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

No comments: