Monday, March 15, 2010

Even AGs Learn


Raw, sometimes insightful, sometimes amusing politics often appear in the Boston Herald. Today's gem is a short piece on how Martha Coakley owns her major oversight in his campaign for the U.S. Senate seat — not talking, mingling, glad-handing and otherwise exposing herself during the race.

In fact, from the outside, it looked like Scott Brown was racing and she was in the pit.

She told the tab's Jessica van Sack, "(Voters) felt they wanted to send someone to Washington who they felt earned the race. I’m willing to acknowledge that. The lessons of it are there, and will be for a long time."

Now, she's running for re-election as attorney general. She's already trying to apply those lessons. Two intriguing aspects of that will be:
  • Can she transcend her nature and really campaign?
  • Will the same short-term strategy that worked for Brown do the same on Nov. 2, 2010?
There's a slim chance another Dem will force an October primary for this slot. No one has announced so far.

Normally she could relax and stay as introverted and unexposed as she did in the special election for Senate. So far, her only opposition is Jack E. Robinson. Yes, that is the addicted-to-running-for-something buffoonish lawyer who loses everything and makes fellow Republicans cringe.

Her opening message on the campaign site does not mention how she blew the Senate race. Instead, she pitches what a valiant, successful and relentless fighter she is for the commonwealth's citizens. In typical miss-two-beats style, Robinson's site as of this morning still has him running for that Senate seat in his meet-the-candidate message. We assume that as he filed for the AG slot and endorsed Brown on that same site that he knows he lost that in his party's primary a few months ago.

Coakley says she won't take the race for granted...this time. The Herald article rubs that in with a quote from a Newton Whole Foods shopper seeing her in the store — "It’s great she comes out and meets people. I wonder if there had been more of that if the result would have been different."

Here's betting that Coakley wins, but that she won't do it in a new persona. She won't transform herself into a gregarious professional pol.

One of the few amusing comments from her during the Senate campaign was how amusing she and her friends think she is. She truly isn't and may not be capable of being. It's telling when you have to say how funny you are.

Her other delusion is a professional hazard. It seems virtually all state attorneys general see themselves very differently from the views of voters. The phrase chief law-enforcement officer weighs as heavily as a two-pound badge. The AG seems to feel like some frontier marshal, a Matt Dillon character (as in Gunsmoke and not the shaved-chested current actor). There's also the pretense to the crusading image of an AG, like Eliot Spitzer before his fall or Teddy Roosevelt when he was NYC's police commissioner. Finally, they imagine that voters think the AG personally is responsible for all the good the office does, as in consumer protection.

Looking at how AGs fare in trying to step up in office, they and maybe some of their paid minions may be the only ones who see them in such grand and heroic terms. Instead, Coakley's best case may be the direct one. Tell us what a good job her office has done, particularly in consumer protection. Then say, "Send me back for more of the same."

For the public interface, Coakley will need a shift here...even beyond going to granola supermarkets to greet rich voters. She needs to continue with a lot more interviews, big and little, along the lines of the Herald one.

Both in public appearances and avoiding media, she earned her reputation as indifferent, unemotional and close-mouthed. The flair of candor she just showed is what she needs to do daily.

For our wee example, Left Ahead! was one of many new and old media types Coakley rebuffed and ignored during the Senate race. We're not all that important, but we have run a weekly show for three years and folk like our Governor, LG and Sen. John Kerry think we're worth speaking too. Their attitude maybe just that it can't hurt and may help.

In contrast to other pols, over a dozen phone and email requests received zero response from her campaign, directed to numerous folk including her campaign manager. In contrast, she might have noted that Gov. Deval Patrick spoke with everyone of various sizes and media types in his run for office. It's the way 21st Century pols do it successfully.

I'll be watching this race. Can she go beyond her nature? Will she get a decent challenger? Will the open style, should she pull it off, work in this less powerful and far less controversial race?

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