Sunday, February 05, 2006

A Little to the North

Picture a Northeastern state whose politics are dominated by a creaking, mammoth hulk of a Democratic Party, has voted for Democrats in most modern presidential elections, has two Democratic U.S. Senators, but has not elected a Democrat governor since 1986.

I'm talking, of course, about Massachusetts, our neighbor to the north. Believe it or not, Michael Dukakis was the last Democrat to be governor of Massachusetts, even though Democrats hold huge majorities in their state legislature and their entire Congressional delegation is Democratic.

Now, with unpopular Republican Governor Mitt Romney leaving to run what is certain to be an awkward and ultimately fruitless presidential campaign, Democrats think they may have their best chance in years to win back the governor's mansion. Attorney General Tom Reilly has been the odds-on favorite to win the nomination, despite the upstart campaign of Deval Patrick. Recent polls showed Reilly with a huge lead over Patrick, despite his running-mate's recent withdrawl because of delinquent tax payments.

Last night, something interesting happened. In Massachusetts, delegates to the state party conventions are partly selected through caucuses. In what has to be a surprise for Massachusetts's Democratic establishment, Deval Patrick won 2/3 of those delegates. Both men will still likely be on the primary ballot, but Patrick will almost certainly win the convention. Wow. Blue Mass Group has some interesting commentary (Massachusetts, by the way, has a great political blogosphere).

So who cares? It may just be a function of my sitting in Massachusetts to type this, but I can't ignore the similarities between our states. Of course, our governor's race isn't nearly as interesting, given that we don't have an open seat and that the popularity of the current occupant has scared away prominent Democrats like Richard Blumenthal. However, our Senate race may be.

Aldon Hynes draws some comparisons between the Lamont and the Patrick campaign on his site. There are some interesting similarities, such as the fact that Reilly is not popular with the grassroots of his party, and that he tends to take more conservative stances than most Democrats care for. He has been running towards the center and ignoring his base, while Patrick has been taking great pains to cultivate that base. Patrick has also attracted attention nationally, garnering the support of Sen. Barack Obama, among others.

There are differences. The Lamont campaign is still in its infancy, and may amount to nothing. Lamont hasn't actually won anything yet--he hasn't even officially decided whether or not to run (hint: he's running)--whereas Patrick has taken huge strides towards legitimacy this weekend.

Both campaigns offer the same hope to liberals, that they can run against the establishment of their own party and win.

Whether or not decamping from the still-significant portion of the center that they still hold and moving aggresively to the left is wise for Democrats remains to be seen. If either Patrick or Lamont win in the primary, they will face a far different and much more difficult challenge to win in November.


Peter from Ma said...

Mitt Romney is not unpopular for a Republican in Massachusetts. 37% (registered Democrats)of the state are naturally inclined not to support him. He usually finds himself between 45-52% Approval Rating, which is right around his taking in the 2002 election (50% Even). Had he sought re-election, he probably would be ahead in the polls as of today.

However, without him around, His Lt. Gov Kerry Healey is running. Though shes pretty stiff (and from a rich family), she is suprisingly intelligent. She and Tom Reilly had a passing on a local talk radio show, and she totally cleaned his clock. (it should be mentioned the show is Conservative, and he called in to debate her).

On the Democratic Side, things have been very strange. Tom Reilly who was expected to easily win this Election, has been flopping consistently. He has taken a number of extremely wacked positions, including supporting a bill for In-state Tuition for Illegal Immigrants that failed in the Dem-Super Controlled Legislature by a huge margin, and was opposed by a large majority of people. He has had 5 Campaign kickoffs, and his LT. Gov pick dropped out of the race 24 hours after his endorsement because it was found she owed 40K in state and federal Taxes.

Deval Patrick, the "progressive" Democrat candidate for Governor, has been gaining with the follies of Tom Reilly. He one nearly two-thirds of the Town Commitee Endorsements. However, even in Massachusetts, he may be too Liberal for the Moderate-Independent voters (that comprise 48% of the state) in the General Election.

I have not seen a poll on his race since November or December (when Romney was still running), but if there was a new one I would guess Deval would be the front-runner for the Democrats now, and Healey for the General Election. This race is wide open.

(If anyone has seen a recent polling on this race, please post it, I would be very interested in seeing it)

Peter from Ma said...

Correction: "He one nearly"

Should be "He won nearly"

Genghis Conn said...

Thanks for the insight, Peter! I can't say that I'm anywhere near an expert on Mass. politics, even though I spend my working days in Springfield.

This was the poll I mentioned earlier. Patrick trailed Reilly 58%-18%, but looks like he has a serious name recognition problem.

MikeCT said...

A lesson for CT politicians from the Blue Mass Group analysis:

In politics, winning begets winning. These days in Massachusetts, the progressives are winning, and not by magic. They are enthusiastic for a candidate, for sure -- but more importantly, they're showing up. This is why I grit my teeth when folks discuss "electability" as synonymous with ostensibly "moderate" ideology: Ideology cannot be reduced to a one-dimensional continuum between "liberal" and "conservative"; and "electability" is dependent on a larger constellation of factors, not least of which are 1. genuine, infectious enthusiasm for the candidate, and 2. ability to organize. Any candidate is going to need folks to pound the pavement and get out the vote; right now the Deval Patrick folks are doing it, and the Reilly folks are not. Reilly seems to be so concerned about getting the swing voters that he's forgotten he needs the base, too.

Deval Patrick's site is much more developed than any CT candidate's site, with videos, speeches, reproducible handouts, a blog, a "store", and detailed, substantive position statements. In other words, he uses his site to educate and organize. More lessons to be learned.

Having lived in both states, I think that Massachusetts' liberal reputation is not well-deserved. Folks like Reilly dominated when I was there, and their previous House Speaker was a profoundly anti-democratic AND anti-Democratic reactionary bully. The repudiation of Reilly is all the more remarkable given that in year-end reports, Reilly had $3.7 million in cash on hand, and Deval had $515,000. A commenter in another thread suggests Patrick is starting to catch up:
If you look at NOT the cash on hand but funds raised since last year - you see Patrick has the upperhand both in dollar volume and WAY far superior numbers of donors (over 8000 individual donors) - That's HUGE.
Patrick raised more last year from April till Dec 31 than Reilly did ALL year.
He outraised him in January $325,000 to $200,000.

Peter from Ma said...

Wow! Reilly is still smoking Patrick! I have never seen a Reilly sign or bumper sticker, but I see Patrick ones all the time. I guess the blue collar middle-class folks have yet to hear Patrick's speaking ability, or hear of Reilly's lack of political skill. (he admitted last week, politics wasn't his forte) Then again my town Democratic Committee was one that did support Patrick.

I still think this election season has yet to begin to take full public interest, and that a lot of twists have yet to play out, for an already bizarre Election season. In fact, the floundering Reilly candicacy has sprouted a lot of rumours that a guy like Fmr. Congressman Joe Kennedy or Secretary of State William Galvin may jump in before or during the Democratic Convention to "save the day".

Im no political expert, but I know this thing aint over. I appreciate the mentioning of Mass Politics, this is a great blog, and I enjoy reading about my Cousin's home state and our larger little neighbor to the south.

Genghis Conn said...

Patrick's site is very impressive. I did note that he raised $325,000 in a single month, however--and he's the party outsider!

Still, good design doesn't always require a ton of money. I'd love to see more candidate sites in Connecticut that are as vibrant and interactive. The goal of campaign sites ought to be to keep visitors coming back.

Genghis Conn said...

Agreed about MA's reputation. They are about as liberal as we are, although perhaps slightly more in pockets like Northampton and Cambridge. The western part of the state seems a lot more conservative.

Working In MA said...

Here are a few clarifications on MA:

Deval Patrick outpolls Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey in every recent poll.

The Dem "machine" in MA is very similar to what currently exists in CT. Both states have considerably weakened (or strengthened, depended upon your perspective) Dem structures as a result of grassroots organizing. There are only so many people the established structure can pull in. Many people feel disenfranchised by the party and are looking to take it back. The new people being brought into the process are from all walks of life and Dem persuasions. The "liberal" label doesn't apply.

Deval Patrick's results in the caucuses prove that local organizing works. Deval Patrick's key campaign people have no more understanding of grassroots than the Kerry campaign did (where they came from). The caucus outcome is a direct result of newly minted activists being brought in by local people.

stomv said...

* Grew up in CT
* Live in MA
* Will be a delegate from Brookline MA supporting Deval

Deval may have won 2/3 of the elected delegates -- but keep in mind that something like 30% of all delegates are not elected in the caucuses. They're automatics.

Additionally, there are the add-on delegates (youth, minority, disabled). Those are toss-ups as well.

So... Deval won 2/3 of the delegates over the weekend, but that will account for less than 50% of the actual voting delegates IIRC. That doesn't imply that Reilly has the rest, rather that there is still plenty of fudge room.