Don Roach: Can Charlie Baker Appeal to the Masses?
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
For full disclosure I had not heard of Charlie Baker prior to meeting him last week. I’m not a big Massachusetts political aficionado as my state political knowledge ends at the town limits of Burriville. Nonetheless, I did some homework before seeing Baker finding that he was known for four things, his time as part of the Weld administration, the Big Dig, turning around Harvard Pilgrim, and losing to a seemingly beatable Deval Patrick in 2010. Well, there’s one more thing and that is, among Republicans, Baker has been viewed as the ‘next big thing’ in Massachusetts for quite some time.
From what I’ve read about him, he’s socially liberal and fiscally moderate. I even discovered that Baker’s 2010 running mate was a gay man. I somewhat cringe at writing that because certainly, gay or straight, if you’ve got the right ideas to run a state, you can do so. Nonetheless, a social liberal and fiscal conservative definitely can win in New England and many politicos say that’s pretty much in the “sweet spot” for Republicans in the Northeast. Republicans like myself, socially conservative and fiscally moderate, run reverse of New England culture.
Yet, Baker lost to Deval Patrick in 2010 and Patrick wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire during his first term. When I look at Baker’s resume, on paper he appears to be the quintessential executive, someone who has had success in both the public and private sectors. I wish I had more knowledge around his involvement with the Big Dig, but even if Baker was the instrument of evil in that debacle – the rest of his storyline is quite impressive.
So why did he lose and can he appeal to those who didn’t vote for him last time? My cursory view shows that two things contributed to his loss, a third candidate who took votes away from Baker and Baker’s style was seen as aloof, un-relatable, and at times ‘shifty’ on issues such as the Big Dig.
Tim Cahill, the third candidate probably drew anti-Patrick voters away in much the same way Block pulled moderate voters from John Robitaille. Furthermore, Patrick, for all of his warts, comes across as ‘relatable’ and as a guy you could see yourself talking to at any social event.
When I asked some of my Facebook friends who live in MA about Baker, none had positive things to say about Baker the candidate. Yeah, my few dozen MA friends don’t represent MA but I do believe they reflect the challenge for Baker in the upcoming election. In order to win, he’s going to need to ‘inspire’ in some way. Having the right resume, background, pedigree or whatever you want to call it, may not cut it. Politics is not a meritocracy; it’s a game of who can get the most people to believe in you.
To aide in that effort, my suggestion in 2014 would be for Baker not to follow the Romney 2012 Presidential election script by shifting right in the primary and trying to pivot left in the general election. Romney was deservedly attacked for this and it undid his campaign. Baker is not a social conservative and so the rightwing of the Republican Party will certainly address those issues with him. But if he tries to placate them in the primary by assuaging some of his positions or even moving right then he’ll be fodder in the fall. And just like with Romney in 2012, deservedly so.
Instead, call it like it is – he’s a social liberal (or moderate depending on your own social positions) and a fiscal conservative. He believes he has the right ideas for the state of MA and it’s his job to build the credibility amongst voters that he can do just that.
He failed in 2010 but, will he learn from those mistakes to make a successful run in 2014?
Don Roach can be reached at email@example.com . You can also read Don’s tweets at @donroach34.
Related Slideshow: New England Communities With the Most Political Clout 2013
The Sunlight Foundation, in conjunction with Azavea, released data maps this week showing political contribution dollars to federal elections dating back to 1990 -- by county.
GoLocal takes a look at the counties in New England that had the highest per-capita contributions in the 2012 election cycle -- and talked with experts about what that meant for those areas in New Engand, as well as the candidates.
24. Cheshire County, NH
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $9.88
Total contributions: $759,209
Cheshire is one of the five original counties in New Hampshire and was founded in 1771. The highest point in Cheshire County is located at the top of Mount Monadnock, which was made famous by the poets Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.
21. Hampshire County, MA
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $10.41
Total contributions: $1,664,077
Hampshire County has a total area of 545 square miles and is located in the middle of Massachusetts. Hampshire County is also the only county to be surrounded in all directions by other Massachusetts counties.
20. Barnstable County, MA
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $10.90
Total contributions: $2,348,541
Barnstable County was founded in 1685 and has three national protected areas. Cape Cod National Seashore is the most famous protected area within Barnstable County and brings in a high amount of tourists every year.
19. Berkshire County, MA
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $12.49
Total contributions: $1,624,400
Berkshire County is located on the western side of Massachusetts and borders three different neighboring states. Originally the Mahican Native American Tribe inhabited Berkshire County up until the English settlers arrived and bought the land in 1724.
18. Essex County, MA
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $13.22
Total contributions: $9,991,201
Essex is located in the northeastern part of Massachusetts and contains towns such as Salem, Lynn, and Andover. Essex was founded in 1643 and because of Essex historical background, the whole county has been designated as the Essex National Heritage Area.
15. Addison County, VT
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $15.49
Total contributions: $569,299
Located on the west side of Vermont, Addison County has a total area of 808 square miles. Addison's largest town is Middlebury, where the Community College of Vermont and Middlebury College are located.
11. Bristol County, RI
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $20.91
Total contributions: $1,027,472
Bristol County has a population of 49,144 and is the third smallest county in the United States. Bristol County was originally apart of Massachusetts, but was transferred to Rhode Island in 1746.
10. Grafton County, NH
Contributions, per capita, 2012 :$20.95
Total contributions: $1,868,739
With a population of 89,181, Grafton County is the second largest county in New Hampshire. Home of New Hampshire’s only national forest, White Mountain National Forest takes up about half of Grafton’s total area
7. Middlesex County, MA
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $32.81
Total contributions: $50,432,154
Middlesex County has a population of 1,503,085 and has been ranked as the most populous county in New England. The county government was abolished in 1997, but the county boundaries still exists for court jurisdictions and other administrative purposes.
6. Nantucket County, MA
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $33.41
Total contributions: $344,021
Nantucket County consists of a couple of small islands and is a major tourist destination in Massachusetts. Normally Nantucket has a population of 10,298, but during the summer months the population can reach up to 50,000.
4. Dukes County, MA
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $36.32
Total contributions: $618,960
Consisting of Martha’s Vineyard and the Elizabeth Islands, Dukes County is one of Massachusetts’ top vacation spots. Originally Dukes County was apart New York, however it was transferred to Massachusetts on October 7, 1691.
3. Suffolk County, MA
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $40.73
Total contributions: $30,323,537
Suffolk County has a population of 744,426 and contains Massachusetts’s largest city, Boston. Although Suffolk’s county government was abolished in the late 1900’s, it still remains as a geographic area.
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