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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


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


  • 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)


  • 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.


  • 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 :)


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


  • 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.

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)

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)

No comments: