Sunday, December 13, 2009

Brown vs. Coakley

Although the Prof plans to support Brown in this race, I always call them as I see them without the lens of ideology clouding my vision...

Coakley should win the general election on January 19 with little difficulty. Her advantages are tremendous and Brown has a very high hill to climb.

The Republican brand name in Massachusetts is somewhere between sharks and grave robbers. Although Brown is a moderate by Republican standards (in fact the Massachusetts Republican party would be considered quite liberal on social issues by national Republicans) the "R" after his name conjures up images of Newt Gingrich, George W. Bush, and Rush Limbaugh for many voters. Massachusetts is as deep blue as they come and while Republicans occasionally have success running for state office based on fiscal issues, Massachusetts has not elected a Republican to the Senate since 1972 and none to the House since 1994. No real surprise that Scott Brown's website does not say the word Republican on it...

The voter numbers are simply unfavorable. With just 11% of voters registered as Republicans, Scott Brown has to attract the lion's share of independents and some conservative Democrats into his column. The problem for Brown is that turnout will likely be low and consist of partisans on both sides. Coakley simply has the advantage here.

Name recognition heavily favors Coakley. The majority of the media focus was on the Democrats for the primary. Brown is still relatively unknown and has the challenge of crafting a message during the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Coakley has the fundraising advantage and will benefit from many national groups running issue ads supportive of her. Brown has benefited from not tapping into his resources during the primary, but 'tis interesting to note that the national Republican Party has yet to pony up any funds for this race.

Can Brown make this a race? I think he can make it a competitive race if several things happen - however they are unlikely to fall into place for him.
  • Force Coakley to debate several times and hope she makes a mistake or misstatement. Coakley (smartly) is lobbying to get libertarian-leaning candidate Joe Kennedy (not one of THE Kennedys) included in the debates to take the focus off of her. Brown needs to get Coakley one on one to draw a contrast. With a third person on the stage that is a tougher thing to accomplish.
  • Brown needs to go after her on specific issues and on her tenure as AG. He needs to give voters pause before automatically supporting the Democratic nominee.
  • Brown is well advised not to focus on the social issues and to keep the focus on fiscal issues. Coakley is going to go after him on women's issues and abortion which is designed to keep his campaign on the defensive.
  • Brown needs to run as an outsider and not beholden to any interest, although as a sitting state senator he may have trouble making this case.

In the end I think that it should be a fairly easy win for Coakley. Her strategy is going to be appearing senatorial, motivating her base voters, and minimizing the debates (she will have to agree to a couple, but one may be on a Sunday Morning or perhaps on New Years Day). She is the front runner and has to avoid coughing up the football at the end of the game. Given her discipline over the past few months, I don't see a high likelihood of her making any mistakes.

Her only real potential problem (baring a major mistake) will be the appearance her appearing like she is coasting and the anointed Senator in Waiting. This would play into Brown's strategy of painting her as an insider.

I have not seen any recent head to head polling yet, but some ought to be out shortly. Based on my "gut perspective" without the benefit of recent data I will make an early forecast. Yeah, yeah we ended up with 6 inches of partly cloudy... :)

Prediction

Statewide voter turnout is about 35%. Coakley wins heavily in the cities of Boston, Worcester, New Bedford, and Fall River along with the inner suburbs surrounding Boston. She also pulls impressive margins in the Berkshires and the Pioneer Valley. Much of Middlessex County and the Route 128 belt of communities should also come in for her. She also should do quite well in socially liberal Metrowest.

Brown should win many of the communities in the more conservative Merrimack Valley region. I also think he performs well in Worcester County with solid wins in the communities along the 495 belt. Brown will win some of the medium and smaller towns on Cape Cod and in Plymouth, Norfolk, and Essex Counties. But it simply will not be enough do overcome the vote totals that Coakley can amass in her base regions.

Coakley 57
Brown 43

Onwards!

The Prof

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Primary Postscript

The primary race ended pretty much as the punditry though it would with a landslide win for Martha Coakley. She had multiple advantages over her rivals...advantages good for any person seeking office.

Name recognition - critical in any race, especially a short race where her opponents simply could not distinguish themselves.

Money - she was well funded and drew a lot of money from left-leaning liberal groups (Emily's List) across the nation.

A committed organization - having run statewide in the past, Coakley had an apparatus in place whilst her opponents had to build them in many cases from scratch.

The Sisterhood - being a woman running against three men certainly distinguished her further and helped her in terms of the voters who vote in Massachusetts Democratic primaries.

Additionally, Coakley benefited from being on message, making very few mistakes, and being able to remain above the fray as her opponents fired shots at each other. It is very hard for an opponent to pick on a female candidate (Rick Lazio vs. Hillary Clinton in the 2000 NY Senate race comes to mind).


A few thoughts on her vanquished opponents...


Capuano - played the tough city kid a bit too much and potentially turned off certain voters. He played Mr. Insider who brings home the bacon - this plays well in certain areas, but also reinforces perceptions of the "old boy network" Capuano has a lifetime US Rep seat (although he did really underperformed in his own district).

Khazie - ran as the idealistic reforming outsider and nudged Pagliuca into last place in the process. He did surprisingly well in the wealthy liberal areas in the immediate Boston suburbs and I think may have laid the groundwork for a future run, perhaps for a statewide office as there may be a number of open seats this upcoming November.

Pagliuca - someone has calculated that he spent about $150 per vote in his last place finish. Classic story that money does not always buy happiness - or a Senate seat. He was hurt by past support for Mitt Romney which did not endear him to liberal primary voters. Additionally, he took many liberal positions that seemed it bit like "me-tooism".

Wonder if Steven Lynch is regretting his decision not to run. As the only conservative Democrat in this race he may have made it more interesting...

Bottom line is that Coakley's advantages were going to be hard to overcome by anyone in this type of primary. She racked up large victories in the voter-rich suburbs around Boston and in Western Massachusetts. If it had been a two-way race between her and Capuano, it may have been closer as there would have been a different dynamic in place.

Onwards to the final election!

The Prof

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Primary Results

Results are in - no surprises except that Coakley really outdid what many were thinking. Capouano, although winning some urban strongholds (Boston, Cambridge, Somerville) did not win by enough to offset massive Coakley wins nearly everywhere else in the state. Lets also congratulate Khazei for winning the thriving metropolis of Alford out in the Berkshire Mountains.

I will post on the Brown/Coakley race in the next couple of days and have a more extensive post-mortem on tonight's results.


Results (and my final predictions)

Democrats
Coakley 47% (42)
Capuano 28% (34)
Khazei 13% (14)
Pagliuca 12% (10)

Republicans
Brown 89% (77)
Robinson 11% (23)

Onwards!


The Prof

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Final Predictions for MA Senate Primary

Just a short note here - if I nail these numbers exactly, I will kick myself for not playing Megabucks this week...

Final Predictions
Coakley 42%
Capuano 34%
Khazei 14%
Pagliuca 10%

And lets not forget the Republicans...they are having a primary too.

Brown 77%
Robinson 23%


Prediction of results from my October 18 post
Coakley 49%
Capuano 32%
Pagliuca 11%
Khazei 8%


I see Coakley winning by a comfortable margin - however, if turnout is low it will be a bit reduced since the most committed liberal voters may skew slightly toward Capuano. Her opponents have been trying to make her fumble, but she has maintained possession and is ready to put the game away.

Some in the Capuano camp have been pointing to internal campaign polls showing a tightening race. These races typically do tighten a bit prior to the election, but I think the Capuanao folks are touting this to try to gin up their supporters prior to election day. I would be very surprised if this race goes much past 9:00 PM without a winner being called.

Turnout will be very light. Special election primaries typically don't generate high turnout, especially when there are two weeks of Christmas shopping left.

Watch for the post mortem later this week. I will be working on it Tuesday evening as the results roll in!

Onwards!

The Prof

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Coakley in Cruise Control

There is a new Globe poll out of likely Democratic Primary Voters. Nothing much has changed and I anticipate unless a major bombshell drops in the next two weeks, that Attorney General Martha Coakley will win by a considerable margin.

Coakley 43%
Capuano 22%
Pagliuca 15%
Khazei 6%
Undecided 14%

Coakley's approval is in the stratosphere with a 71% favorability rating. The only real danger for Coakley is that 50% of voters have yet to firmly settle on a candidate (although many of them indicated a preference, it may yet change). She has run a nearly flawless, if boring campaign and has the ball with a two touchdown lead and about two minutes left in the game. One or two more runs up the middle without a fumble and game over.

At the risk of writing a premature post-mortem on the others in the field...

Capuano who seems to be solidifying a firm grip on second place is handicapped by this not being a two-person race. He simply has not been able to distinguish himself from the rest of the pack. Capuano also badly flubbed his one chance a couple of weeks ago when Coakley announced that she wouldn't vote for a national health reform bill that had the much-discussed abortion language in it. Capuano pounced on this and hammered Coakley for not knowing how to play the inside Washington game...and then reversed himself 24 hours later and for all intensive purposes adopted Coakley's position. The fear these candidates have of incurring the wrath of certain segments of the primary electorate is mind-boggling. Capuano ended-up laming himself in his eagerness to get to the Left as much as possible on this issue and dropping what would have been a good opportunity to play on his perceived strength as a DC insider and knowing how to move legislation.

Capuano does have a lifetime seat in the House, but there are few opportunities to "move up" to the US Senate. John Kerry is in his early sixties, may be another 15 more years before there is another open seat...

Pagliuca's spending may amount to a record number of dollars expended per each vote at the end of the day. I still think he is doing this mainly to prep for a statewide run at some point in the future or to be noticed for an appointed position in the Obama Administration.

I think Kahzei has a future in politics, but he was thinking a bit too big for his initial run at public office.

The nagging issue that nearly half of these voters are not terribly excited by any one candidate speaks to initial name recognition having a major impact in this race much to Coakley's benefit. Primary Day is on December 8...I would camp out and wait the night before, but something tells me turnout is going to be mighty low.

Onwards!

The Prof

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

2009 Results

Lets see how I did on the predictions...

Boston Mayor
Prediction: Menino: 61 Flaherty: 39
Actual: Menino 57, Flaherty 43

Not too far off, though Flaherty ran a closer race than I thought...if Flaherty had more money to advertise who knows....Actually, Menino just was not beatable, but this may well be his last term. He will be 70 in 2013 and Flaherty may make another run at this. Bostonians just like their mayors and were not ready to change things up.


Virginia Governor
Prediction: McDonnell (R) 54 Deeds (D) 46
Actual: McDonnell 59 Deeds 41

Big win for the Republicans and more ominously for President Obama who had campaigned for Deeds; Independents swung back toward the Republican Candidates in The Old Dominion and counties that went for Obama in 2008 did not support Deeds in 2009. Of course this was not a referendum on the president, but it could be an early sign of discontent with his perceived "overreaching" on a number of issues..

NJ Governor
Prediction: Corzine (D) 45 Christi (R) 43 Daggett (I) 12
Actual: Christi 49, Corzine 45, Daggett 6

I was wrong, but I did call it a toss-up...Bigger win for Republicans as NJ is a pretty deep shade of blue. The general loathing of Corzine by many voters and the fading of Daggett's independent run propelled Christi to the Governor's mansion. The economy and corruption were major issues and Christi won big among men and independents. Another warning bell for the president as he campaigned heavily for Corzine.

NY, 23rd District
Prediction: Hoffman (C) 44 Owens (D) 38 Scozzafava (R) 18
Actual: Owens 49 Hoffman 45 (D) 38 Scozzafava 5

I missed this one. The intra-party warfare of the local Republicans enabled the Democrats to pick up a long-time Republican seat. Also, credit Owens and his organization for getting out their voters. The battle between the Conservatives and Moderates in the Republican Party was openly waged here. I always tell my classes that a party has to have a "big tent" to be successful in the long run. In the Northeast, strict conservative Republicans simply do not play as well as they may in other parts of the nation. This district was Republican, but was not fertile hard-core conservative territory as far as I can tell.

So what does all this mean?

Incumbents did not fare particularly well with Corzine (who spent ridiculous amounts of money) going down. Mayor Bloomberg in NYC barely held on - someone calculated that he spend $166 on every vote he received. Even in Massachusetts, several incumbent mayors (Worcester, Lynn, Brockton) lost their seats. Could this be bad news for Governor Patrick...

Voters are very concerned with the state of the economy. If it does not turnaround there may well be a lot of political bloodletting with an angry electorate one year from now.

Turnout is key, many young voters who came out for Obama in VA and NJ did not come out this time around. Involved people are motivated voters.

Was this a referendum on President Obama? No, local issues and candidates typically dominate these elections, but the White House cannot be pleased with the turnout of events here. These results may force some course corrections in the administration as vulnerable Democrats (especially in red states) may not want to be tied to closely to the president in 2010.

Onwards to 2010...

The Prof

Monday, November 2, 2009

Election Day 2009 Predictions

Ok - lets go out on a limb and see if I can nail the races that are coming up for tomorrow...

Boston Mayor
Menino wins over Flaherty/Yoon by a decent margin. Boston just likes him and he does have the job for life. His opponents are hoping for a Frank Skeffington Last Hurrah moment, but not this time.

Menino: 61
Flaherty: 39

Virginia Governor
This should be a relatively easy Republican pickup.

McDonnel (R) 54
Deeds (D) 46

NJ Governor
A very bitter race with an unpopular incumbent in Corzine, but a rather inept campaign by his opponent, The Republicans should have won this one, but an independent candidate siphoning nominally Republican votes and Democratic money flowing to this race should win it for Corzine. The polls have shown a dead heat all along so this is a bit of a coin toss...

Corzine (D) 45
Christi (R) 43
Daggett (I) 12

NY, 23rd District
Perhaps the most drama of any race, this was shaping up as a three-way race with the NY Conservative Party nominating a - well a conservative candidate in Hoffman against a very liberal Republican candidate in Scozzafava, with Owens carrying the Democratic banner. As the Republican candidate is quite liberal on a number of issues, many national conservatives urged support for Hoffman creating an intra-Republican split. On Friday of last week Scozzafava withdrew from the race and endorsed the the Democrat Owens. My sense on this is that Hoffman who has been ahead in the polls still wins this though.

Hoffman (C) 44
Owens (D) 38
Scozzafava (R) 18

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Senate Candidate's Strategy

Just wanted to post a quick update - no breaking news on either the governor or senator front. But I do want to give a quick word on what I see as the strategies of the contending candidates for this office.

Martha Coakley
So far I am sticking with my prediction that the sitting AG should win both the primary and general election. She is picking up the endorsements of the Democratic establishment - sitting members of the legislature and organized labor. She is raising funds at a decent clip. She is way ahead in the early polls. In terms of campaign strategy she is doing what any conventional front runner should do - play it safe. If this were a football game, it is the fourth quarter with 3 minutes left. Coakley has the ball and is up by two touchdowns. She is trying to run out the clock. This makes sense - unless she makes a metaphoric fumble and either says or does something controversial and damaging to her campaign. This is unlikely to happen since she has been in a number of campaigns for elective office and knows how to play the game. Luckily for Coakley, she also has three primary opponents which divides the opposition. Her rather icy personality and her active avoidance of some elements of the news media may not help her, but her political organization, support from women's groups, and her high name recognition should make this a relatively smooth cruise to the US Senate.

Odds of winning the primary - 80%.


Michael Capuano
The former Sommerville mayor and current 8th District US Representative is trying like heck to pump up his name recognition outside of the immediate Boston area. He is also trying to be a "Democrat's Democrat" by running as far to the left as he can in the hopes that the liberal activists who typically dominate these primaries will swing to him. This would be a decent approach if it was a two person race, but it isn't. I expect that Alan Khazei will siphon off some of that liberal support and the Coakley juggernaut is simply to large to stop. Capuano is going to continue to throw political haymakers and show his fiery passion in the hopes of forcing a Coakley "fumble". However I place his odds at no more than 20% to win the primary and these odds will slowly diminish unless Coakley makes a major mistake over the next few weeks and gives him an opening.


Steve Pagliuca
As part-owner of the Boston Celtics, Pagliuca is spending a LOT of money to advertise everywhere under the sun. His background as a venture capitalist and former Republican (he became a Democrat about 10 years ago) will not be helpful in winning the primary. He is targeting Independent voters and the more conservative Democrats, although his most recent ads show him running to the left on almost all the issues - his research must show that those positions poll well. However, he will need massive numbers of independents to show up for the December 8 primary (unlikely to happen for a special election - unlikelier on a potentially cold and snowy December day) and I just can't see him pulling this off. I think this run for him is about getting experience in the wild Massachusetts political arena and raising his name recognition for a future statewide race.

Odds of winning the primary - 0% (yes, he really has no chance this time around)


Alan Khazei
As founder of the successful City Year program 20 years ago, Kazei has a good reputation and has been able to raise more money than expected. He will do relatively well in ultra-liberal areas (Amherst, Cambridge, Brookline, etc) thus taking votes that likely would have gone to Capuano. Expect him to run a poitive and clean campaign for third place. As with Palgliuca, this race is a way for Khazei to gain experience in running a campaign and setting up for a future run.

Odds of winning the primary - 2%

Prediction of results for the December 8 primary (ok - really out on a limb, but here goes...)

Coakley 49%
Capuano 32%
Pagliuca 11%
Khazei 8%


Scott Brown
(Full disclosure, the Prof plans to vote for Brown in the general election)
The sitting Republican State Senator will face the winner of the Democratic primary on January 19, 2010 and should be able to pull 35-40% of the vote against Coakley (some Capuano voters may end up voting for Brown as a protest). He is going to try to run as a moderate-conservative and pick up independent votes. However, the "R" next to his name in this deep blue state (and the knowledge that he would not support a still-popular President Obama) makes it very unlikely for him to win this. If Capuano upsets Coakley, Brown may do a bit better and win some disgruntled Coakley voters, but I just can't see him taking this. I will give him odds of 10% for the general election as there is always the chance for a major upset - but I just don't see it happening.

Stay tuned as this race is likely to get more lively as the primary date draws near.

Onwards!

The Prof

Saturday, September 26, 2009

New poll on the Governor's race

Suffolk University released a new poll of 500 registered voters regarding the 2010 gubernatorial race this week. The news continues to be bad for Deval Patrick in terms of favorability, but the three-way race keeps him in front.

Favorability for Governor Patrick - 42% favorable; 54% unfavorable

Does Governor Patrick deserve another term - 29% yes; 56% no

Hypothetical match-up:
Patrick 36%
Cahill 23%
Baker 14%
Undecided 26%

Baker's low support is mainly due to the nearly 50% of the sample who don't know enough of him to form an opinion. His numbers should rise as the campaign progresses. However the following "gut feeling" question does not bode well for Baker.

Would the state would be better off with a Republican governor?
Yes 39%
No 54%

This indicates the continuing deep blue bias in Massachusetts as the Republican Party continues to be viewed unfavorably by many residents of the state. Baker has an uphill climb, even with Patrick being viewed so poorly.

The surprise here is the continuing strength of Democrat turned Independent Tim Cahill. Regardless of who voters indicated as their first choice, a strong majority chose Cahill as a second choice. Cahill voters would choose Baker as their backup. This hurts Baker who really needs a two way race. It is not inconceivable that the is becomes a Cahill vs. Patrick race as the anti-Patrick vote may end up with who is perceived to be the strongest horse.

There is a block of loyal Patrick supporters composing between 35 and 40 percent of voters. In a conventional two-way race (undecideds usually break to the challenger) it would be bad news. However, in this three-way race it may be all he needs to win a second term. I maintain my prediction that he has a 55% chance of winning another term in November 2010. I also think that unless Baker can start stepping up his campaign that many independent voters may really consider supporting Cahill. This will be much clearer as time progresses, but Baker needs to find a message that can out-compete Cahill as the alternative to the second Patrick administration.

Onwards!

The Prof

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Curiouser and Curiouser

OK- lots happening....

Let's see, looks like the state legislature is going to grant the Governor the power to appoint a "temporary" replacement for the open MA senate seat. This should be wrapped up in a few days. Can you say Senator Michael Dukakis...

With Lynch taking a pass on the race (my guess is that his own internal polling showed few paths to victory), a new face enters the race. Venture capitalist and part owner of the Boston Celtics Stephen Pagliuca is launching a bid for the seat. He describes himself as a progressive Democrat and has enough money to buy quick name recognition. However, I still really think Martha Coakley will take this race. Yes I know its early - but I give her a 65% chance of winning the primary and the election.

Pagliuca's entrance may hurt Mike Capuano somewhat as he really needs a one on one race to increase his low name recognition (see new poll below). A three way race benefits Coakley because she has a large portion of the electorate in her corner due to her high name recognition. She also has a 53% favorability rating in the latest Suffolk University poll. Contrast this with Capuano having a 16% favorability rating and 33% having never heard of him. He has work to do. Barney Frank's endorsement and his announcement yesterday has him entering as the darling of liberal wing of the party. This is a smart strategy as liberal activists (and in Massachusetts there are lots of them in vote-rich areas) will be the most actuated to show up on December 8.

It is too early to estimate Pagliuca's impact on the race. My initial guess is that although he has a lot of money a race like this will be very tough for him. The major groups especially labor are already lining up behind Coakley and they can deliver votes. If he ran as an independent in the general election, it could make things more interesting. However, if either of the other two candidates make any serious mistakes, voters may give Pagliuca another look.

With the primary is less than three months away this is how the early race is shaping up through the recent Suffolk University poll:

Coakley - 47%

Capuano - 9%

Undecided 33%

Suffolk polling on the General Election in January also shows Coakley in the catbird seat against likely Republican candidate Scott Brown.


Coakley - 54%

Brown - 24%

Undecided - 20%

Scott Brown (who I am planning to support) has maybe a 5% chance of pulling a spectacular upset. Massachusetts truly is the bluest state and the R next to his name alienates nearly half of the voters immediately. I think it won't be 30 point blowout and he will do better against a Capuano, but he is in this race to increase his name recognition in my opinion. Look for him to run for another statewide office in the future.

Onwards!

The Prof

Thursday, September 10, 2009

First poll on special Senate election

Rasmussen has released the first poll on the upcoming Senate race.



These numbers are very early and really gauge basic name recognition as the real campaign has yet to start. Martha Coakley's statewide name recognition is serving her very well. Moreover, her overall favorability is at 67%. If she does not stumble, she is going to be the one to beat. This also means that she will have a target on her back and will be the subject of political broadside hurled by opponents.

Since this poll was run, Marty Meehan has taken himself out of the race. I think it is unlikely that John Tierney and Ed Markey run. We should know the final field within a week as jumping in late has no real benefit with such a short campaign. But if I had to predict today, I think the field is Coakley, Capuano, and Lynch with Coakley looking very formidable - at least at this early point. However, if another liberal candidate jumps into the race, Lynch should benefit as the sole moderate candidate.

On the Republican side, State Senator Scott Brown had a scare with Christy Mihos apparently weighing a jump to this race for about an hour (nice publicity for Mihos' gubernatorial run, I think that was the intent all along). Former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card is said to be seriously considering a run at this point as well. A Republican primary battle hurts Lynch as Republican-leaning independents will be less likely to jump to the Democratic primary where (presumably) Lynch would benefit.

Expect many more posts on this race over the next several weeks. The Prof is in the zone!

Onwards!

The Prof

Monday, September 7, 2009

Handicapping the Senate race...

With the now-open US Senate seat scheduled to be filled by a special election on January 19, it is time to try some early handicapping of what will be a crowded field...primary elections for the parties are scheduled for December 8 - three short months away!

The early odds for each candidate that I am posting assume that Joe Kennedy is not in the race...if he is they will be reworked in my next posting. Update: I stand by the odds I published - for now!

One thing to bear in mind is that special elections have historically low turnout and candidates with excellent fundraising ability and GOTV (get out the vote) operations will fare well.

Democrats

Breaking News - Kennedy not running!

Of course this news breaks a few hours after I post this... I need to find a Matt Drudge style siren for breaking news!
http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2009/09/joseph_kennedy.html


Joe Kennedy:
If he throws his hat into the ring he will benefit through instant name recognition and Kennedy nostalgia. He has experience as a former Congressman and would be able to raise a large amount of money in a short time. My instinct tells me that he would be the odds on favorite, but would not be a lock for the nomination. If he does run, he will have a smaller field to run against however, as his presence would make some potential candidates think twice about running. I see the race between him and Martha Coakley
Odds: (if he runs) 60% of winning the nomination
Odds of running: less than even, lets say 60-40 he does not get into the race
(I was right!!)

Attorney General Martha Coakley:
The sitting State Attorney General has already formerly declared for the seat and has made it no secret that her ambition has been the US Senate for some time. She has the experience of having run and won a statewide election and will be able to raise money from liberal advocacy and women's groups. Although technocratic in approach and temperament, nevertheless I think she will be a formidable force in this race. She has had a meteoric political rise and if Joe K. decides not to run, she has the best shot at winning with a crowded primary field. This primary is one where organization and political savvy will benefit her greatly. Remember, winning 35% of the vote in a crowded race wins you the nomination...
Odds: 55% shot at winning the nomination

Congressman Steven Lynch:
Steve Lynch has filed papers to run and will be in this race regardless of what Joe K. does. He is the most conservative Massachusetts member of Congress and can potentially do well among blue collar voters and Republican-leaning independents (more on this in a minute). He has a substantial financial war chest that he can put to use for this race. However, he is on the conservative side of the Democratic Party and I think he will have trouble beating a more liberal opponent - unless several liberal candidates run and split the vote.
Odds: 30%

Congressman Michael Capuano:
This liberal Congressman from Tip O'Neil's old 8th District seat has the ability to raise money and is a fiery and passionate liberal on the issues which will help him in a primary battle. His problem is lack of name recognition outside his district and a primary race with at least two other liberal candidates. He could catch fire though if Coakley stumbles.
Odds: 20%

Congressman Ed Markey:
The long-term Congressman from Malden is said to be eyeing a run (if Joe does not of course). I think he has the same issues the Capuano has - a crowded field with ideologically similar candidates. Also, he does not have the personal charisma of a Capuano.
Odds: 10%

UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan:
Marty retired from Congress in 2007 and has a few million dollars sitting in his campaign account that he may put to use. Opportunities like this arise rarely and he is seriously considering this race. He is a moderate Democrat and does have significant name recognition. However, he is not well-liked by many party activists and did retire from a safe seat in The House. I think he will pull the trigger on this race though and may surprise with a decent showing as he is well regarded in the Merrimack Valley.
Odds: 20%

I don't think Congressman Barney Frank will run as he he a plum House Committee Chairmanship where he wields more power than he would as a junior senator. If he does surprise us and run, I think he may have the chance at pulling an upset as he is very politically gifted ands would be the liberal darling in this race.


Republicans

I am not going to spend too much time here as there is virtually no chance for a Republican to win this seat in heavily Democratic Massachusetts. Raising money and frankly finding credible candidates continue to be the bane of the Massachusetts GOP.

Former Lt. Governor Kerry Healy took herself out of the running over the weekend. State Senator Scott Brown and former White House Chief of Staff Andy Card are said to be eyeing runs. Registered Independent Curt Schilling may have to run as an independent candidate if he does get into the race (I don't think he will, by the way) as state election laws require him to be registered in a major party in order to run for a party nomination.

However, I am about 95% certain that the winner of the Democratic primary will be the elected Senator with at least 60% of the overall vote come January.

Oh yes...almost forgot! The role of independents who can vote in party primaries may help a candidate like Lynch as we can safely assume that turnout for the Republican primary will be very low and that most independents will go into the Democratic primary. (Full disclosure, I plan to pull the lever for Lynch in the primary as I am a conservative-leaning independent) Again turnout is key and that hinges on a candidate's ability to organize and raise raise money during a very short campaign season. This is promising to be an exciting fall...

Onwards!

The Prof

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ted Kennedy RIP

Today was a day that we know would come with the knowledge that Senator Kennedy had a particularly aggressive and terminal brain tumor. I think it is fitting to reflect a bit on the passing of a political and cultural icon. I will post in the next few days about the upcoming special election, but reserve today as a day free of politics and want to say a few words about the person who Edward Moore Kennedy was.

Senator Kennedy was first elected to the Senate in 1962, four years before I was born so for my entire life he has been the senior senator from Massachusetts. Personally, I shared little of his political ideology, but he is and will be reckoned amongst the greats of American public life. Massachusetts has lost an advocate and political giant.

Politically, he was a true old-fashioned liberal who never wavered in his beliefs (there is much to be admired in that trait) yet he would compromise and take half a loaf whenever possible. His mark was on a great deal of the legislation that has passed over the last 40 years. Bill Bennett, a prominent conservative writer, referred to him as the "bane of conservatives" in a tribute published today and that is a very apt statement. He practiced politics in an old-fashioned way, yet his endorsement of Barrack Obama helped vault his candidacy past Hillary Clinton last year. The torch was indeed passed.

He had a well-deserved reputation for constituent services as he was a very accessible senator with an excellent staff to cut red tape and speed people through bureaucracy. I have heard numerous stories today on how he was able to help ordinary people. That is something that truly has impact on the lives of people, many of whom who were not of means.

To me, the most important aspect of Ted Kennedy was acting as a father figure to his nephews and nieces and being the glue throughout the tragedies that has defined the Kennedy Family for over half a century. That says a lot about Ted the person and his heart.

God Speed and Good Rest...ye will be missed.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Massachusetts Governor's race update

Hi all,

New Opinion Dynamics survey of 445 registered voters in late July/early August

General Election Matchup (w/leaners)
Cahill (I) 27%
Patrick (D) 25%
Baker (R) 23%

General Election Matchup (w/leaners)
Patrick (D) 32%
Baker (R) 35%


Governor Patrick's Approval ratings:
19% favorable
77% Unfavorable

Poor numbers continue to plague Patrick. However, he remains competitive...could this be either take the "devil we know" or is it a testament to many Massachusetts voters reflexively voting Democratic?

Cahill continues to show remarkably well. He is to officially enter the race in early September.

Again, these numbers are very early in the process and are at best directional and not truly predictive. There are still quite a few voters who are not expressing a preference. I still give Patrick the edge even with the dismal approval numbers as his base should shore up during next year's campaign and with the increasing likelihood that the anti-Patrick vote may be split. There are rumors that Baker is trying to negotiate Cahill out of the race with the possibility of running as Baker's Lt. Governor. I think those are only rumors and that Cahill may have a shot if he can define himself as the most electable "anti-Patrick" candidate.

This promises to be a fun election year - but aren't they all?!

Onwards!

The Prof

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Norman Rockwell Is Back!


Yesterday, I decided to test my faith in civil decorum one more time and went to another Town hall meeting on health reform. This was in Hudson Massachusetts and was hosted by Congresswoman Nikki Tsongas as was the one I attended last Saturday in Chelmsford. I was somewhat concerned that the bad behavior and all around rudeness that I saw in Chelmsford would repeat itself.

I was pleasantly surprised. There were probably 175 people or so at the Hudson High School auditorium (thankfully air conditioned) and this was the mirror opposite of the experience at Chelmsford. Although there were some of the LaRouche protesters outside with their conspiratorial message, the audience was nearly 100% polite and respectful of both the Congresswoman and one another.

To be sure there were strong passions on both sides of the debate. I would estimate it ran about 70-30 against the current reform proposals in Congress. But each person who asked a question or who made a point was able to do so without being shouted down or heckled. This is a what democracy in practice ought to be.
_
If anything, disrupting meetings like this and heckling people actually makes the side that engages in that behavior less appealing to ordinary people. These town meetings have been getting a lot of press and neither side is well served by such tactics. It does energize the far right and far left bases, but debates and elections are won in the center.
_
I am not sure why the experiences were so vastly different. It could be that a different sort of crowd was attracted on a Tuesday after work than on a Saturday morning. Whatever the reason, I am feeling better about the process. Norman Rockwell lives on!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Norman Rockwell it ain't!


This morning I attended Congresswoman Nikki Tsongas' "town hall meeting" on healthcare reform in Chelmsford. I have been studying and working on analyzing the current health reform legislation in Congress with great personal and professional interest and was hoping to hear a lively discussion about the pros and cons of HR 3200 (the current House bill) between Representative Tsongas and her constituents as I am a constituent myself.
_
Personally, there are several provisions of the reform legislation that I find troubling, but this post is really about the actions of many of the attendees.
_
Outside of the building were several groups both pro and con on reform - one group in particular had posters of President Obama depicted as Adolph Hitler. I am not sure who they were trying to impress. Luckily, most people were snickering at them.

Of the close to 250 people packed in the Chelmsford Town Hall it ran about 60-40 against reform. However, the biggest takeaway for me was the utter lack of respect for the opinion of others and the general lack of civility.

Healthcare is a very personal issue to people and does arouse strong passions. Unfortunately, it seems to me that some "fringe elements" were attempting to hijack this discussion.

I was ashamed that many of my fellow citizens resorted to shouting down the Congresswomen and the people who were trying to ask questions. There were a couple of dozen very loud and animated folks there who were bent on rudeness and chaos, not discussion. Some resorted to name calling and swearing. Several of these "brave" folks did this from the back of the auditorium where they were well positioned to make a lot of noise and then fade away.
_
There were several good questions and discussion points, but the yahoos heckling from the crowd made it very hard to focus on the discussion. I give Nikki Tsongas a lot of credit for keeping her composure in the face of so much blatant hostility. I don't want to give the impression that everyone was rude at this event, but a sizable minority were.
_
In terms of the points that really aroused the audience was anything dealing with a public insurance plan option, why single-payer was not a part of the reform bill, end of life decisions, and the rationing of care to control costs. Many who were there had their minds already made up and did not want to listen to any opposing viewpoints.

I was utterly disgusted at the tactics of these people on both the left and the right. As an American I relish a good passionate discussion, but when civility is left behind for screaming and name-calling, it leaves me quite cold. As someone who professionally studies politics and political tactics I do know why loud protest and "in your face" tactics are utilized. They can be disruptive and help a given group achieve it's political goals. But as a citizen, I am discouraged at the state of things and wonder how we as a society has come to accept this.
_
To end on a good point, a real positive was the opportunity to chat with a couple of folks outside as I was leaving the venue (there were a bunch of people who couldn't get in as the building was at capacity). We had a nice back and forth chat in a civil and respectful way. One was pro-reform and one was a skeptic, but the three of us had a good discussion and left on friendly terms. I was also able to play professor a bit as neither one was intimately familiar with the bills before Congress.

In my mind I have the vision of the famous Norman Rockwell painting "Freedom of Speech" (posted above) as what a town hall meeting should look like. Sadly, today was not one of those days...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

New Globe Poll on 2010 Race

Ok - doldromus interuptus...

Today's Sunday Globe headlines a new poll featuring a lot of bad news for Governor Patrick. A few highlights...


  • Patrick's unfavorable rating is 52% with 36% viewing him positively. A sizable minority of registered Democrats disapprove as well. Approval among Independents who propelled him to his post in 2006 is only 28%.
  • 61% of respondents agree that Massachusetts is on the wrong track - bad news for any incumbent.
  • In a hypothetical three way race with Cahill, Baker, and Patrick it is essentially a tie between Cahill and Patrick with baker running a few points behind. The Cahill factor looms large as a head to head race between Baker and Patrick show Baker winning by 6 points. If this holds, it tells me that Cahill is hurting Baker more than hurting Patrick. The internals show Independents breaking to Cahill in a three way race and to Baker in a two way race.
  • 63% of the sample don't know who Baker is - he needs to put a lot of effort into defining himself. In this case, the contested primary with Mihos should help do that. Mihos is better known, but has rather high unfavorables.
  • Cahill starts with relatively good name recognition and high personal approvals. If this were a head on head challenge to Patrick in the Democratic Primary, Patrick would have a fight on his hands. I don't see this as likely right now, but possibly Cahill does really catch fiore and becomes the "anti-Patrick" in this race.
  • Patrick has substantial support among those with graduate degrees and suburban liberals. This will be the base he needs to hang on to the governorship.
The Mihos/Baker race is polled as well but there were only 147 respondents for that question. The numbers show a statistical ties, but people are not paying any attention to this race...yet!

The poll, conducted among 545 respondents statewide from July 15 to 21, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points. It is a poll of adults and not voters. That coupled with the large margin of error makes it difficult to draw definitive conclusions regarding the actual race in terms of candidate support, but it does indicate mounting problems for the governor. The hypothetical matches are a fun exercise, but really don't tell us much at this point except that there is a lot of antipathy toward the governor and that nobody knows who Charlie Baker is yet.

Last month I gave Governor Patrick a 65% chance of winning reelection. Based on this poll and other ongoing political factors, I am dropping that to 55%. Cahill may end up being the governor's political savior in the end - if he was not in the race, I would give Baker a slightly better then even chance to take Patrick out.

Onwards!


The Prof

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Summer Doldrums

Hi all,

All quiet on the political front - at least in terms of the governor's race. Hot summer in DC with health reform - something that I track on a daily basis...

The Pulse will feature an upcoming piece on what is happening with that most complicated of topics. We will need a scorecard to get thru the competing proposals and intense politics surrounding this.

Please stay tuned...same bat time - same batty Prof...

Onwards!


The Prof

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Charlie Baker joins the race

Wow - the news is coming fast and furious this week! First Tim Cahill (he has not officially announced, but is very likely to do so in the next few weeks) and now Harvard-Pilgrim CEO Charlie Baker has jumped into the gubernatorial pool.

I am a little surprised at the timing of his announcement during one of the slowest news weeks of the year. It may have been in reaction to Cahill (see my previous posting) but was likely planned in advance to allow him maximum time to raise money (and to resign from Harvard-Pilgrim). Charlie needs to raise money fast to up his name recognition and to take on the well-funded Christy Mihos for the Republican nomination.

The Republican establishment seems to be very happy and relieved that he is running as Christy has never held much appeal for them. That feeling is mutual as Mihos was quoted today as running as an outsider and anti-establishment candidate. Also, it looks like state senator Scott Brown won't be a candidate as he was enthusiastically touting Baker on the evening news.

How will Baker play? His detractors will undoubtedly paint him as privileged, the head of an "evil" HMO (watch for people to come out of the woodwork complaining about being denied benefits), and overseeing the big dig as Secretary of Administration and Finance under William Weld and Paul Cellucci.

His advocates will tout the success story of Harvard-Pilgrim which will resonate during these dire economic times. It appears that Baker is positioning himself as a social moderate and fiscal conservative much in the model of former governor Weld. The contrasts between him and Governor Patrick will be very distinct. As I mentioned in a previous posting, this election will ultimately be a referendum on the sitting Governor.

My early read on him is that he is the real deal and will play well, although he will make his share of rookie mistakes. His previous electoral experience was a stint as a member of the Board of Selectmen in the Town of Swampscott. This lack of experience means that he will need to rapidly assemble a professional team around him to hone his political skills and crank up his organization.

Baker vs. Mihos promises to make for a fun 14 months until the September 2010 primary - they are both businessmen, but have very different personalities and messages.

Once we can digest all this news along with new polls that will be released in the next several weeks, I will revisit my odds on the governor's race. My initial read gave Deval Patrick a 65% chance of reelection. Cahill promises to be a real wildcard as he could split the anti-Patrick vote or may deny Patrick the Democratic votes that he will need to win. Baker and Mihos do need to be careful about beating each other up too badly in their battle for the good of the party.

Remember, in a three way race, the winning percentage is 34%. The math gets a lot trickier with a trifecta of major candidates.

This is potent candy for us political junkies! Onwards!


The Prof

Monday, July 6, 2009

Wildcard...

Massachusetts State Treasurer Tim Cahill is leaving the Democratic Party and is re-registering as unenrolled (independent). This is big news as Cahill is now better poised to make a gubernatorial run as an independent. Governor Patrick controls most of the levers of power in the State Democratic Party and the speculation is that Cahill would have trouble getting enough support at the party convention to secure a spot on next year's primary ballot.

This is mixed news for Republicans Charlie Baker and Christy Mihos If Cahill does make an independent run, the danger for Patrick is that conservative Democrats throw their support to Cahill and he loses critical blue-collar votes. The danger for Republicans is that Cahill siphons conservative Democrats and independents that would support a Republican candidate and splits the anti-Patrick vote.

Can Cahill win the election itself? My initial reaction is that it is unlikely, but if the Republicans nominate Mihos, I think he would have a better chance in winning independent votes. It also depends on how well he can raise money and build a political apparatus to win a fiercely contested race.

My gut tells me that this is more likely to split the anti-Patrick vote and won't hurt Patrick as badly as some may think...time will tell.

http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2009/07/cahill_to_leave.html

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

New Poll on 2010 MA Gubernatorial Race

Pollster Scott Rasmussen released a new poll on the 2010 race of 500 likely voters on Monday.


www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/election_2010/election_2010_governor_elections/massachusetts/election_2010_massachusetts_governor



1. How would you rate the job Barack Obama has been doing as President… do you strongly approve, somewhat approve, somewhat disapprove, or strongly disapprove of the job he’s been doing?

40% Strongly approve
23% Somewhat approve
12% Somewhat disapprove
24% Strongly disapprove
2% Not sure

2. How would you rate the job Deval Patrick has been doing as Governor… do you strongly approve, somewhat approve, somewhat disapprove, or strongly disapprove of the job he’s been doing?

11% Strongly approve
31% Somewhat approve
25% Somewhat disapprove
32% Strongly disapprove
1% Not sure

3. In thinking about the 2010 Election for Massachusetts Governor suppose you had a choice between Republican Christy Mihos and Democrat Deval Patrick? If the election were held today would you vote for Republican Christy Mihos or Democrat Deval Patrick?

41% Mihos
40% Patrick
10% Some other candidate
9% Not sure


4. Okay suppose the Republicans nominated Charlie Baker. If the 2010 Election for Massachusetts Governor were held today would you vote for Republican Charlie Baker or Democrat Deval Patrick?
36% Baker
41% Patrick
12% Some other candidate
11% Not sure



5. Favorable Ratings for Candidates in 2010 Governor’s Race

Patrick

17% Very Favorable
31% Somewhat Favorable
27% Somewhat Unfavorable
24% Very Unfavorable
1% Not Sure



Mihos

8% Very Favorable
38% Somewhat Favorable
26% Somewhat Unfavorable
9% Very Unfavorable
19% Not Sure




Baker

10% Very Favorable
27% Somewhat Favorable
19% Somewhat Unfavorable
8% Very Unfavorable
35% Not Sure


In short, Governor Patrick continues to have high overall disapproval ratings with 51% overall disapproval. Much of the strength in the hypothetical races shown by Mihos and Baker is indeed disappointment with Patrick and the overall bad news coming from Beacon Hill. However, I would caution Republicans in interpreting this early poll with support for their nominee. Patrick has vulnerabilities, but so do Mihos and Baker. I don't think that Baker's name recognition is as high as this survey shows and he will need to announce fairly soon in order to promote his candidacy (Mihos announced several weeks ago).

Again this is an early poll and Republicans ought to be encouraged. Polls taken after Labor Day will be more meaningful as the media will devote more coverage to the race and the public will pay more attention the closer we get to the September 2010 primaries - which may see a knockdown fight on the Republican side (get the beer and chips). As of now Patrick does not have a challenger in his own party, but if his woes continue Cahill or persons unknown may try to knock him off (get more beer and chips) in the Democratic primary.

And there is always the possibility that the President calls Patrick to DC for an important job on the Potomac...if this happens fasten your seatbelts and prepare for turbulence!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Massachusetts Republicans - irrelevant or ready for a comeback - Part III

OK - can the Massachusetts Republican Party begin to make some sort of comeback in the 2010 election? The short answer (uncharacteristic for me to have a short answer) is maybe.

Yes, I know that is waffling, but we are still too far out from the 2010 election to go with anything more definitive than a 'maybe'. However, I will make some predictions that I reserve the right to amend at any point as conditions warrant.

Governor - I am sticking (so far) with my earlier posting's prediction that Governor Patrick has about a 70% chance for reelection assuming that he indeed runs. Late word is that he is signing the sales tax and other tax increases that he opposed a few short weeks ago. He has publicly changed his position given that the legislature has passed ethics and other reform legislation. Whether the voting public is convinced of this remains to be seen. This can break either way for him, but the Governor needs to be mindful that he is treading a knife's edge by signing a tax increase that his opponents are sure to use against him.

This leaves an opening for the Republican nominee - whomever he or she may be. Bottom line: if 2010 is a "change" election the Republican nominee has a shot at this. Gubernatorial reelections are usually referendums on the incumbent - this election will mostly be about Governor Patrick and whether or not the voters will hire him for another term.

The Republicans are likely going to have a primary fight. How contentious that fight is and whether the Mihos, Baker, and Brown supporters can unify after the primary remains to be seen. The danger is that a core of supporters of one candidate (yes I am thinking Mihos) may well sit out the election if their candidate is not the nominee. Mihos' independent run in 2006 certainly took votes away from Kerry Healy. I believe that state Republicans are holding their breath and are concerned that Mihos may do the same thing in 2010 if he does not win the nomination.

The wildcard as always are the independent voters. The Republican nominee needs to pick up over half of them and also some of the more conservative blue-collar Democrats to win. Patrick will likely receive the support of suburban liberals, minorities, human services advocates, and labor unions - all major political heavyweights in Massachusetts. The Republican nominee will need to be able to craft a coalition of support that will counter that powerful base that Patrick can count on.

If I were to advise the Republicans, I would say that Charlie Baker is probably the best candidate they can put forth. I would still bet against him winning given the nature of the Commonwealth, but he may be able to assemble a winning coalition if the conditions are just right. Senator Brown may have a chance as well. I simply cannot see Christy Mihos winning a general election, but if the wheels fall off of Patrick who knows?

Governor Patrick needs to play the anti-establishment outsider as much as he can, stay on message, and use the bully pulpit of his office. He has immense political skills and remains a very formidable force with very committed supporters.

State Legislature - there will probably be small gains for the Republicans, but I don't see a repeat of 1990 when there was substantial turnover unless state fiscal conditions deteriorate or more legislative scandals erupt. As I mentioned in my earlier posting it is just very difficult to unseat an incumbent legislator even under the best of circumstances so small gains would be the best Republicans can do this year. They need to be able to recruit candidates and also focus on winning local offices (Board of Selectman, Mayors, City Councilors, Dogcatcher, etc.) to build up a rooster of candidates with some political seasoning instead of putting up inexperienced candidates against entrenched incumbents as they too often do.

One last factor - will the state legislature approve additional tax increases in the next year? Usually legislative bodies are loathe to raise additional revenues in an election year, but the left wing of the Democratic Party continues to float an income tax increase to restore state funding deficiencies. There is still muted talk of a gas tax increase as well. If the Democrats overreach, it could blow up for them politically.

I plan to revisit these predictions on the 2010 elections in a few months. It is highly likely that I will look back on this post and think "Brad - I can't believe you missed this factor, it was so obvious!"

The next 16 months and five days promise to be a fun political ride! Onwards...

The Prof

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Massachusetts Republicans - irrelevant or ready for a comeback - Part II





The above is an image of the original "Gerrymander" from 1812. I like this one especially as my hometown of Lynnfield is on it!


As discussed in the last posting, Massachusetts Republicans do not have a large presence in the Massachusetts political environment. There are a number of factors that continue to hinder the resurgence of the Massachusetts Republican Party.


Historical Democratic Party Identification

Ever since newly arriving Irish immigrants gravitated to the Democrats in the early 1900s, there has been a very strong affinity with many immigrant groups withe Democratic party. The election of Jack Kennedy served to solidify this loyalty. Today, new immigrant groups are quickly politically organized and for the most part are loyal Democratic voters. Traditional immigrant communities (Irish, Italian) continue a strong cultural affinity for Democrats especially in urban areas and blue collar suburbs.


Educational Attainment

Massachusetts has a very high proportion of residents over age 25 with at Bachelors Degree or higher (33% in MA versus the US average of 24% - 2000 US Census data). There have been a number of research studies that suggest that as one's educational attainment increases (especially with post-graduate work) that one tends to become more tolerant and socially liberal. The plethora of institutions of higher education attract many academics who (again demonstrated through numerous polls and surveys) lean to the left and toward the Democratic Party.

Conservatism of the National Republican Party

As discussed in the last post, Massachusetts voters lean decidedly toward the liberal side of the spectrum. This is especially true on social issues. Although many Republicans and Republican officeholders in the state are fiscal conservatives, yet socially moderate the perception (which is relatively accurate) that Republicans are socially beholdent to the Christian Right, makes many voters in Massachusetts have second thoughts about voting Republican. Having the Republican label can be a drag one a candidacy due to generally poor perceptions of the party as a whole.


Advantage of Incumbency

Incumbent officeholders enjoy many advantages over their challengers (when there are challengers which is all too rare!). Superior fundraising, name recognition, media exposure, organization, and experience in winning elections all contribute to the nearly 100% reelection rate of incumbents in Massachusetts.


Lack of a strong "Farm Team"

With all of the hurdles that Republicans face winning election in Massachusetts, talented individuals who aspire to higher office may well run as Democrats (there is a sizable conservative branch of the Massachusetts Democratic Party). Winning candidates need to have appeal, political skills, and a background consummate with filling a legislative or executive seat. All too often the Massachusetts Republicans have run candidates who simply are lacking some of these key elements. One upside for Republican candidates is that it is not difficult to secure a spot on the November ballot since there simply are not many others coveting the same office.


Gerrymandering of Legislative and Congressional Districts

In most states, legislative and congressional districts are drawn by the state legislature every ten years to reflect populations shifts with each US Census. In non-competitive states, it is relatively easy to draw the physical boundaries of these districts to advantage the political party that holds sway in the legislature. This is accomplished by splitting up areas where the opposition party is strong into two or more districts - classic divide and conquer strategy. Areas of strength of the party in power are kept together and consolidated to ensure a majority in as many districts as possible.


Both major parties will do this (Republicans gerrymandered the Democrats out of a number of seats in Texas after the 2000 census) and Massachusetts is no exception. Gerrymandering was born in Massachusetts in 1812 - the term's namesake is Governor Eldridge Gerry who drew a congressional district that looked like a salamander. (The Prof rarely makes editorial comments, but for the record supports the drawing of distictcs via an independent commission and removing partisan legislators from the process)


Conclusion

All of these factors are considerable hurdles for any party to overcome. However 2010 may be one of those rare years where the conditions are ripe for a political comeback of the long down-trodden Massachusetts Republicans. More on this in my next and last posting on this topic.


The Prof

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Massachusetts Republicans - irrelevant or ready for a comeback - Part I

Part I of this planned three-part post will examine the current state of the Massachusetts Republican Party which may soon have a DNR order if it does not show some signs of life.

Massachusetts is currently one of the bluest states in the nation (note - Jon Keller's excellent book, The Bluest State is a must read for Massachusetts political enthusiasts). The remnants of of the once-competitive state Republican Party is at a low ebb. Democrats have dominated state politics since the 1960s and increasingly so in more recent years.

Common polling questions measures political party affiliation and ideology. Below are results from the 2008 presidential election exit poll in Massachusetts and Minnesota for comparison purposes. Massachusetts is the least politically competitive state in the nation (as measured by incumbent officeholders facing challenges) whilst Minnesota is the most competitive. (Exit poll results courtesy of CNN)

Minnesota

By Party Identification

Democrats 40%
Independents 25%
Republicans 36%

By Ideology

Liberal 26%
Moderate 44%
Conservative 30%

Minnesota has a relatively balanced political environment and social/cultural factors that foster a sense of duty in citizens running for political office. Although one of the more educated and liberal-leaning states in the nation, Minnesota remains remarkably independent and competitive.

Massachusetts

By Party Identification

Democrats 43%
Independents 40%
Republicans 17%

By Ideology

Liberal 32%
Moderate 46%
Conservative 21%

By Registered Voters
(Voter data is from The Secretary of the Commonwealth - October 2008)

Democrats 37%
Independents 50%
Republicans 13%

Massachusetts Officeholders
Federal Elected Offices

US Senators: Both Democrats
US House Members: 10 Democrats, no Republicans


Statewide Elected Offices

Governor: Democrat
Attorney General: Democrat
Treasurer: Democrat
Auditor: Democrat
Secretary of State: Democrat


State Legislature (just 17% of these seats were contested in 2008 - Minnesota had 100% of its legislative seats contested in 2008)

State Senate: 35 Democrats; 5 Republicans
State House of Reps: 144 Democrats; 16 Republicans

Yes, Massachusetts is indeed as one-sided as it appears!

As is clearly shown by party affiliation, ideology, and elected officeholders the Massachusetts Republican Party has a LOT of ground to make up if it is going to be even moderately competitive. 2010 may well be a year where voter frustration amid the economic crisis produce one of those rare moments where a minority party can get a second look from voters. A very similar thing happened in 1990, but the state has changed demographically and is arguably more politically liberal today than it was in 1990.

There have been a number of factors that have contributed the decline of Massachusetts Republicans and the current Democratic lock on power. More on this in the next post...


The Prof

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Massachusetts Gubenatorial race - 2010

As promised, the Prof. is going to take a very early stab at the 2010 Massachusetts race for governor, a mere 17 months and 8 days away...

The Players (can't tell the players without a scorecard!)

Deval Patrick - incumbent Governor (Democrat)

Patrick who easily won election in 2006 is publicly running for reelection after a decidedly mixed first term. After some early mishaps regarding cars and draperies, Patrick has seen a number of his initiatives stalled by a recalcitrant legislature which in reality is more powerful than the governor in Massachusetts.

There continues to be speculation that Patrick is not going to stand for reelection in the face of a fiscal crisis, poor relations with the state legislature, mediocre public approval, and the possibility of a Potomac River view working for the Obama Administration. I place the odds at about 60/40 that he does run, but the Prof. would place little money on that bet.

If he does not run, this opens up a wide-open Democratic Primary with Lt. Governor Timothy Murray being the early favorite.

Strengths

  • Strong support from liberals would make him difficult to beat in a primary election.
  • Great campaigner, many (including the Prof.) did not see him becoming the phenom that he did in 2006.
  • The Power of incumbency - incumbent governors rarely lose reelection unless they have really fouled things up.
  • Being a Democrat in Massachusetts! This gives him about a 40 to 45% base vote to start with. The weakness of the Republican brand here would make it very difficult to take out even given his current problems.
  • Patrick is attempting to position himself as an outsider doing battle with an out of touch legislature (note his public pronouncement to veto the sales tax increase) - we shall see if this works.

Weaknesses

  • The current economic malaise. Although he is not responsible, he may get blamed by voters wanting some change at the top. The Massachusetts fiscal crisis may produce an anti-incumbent voter surge in 2010.
  • Possible perception that he really does not want to be governor anymore and is using it for a stepping stone to higher office.

Tim Cahill - Treasurer of the Commonwealth (Democrat)

The current State Treasurer (you may remember the Tim for Treasurer ads from a few years back) seems to be weighing a primary challenge. I think he will hold off for a bit as unseating an incumbent governor is never easy (although Dukakis did this in 1982 to Ed King) until he is sure that Patrick is politically wounded enough to be vulnerable in a primary challenge. He has the Treasurer's position as long as he wants to keep it and a failed run for governor may jeopardize that.

Strengths

  • Ability to raise money and generally viewed positively.
  • May be seen as the anti-Patrick and able to pick up independent voters in the Democratic primary.

Weaknesses

  • Relatively low name recognition.
  • Moderate-conservative Democrat, but Democratic primary voters skew quite liberal.

Charlie Baker - CEO of Harvard-Pilgrim Health Care (Republican)

Probably the best bet that the moribund Massachusetts Republicans have. Baker served in both the Weld and Celluci administrations and generally receive high marks as a cabinety secretary. Lately, he has been credited with helping Harvard-Pilgrim come out of state receivership and maintaining its current rating as the nation's #1 HMO (US News Health Insurer rankings, 2008) If he runs, he will announce shortly.

Strengths

  • Ability to raise money .
  • Telegenic and well spoken. His moderate stances and business background may appeal to independents.

Weaknesses

  • Relatively low name recognition.
  • Heads up an HMO - his opponents will paint him as the a leader of an industry that ranks less favorably than lawyers (sorry cousin Jim) in terms of public perception.
  • Republican in Massachusetts.

Scott Brown - Sitting State Senator (Republican)

Strengths

  • Well spoken and an active member in the Senate. Liked by the Republican establishment and has a track record of beating Democratic challengers for his Senate seat.

Weaknesses:

  • Relatively low name recognition.
  • Republican in Massachusetts.

Christy Mihos (Republican - for now anyway)

Mihos ran as an independent in 2006 and won 7% of the vote. Always unpredictable and outspoken, he is the only declared Republican in the race. He is quite a character (that is meant as a compliment :)

Strengths

  • Personal fortune allows him to self-finance.
  • Outspokenness is admired by many in this day of packaged politicians.
  • High name recognition.

Weaknesses

  • Reputation for not sticking to script and speaking a little too off the cuff.
  • Not liked by Republican establishment - he needs to build an organization on his own.
  • Caters to the "angry voter", but that may not be enough to win.
  • Republican in Massachusetts.

Right now I would give Governor Patrick despite low approval ratings (see polling info below) a decent chance of winning re-election at this early stage of the game. He is a Democratic incumbent in the most Democratic and liberal state in the nation (except for possibly RI). Patrick is an excellent campaigner with a very loyal following among Democratic party activists who propelled him to the governorship in 2006.

His biggest risk is being blamed for the state's fiscal crisis. He is clearly positioning himself as an outsider populist (especially viv-a-vis the state legislature). We shall see if this works in the long run.

The continuing weakness of the Republican Party in Massachusetts is Patrick's other asset. The Political Pulse's next posting will deal with this very topic.

It is very difficult to beat a sitting governor with the the Republican Party's brand is as toxic as it is. This will be a obstacle for Baker, Brown, Mihos, or any other Republican candidate to overcome. The eventual Republican nominee is likely to run as an independently-minded candidate. No visits from Rush please!

The Prof gives Patrick a 70% shot at reelection at this early stage. But of course I reserve the right to reverse myself as new info becomes available!

Early Polling

There have been a couple of early polls. Bear in mind that it is very early and voters have yet to focus on this race.

Rasmussen Poll - April 21, 2009 (500 Likely Voters, Margin of Sampling Error, +/- 4.5 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence)

Not good news for Patrick...his overall approval is only 34% which is poor for an incumbent seeking re-election.

http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/states_general/massachusetts/only_33_in_massachusetts_favor_incumbent_governor_in_2010

Gov. Patrick's Approval rating

  • 8% Strongly approve
    26% Somewhat approve
    26% Somewhat disapprove
    39% Strongly disapprove
    1% Not sure

How likely is it that you will vote for Deval Patrick for Governor in next year’s gubernatorial election?

  • 13% Very likely
    20% Somewhat likely
    19% Not very likely
    38% Not at all likely
    9% Not sure

Suffolk University Poll March 26, 2009 (400 registered voters)

http://www.suffolk.edu/images/content/edited.FINAL.Suffolk.Marginals.March.20.2009.pdf

Patrick has a 44% favorable and 43% unfavorable rating

34% said Patrick deserves reelection, 47% time to elect someone else

Patrick vs. Cahill

Deval Patrick 30%, Tim Cahill 35%

(Editor's note: text identified Cahill as State Treasurer but did not identify Patrick as a Democrat or Cahill as a Republican)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Updates

Hi all,

I am planning to post several pieces over the next few weeks. My next one (hopefully it will be done by Memorial Day weekend) will be a very early handicapping of the 2010 Massachusetts Governor's race. Gentlemen (and ladies) place your bets...

As the season progresses and as the news warrants, expect also to see a piece on the state's fiscal problems and the appetite for the (almost certain) tax increases that Massachusetts will be facing in the coming months.


The Prof