Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Predictions 2014 - What Will the Year Bring? Massachusetts Edition

Happy New Year!

2014 means a return to electoral politics and thus more blogging from the Prof. I am going to take the liberty (and very possible egg on my face 11 months hence) of gazing into the crystal ball and predicting the midterm electoral results.  My focus for this post will be on Massachusetts, (I will attempt to divine what will happen with the nationwide midterm elections in the next edition) The crystal ball is still very cloudy this far out...

Massachusetts Governor

This race represents the best chance for the long-suffering state GOP to have some sorely needed electoral success. Unfortunately for the GOP, I see Charlie Baker's chances at less than 50/50, but do think it remains possible for him to win.


The Democrats have what looks to be a crowded field for the primary. As party rules state that any candidate who does not get 15% of the support of delegates at the state party convention cannot appear on the primary ballot, this field is likely to be winnowed down.

Top tier candidates who will appear on the primary ballot
  • Martha Coakley, the current State Attorney General - predicted nominee
  • Steven Grossman, the current State Treasurer
 The rest of the pack
  • Joseph Avellone, executive at PAREXEL
  • Donald Berwick, former Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
  • Juliette Kayyem, former official in the Department of Homeland Security
I predict the Coakley, Grossman, and at least one of the remaining three (I am thinking Kayyem as she has a lot of progressive support) garner enough support among the activist base at the party convention make it to the primary ballot.

The real race is likely to be between Coakley and Grossman. Grossman has the demonstrated means to raise a tremendous amount of money, but suffers from a lack of name recognition and a low overall profile. Coakley has very high name recognition, but has a problem with lackluster campaign skills and the loss to Scott Brown in 2010 continues to make party leaders a bit wary. However, I think that Coakley has improved on these skills, has very high favorability numbers, and with the potential to be the first elected female governor will activate the "sisterhood" (more on this shortly). This will propel her to the Democratic nomination.


Charlie Baker (along with Lt. Governor running mate Katyn Polito) will face nominal opposition for the party nomination from Tea Party activist Mark Fisher, but will coast to the GOP nomination.


Jeffrey McCormick, Venture Capitalist is going to launch a well-financed candidacy and will probably have enough support to qualify for the general election ballot. As he appears to be a fiscal conservative, this may be detrimental to the GOP's chances in November.

General Election

Martha Coakley is likely to win a fairly close race and become the Commonwealth's next governor.

The aforementioned "sisterhood"... the activist base of the Democratic party with a high proportion of liberal female voters will turn out in force (as they did for Elizabeth Warren in  2012). Additionally, many suburban independent female voters will be drawn to Coakley.

Why is this likely?

The long-standing electoral gender gap, that has men more likely to favor the GOP and women leaning more toward Democrats, will be widened. This reasoning is based on early polling for both the state governor's race and the 2016 presidential race. This shows that both Coakley and Clinton are enhancing their natural advantage among female voters (especially independent female voters) at higher rates than male Democratic candidates. Energizing base voters and taking a higher proportion of independent women than a male candidate (like Grossman) is a huge plus for Coakley. It may mean an extra boost that will turn a close election.

Another key reason is the long-suffering GOP brand image. The Massachusetts GOP and Baker himself represent a socially moderate fiscally conservative model that should be positioned well with the preferences of many Bay State voters. However, as I have mentioned numerous times, the national GOP is socially very conservative which plays very poorly with the majority of voters in Massachusetts. The Democrats will tie Baker to the most radical members of the Tea Party at every opportunity. Expect  Baker to be hammered on this; he will need a strategy to counteract this...but he risks the more conservative elements of the local GOP staying home on election day if he is overly anti-Tea Party. A tough situation for him to be sure.

Independent candidate Jeffrey McCormick, should he be on the ballot, will bleed votes that are far more likely to go to Baker if it was a one on one race against Coakley. In what will be a close race, 2% means a lot!

Both Baker and Coakley suffer from poor past image. Baker is trying to rectify that and transform himself to a reasonable and caring candidate from the rather "angry candidate" role that he took in his 2010 loss to Deval Patrick. Coakley is running the AG's office in a very high profile way promoting the public good and going after unfair business practices. Expect more negative stories and reports regarding the state's health carriers - Baker is the past CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and I see Coakley using her role as AG to expose any practices in the industry that may be considered dubious.

Coakley has her own problems that will be highlighted during the campaign. She does not have a particularly engaging personality and comes off as aloof. Expect her to run as a moderate on fiscal issues and a progressive on social issues.

Bet she campaigns vigorously outside of Fenway Park this time!

The key issues of this race are likely going to be healthcare (if health reform is a bust, it helps Baker immensely) and state fiscal policy. Baker and Coakley have significant policy differences both of these issues that will provide a good and healthy debate. A sleep issue is that there may be a mini tax revolt as there is a ballot question that would repeal recently enacted legislation that provided for automatic yearly increase to the gas tax.  Expect casinos to be a point of contention as well.

This promises to be a lively race, but in the end this is how the vote will probably look - yes, I acknowledge that I am way out on a limb here!

Coakley 51%
Baker 46%
McCormick 3%

On November 4, I can look back on this and see how incorrect I was...or possibly how predictive...

Other Races

Senator Markey cruises to reelection.  As of today, there are no declared GOP candidates. He may get a free ride if the GOP cannot find a warm body.

All  incumbents in the House of Representatives (all Democrats - this IS Massachusetts after all) are easily reelected...with one exception!

6th Congressional District turns Red

I think that the upcoming rematch between Incumbent John Tierney and GOP challenger Richard Tisei on the North Shore will be another very close race. In 2010, Tierney won by a 1% margin. He benefited from the Libertarian candidate winning over 4% of the vote (most of which would have leaned to Tisei) and the power of both President Obama and Elizabeth Warren's turnout machine. 2014 will present a more favorable environment for Tisei and I do think that he will win a narrow race against the scandal-plagued Tierney. In fact, there is a Democrat, former Marine Seth Moulton, challenging Tierney in the party primary. Many Democrats are rightly worried that Tierney will be unable to hold the seat. I share that assessment.

The Democrats easily hold all of the other state constitutional elected offices (AG, Treasurer, Secretary of State, and State Auditor). Several of these races will not even be contested by the Republicans.

The GOP will make very limited (if any) gains in the state legislature and the Democratic monopoly in this institution continues for the foreseeable future.

Of course, I reserve the right to change any of these predictions as conditions warrant - but it is still interesting and instructive to evaluate the landscape for  2014. As my favorite commentator on all things political, Professor Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia, often says - those who live by the crystal ball often end up eating ground glass. Wise words indeed!


The Prof

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