lost thereby. But that was then. Baker has run an entirely different campaign this time, one full of optimism, outreach, and progress; a campaign focused on technology reform of government — much needed, as the failure of our health connector makes painfully clear.

Baker’s running a campaign, quite frankly, a heckuva lot more innovative than yours.

If you want to challenge Baker, challenge his policy plans, not his past errors. But so far you haven’t done that. Is it because he might be right and you cannot accept that ? Frankly, I liked you better as a bryl-creemed policy bot.

Meanwhile, Mr. Grossman, two of your opponents, Juliette Kayyem and Don Berwick, are out there making forward policy proposals, running on optimism and grace and not on demagoguing opponents.


^ meeting the voters where they work : Juliette Kayyem at an East Boston T stop

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^ serious, if, for the time being, somewhat unrealistic, policy proposals : Don Berwick explains.

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^ street and meet, greet and tweet : Charlie Baker in Braintree two days ago

There are enough failures of administration in State government right now to make serious reform crucial. Don Berwick has been unafraid to address these failures in detail. Where has Steve Grossman been ? So far I haven’t heard much. attacking baker for events of four years ago is a distraction, not a solution.

Hopefully Massachusetts voters will reject the current Grossman approach — one mirrored by other Democratic campaigns going on in Massachusetts right now — in favor of the Berwick and Kayyem approach. Let this be a campaign of ideas and competence, not one of who can throw the stinkiest mudpie. And if running a campaign that enhances the public’s respect for our election process brings us a Republican governor, so be it. Because this campaign should NOT be about Steve Grossman or Don Berwick — or about Charlie Baker. It should be about Massachusetts gaining the best potential Governor, not the last card left undiscarded.

—- Mike freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ best at the Enviro-Forum and emerging as quite practical too : Don Berwick

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The iconic Speakers’ Hall at Boston’s Faneuil Hall hosted a good 500 environmental issues citizens at a candidates Forum earlier today. All five Democratic candidates participated; Charlie Baker did not; but yesterday he announced that he too was taking the Forum’s “1 % pledge” to dedicate at that much of every year’s State budget to what the Forum calls “environmental justice.”.

Moderating the Forum were the Boston Globe’s Derrick Jackson and former Romney administration official Douglas Hoy. Each asked hard questions, as the advance fliers for the Forum promised. Unhappily, it was hard to hear what they were asking. Foy spoke as if at a dinner table. Nor were all of the candidates’ answers audible.

Nonetheless, what I did hear left a sufficient impression.

For every single question, Treasurer Steve Grossman had ready a well prepared answer, almost too well prepared. Even when answering the Forum’s last question — which Derrick Jackson said was a throwaway — of water issues, Grossman spoke a full brief  on what he would do to safeguard the state’s water supply, delivered as rigidly as a water pump whose attendant had flicked the “on” switch.


Steve Grossman : needs to tone it down a few hundred pegs

Juliette Kayyem continues to converse at length, as if presenting a suggestion at a think tank symposium, rather than say “this is what I will do as Governor.” (One exception : she will oppose the ballot initiative that would repeal gas tax indexing.)

Joe Avellone continued to emerge from his very grey personality and to get usefully specific on several topics, including the gas tax, carbon tax, and the state’s “20,000 gas leaks,” as he was the one to point out, ending with “fix the gas leaks !” Even then, however, he sounded more the local town official he once was than a Governor evoking the big picture.

Martha Coakley attuned better to the questioners’ intentions than at prior Forums. She gave the best answer on Jackson’s “fish versus fishermen” question and often played The Flexible Thoughtful One, against Steve Grossman’s Mr Know It All. She also made clear that she was not about to commit, on the spot, to the Forum’s many yes or no pledges.

Don Berwick gave the best answers to most of the Forum’s questions and showed that, while he is the Democrats’ purest progressive, he is not just a dreamer. Alone of the five he said that no, he would NOT divest the State’s investment money from corporations not environmentally green. And why ? His answer was as smart as it was obvious: “I’d rather continue to be a shareholder and work to change corporate policy from within.” Berwick made the other four look spineless.

The Forum wamted everything. It wanted wind power, a carbon tax, fish over fishermen, conservation of land, of forest, and of water; it wanted fossil fuel usage cut back. It wanted alternatives to cars. And, as usual with groups that want everything, it looked selfish, and it was good to see some of the candidates — even Steve Grossman, who rejected cutting the gas tax because “we need it to do our transportation work” — sometimes say no. Particularly embarrassing were the candidates’ jellyfish answers to “what have you personally done to lower the carbon footprint” or “what was your most recent recreational activity.” I so wanted one of the five to announce, “my most recent recreational activity ? I drove a stock car at a NASCAR race !”

That said, the Forum left me far more uncertain than I had been of which Democrat is actually likely to be an effective Governor. My opinion had been Steve Grossman; but I am beginning to tire of his overly prepared advocacy. Can he not just once grope for an answer, or say, I will have to think about it ? Is he really just Governor Bot ? I have found Martha Coakley to be snarky, but today, after listening all Forum long to Governor Bot, she sounded remedially human in comparison. And as the two Democratic biggies made no secret of differing sharply with each other, personally as well on policy, I found myself on Coakley’s side troublingly often. As for the others, I am frustrated still. I would love say Juliette Kayyem is it : she is THAT stunningly chic and charismatic. But her persona is so much the think tank participant, almost never I Am The Leader. She should plug into some of whatever Steve Grossman is bot-ing.


^ one on one is Juliette Kayyem’s forte’

This leaves Joe Avellone, who simply lacks the bigness of vision for this race, and Don Berwick, who has hitched his lucky star to several pie in the sky adventures — no casinos, single payer health insurance, a graduated income tax — that won’t happen and, except for single payer, probably shouldn’t. Yet Berwick showed at this Forum — and has, at times, at others — that he can be very smoothly practical when he has to be. I have imagined the Big Dogs of the legislature laughing Don Berwick off, as they let him talk and then do what they were going to do anyway — because they, not the Governor, have the power. After toady, I think Don Berwick just might be able to play cards with them — even win a few games.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ huge SEIU candidates Forum last Saturday that Charlie Baker by-passed despite “repeated invitations sent,’ the SEIU program painfully  made known.

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Hard on the heels of last Saturday’s hugely attended SEIU Forum on the “low wage worker crisis” comes a Governor Candidate Forum at Faneuil hall this Friday. It begins at noon. The subjects this time are Energy, the Environment, and the Innovation Economy.

You would think that GOP leader Charlie Baker would want to be on stage at Faneuil hall. Its topics are his bread and butter. 28 citizen organizations are sponsoring the Forum. How can a serious candidate for Governor decline to participate ? As Baker also declined the SEIU Forum ? I ask the question rhetorically, because Baker has indeed declined both.

This is what one would expect of the rejectionist GOP, the Tea Party that looks upon Massachusetts’s broad and diverse citizenry as an enemy.

Baker isn’t Tea Party at all. Just the opposite. So what gives ? His apologists say that he is visiting people and neighborhoods everywhere; fine and good; but that is what Scott Brown did for his entire three years as our Senator, and it didn’t get him re-elected.

As I see it, by not participating in an issues Forum set up by citizen organizations that expend much time and money to make them happen, you send a message entirely negative, a disrespect for citizens who care, as well as for the issues that they care about. We’re not talking gun nuts here, or rabid anti-taxers. We’re talking citizen reform — core of what the Massachusetts GOP has always been best at.

Skipping out of such events is the wrong thing to do. It makes me question the seriousness of Charlie Baker’s candidacy.

That Baker has the GOP convention on tap this Saturday is no excuse. His nomination is assured, and it could only enhance his candidacy to speak sharply on the issues at very public Forums widespread reported in the media.

Had Baker a huge money advantage, a case could be made that he is the people’s choice already and needn’t participate in Forums where his candidacy might find itself challenged. I think this a wrong argument, because why shouldn’t his candidacy be challenged ? if Baker cannot respond to challenges — many of them — on a face to face basis, he shouldn’t be running. In any case, he does not hold a vast money lead. The six candidates — the five Democrats and Charlie Baker — reported the following donations, expenses, and ending balance for the month of February :

Charlie Baker

beginning 562,808.84
receipts 209,425.05
expenses 184,735.99
ending bal 587,497.90

Steve Grossman

beginning 1,048,299.70
receipts 91,091.67
expenses 129,780.51
ending bal 1,003,619.86

Martha Coakley

beginning 494,328.43
receipts 184,245.04
expenses 175,951.68
ending bal 502,619.79

Juliette kayyem

beginning 160,119.47
receipts 65,038.58
expenses 108.454.20
ending bal 116,701.85

Don Berwick

beginning 174,376.01
receipts 116,670.06
expenses 139,326.80
ending bal 151,819.27

Joe Avellone

beginning 142,166.73
receipts 14,718.37
expenses 35,512.55
ending bal 121,372.55

Charlie Baker raised more money than anyone in February, but not by much more than Don Berwick, and his money on hand pales in comparison to what Steve Grossman — the clear Democratic caucus winner — commands. Baker barely has more money than Martha Coakley, whose fundraising in February picked up significantly.

Baker’s donations also arise from the usual sources ; CEO’s, high powered lawyers and developers, and residents of old-line GOP towns like Boxford, Hamilton, and communities in the Mid-Cape (Cod). In his February list I couldn’t find even one donor from Baker’s home town of Swampscott. It’s possible that I missed one; but there sure weren’t many. It’s possible, too, that big name Governor GOP donors already maxed out ($ 500 per year per person) in January; I hope so, because I saw very few such on Baker’s February list.

Meanwhile, donors to the five Democrats span pretty much the entirety of diverse Massachusetts, including even CEOs. Massachusetts works best when we pair an innovative GOP Governor with an institutional boss, Democratic House Speaker. But to get that pairing, Baker will have to step it up and be BOLD. He has been a leader on many issues this time around — look at his support for the Minimum wage hike, contrary to GOP orthodoxy — but as i see it, he needs to be bold on everything. And bolder.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

UPDATE : The Boston Globe today opines that Charlie baker will get more than enough delegates to keep his Tea Party rival off the Primary ballot. this has been my view for at least the last ten days. It makes me all the more bewildered why Baker has avoided attending and speaking at major Citizen Forums. Is he afraid that if he does, the anti-everything GOP that he has spent the last three years buying off will rise up and snarl ?