Sunday, March 23, 2014

Baker's Free Ride or Free Fall


It wasn't a clean and definitive win for Charlie Baker. Yet as far as the MA GOP bigs are concerned, he cleared the field of his single primary opponent, Mark Fisher.

A few more days may pass until we're positive that, unlike the Dems, the GOP'ers will have an uncontested race at the very top of the ticket. The debate includes how real the 14.765% of yesterday's convention ballot was. Fisher needs 15% to get on the primary ballot.

Complicating it is that the rules say blank ballots don't count. The party tabulators did instead tally 64 blanks, knocking Fisher down below 15% (as in Baker at 2,095 to Fisher at 394 and Fisher at 15.829 without blanks).

Fisher and I had a good chat at Left Ahead last week. I'll stick in his half-hour show below. He also graciously called me before the convention to thank me for being reasonable and respectful to him, as he was to me despite our political disparities. I can't run a Baker show; neither his campaign manager nor his communications director has responded to numerous requests.

Today, Fisher's FB feed includes:
Dear Friends,Thank you for your support over the last 5 months. I am currently speaking with lawyers about being jobbed out by Kirsten Hughes at the Massachusetts Republican Party "Kangaroo Convention". There were improprieties in the counting of the 'blank' vote that occurred which were not allowed to be challenged and no re-count was allowed. I will let you know our plans in the coming days.
He certainly has every right to feel cheated and to fight.

I don't know anyone who thinks Fisher would win a primary election against Baker. Yet we simple folk who took civics classes cling stubbornly to rudimentary concepts of democracy and fairness.

Conventional wisdom on this is that an uncontested primary is far better for the candidate than spending money and energy before a general election, all the while getting prodded and exposed by another party member.

Today's Globe has a pretty good piece on the convention results. They include a contrarian of moment, former Gov. Bill Weld, among the several saying how great it will be for Baker if he goes unprimaried. Weld says a Fisher challenge would help Baker interest unenrolled voters. As we all note here in MA, with 53% of voters unenrolled, that is where elections are won.

For analysis of uncontested MA primaries, you can try your own tabulation. Instead, look at the stats compiled and analyzed over at the Mass. Numbers blog. Over there in Nov. 2012, Bret Benson admitted the samples are small and Dems rarely have top seats without primaries. However, he concludes that most times, it works solidly in the GOP's advantage to clear the field for governor.

I note and admire the relentless optimism of the MA GOP leaders. I've heard the shouts of the party chairs from the carousel that seems to spin them off so quickly. This election will be different, like Weld or Mitt Romney and such. This is the right candidate at the right time. Then again, they insisted that when Baker went against Deval Patrick.

They would be foolish to turn down real or perceived advantages. Moreover, we have a long if irrational history here of the unenrolled claiming that voting for Republican governors to keep a check on the monolithic Dems. The wide disparity from one Dem legislator to another is plenty of restraint, more than a single chief executive could impose.

So it comes down to Baker. He's trimmed down and comes across a lot more human than in his last run. It may be long enough from his slash-and-burn at Harvard Pilgrim and his Big Dig associations that he can run pretty clean.

We in MA also are quite forgiving and don't burn an L for loser in the foreheads of unsuccessful politicians. Two or three goes at a high office are OK around here. Baker too has the plus of two full terms of a Dem governor. Those many voters who like that fairy tale of the magic of balance only a GOP can bring will certainly want a change on that alone.

Instead, I like the agon, when a governorship or presidency is the prize. Surprisingly, I find myself on Weld's side here. Whoever ends up as the Dem candidate will emerge well defined and with clear positions and personality traits for voters to see. For the other side, wouldn't it be swell to have the same?

Monday Followup: The Globe reports that Fisher remains unhappy at the appearance of a fix being in on the count and rules. MA GOP bigs deny both. I call with Baker the sure winner of a primary, the party should have let Fisher have a go, pretended they were honest and honorable, and not alienated unenrolled and GOP voters.


Update: Autoplay on Blogger started this regardless of settings. That's annoying. I removed the embedded player. Instead, click here to listen.

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