Friday, January 29, 2010

Well, maybe not EVERY budget...

Responding to criticism of the fact that his recently-released budget plan for the next fiscal year relies on nearly a billion dollars in federal assistance that has yet to be approved by Congress, Governor Patrick said yesterday, according to the State House News, "Every budget is based on reasonable assumptions, and this budget is based on reasonable assumptions..."

Seems to me there have been a few budgets recently that have been based on wildly UNreasonable assumptions. Like this year's budget, for example. And last year's. And the one before that. In point of fact, every single budget proposed by this Governor (and every single one enacted by our Democrat-controlled legislature) since he's been Governor has been way off the mark, assuming billions upon billions in revenues that were never realized. The impact of these unreasonable assumptions has been severe: round after round of disruptive, mid-year spending cuts. Billions in tax increases on businesses and consumers. Draining of the Commonwealth's rainy day fund - robust when Patrick took office - to the point where the red "empty" indicator has been flashing ominously on our collective dashboard since last year.

The Governor is correct in a sense, of course. Every budget is based upon assumptions. As Governor, he is entitled to his. In addition to assuming hundreds of millions in not-yet-approved federal dollars, the Governor's budget assumes revenue growth of 3.2 percent over this year. It uses this assumption to increase (yes, increase) overall spending by three percent. That gives him a cushy little 0.2 percent cushion. That cushion is entirely theoretical, of course, sitting as it does in between two big assumptions.

Now think of it this way: You're drawing up a family budget for the coming year. The last couple years have been tough. In this bad economy, you've racked up significant debt and burned through nearly all of your savings. Do you (a) base your planned spending on the assumption that your income will increase over the next year? or (b) try to find ways to pare back your overall spending, to start the process of catching up with your debt and replenishing that savings account?

Governor Patrick, on all of our behalf, is choosing option (a)... again. Worse, he is choosing option (a) and basing at least part of his revenue assumptions on the additional assumption that Uncle Sam will come through with another aid windfall (comprised of yet more of your tax dollars, don't forget). Oh, and he packs in a few more tax increases for good measure.

Ultimately the budget that Governor Patrick released this week is not likely to matter much. The Legislature has treated his budget blueprints no better than it treated those of his Republican predecessors (which is to say they've treated his budgets like the rest of us treat the Charmin). If recent history is a guide, though, the Commonwealth's next budget will, like the ones that came before it, rely on a very similar set of rosy assumptions to the ones used by Patrick this week. The Legislature will again choose a variation on option (a) - and we'll continue to pay the bill.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Read this.

The sad and infuriating story that inspired Brian McGrory's column in the Globe today strikes me as the sort of thing that could easily become symbolic, even iconic. Click on the link above and read the whole thing, and then tell me you cannot envision "the Gazebo Party."

McGrory cuts to the heart of the matter with the question he apparently posed to a Department of Environmental Protection bureaucrat, whose reaction was... bureaucratic:
When I called the DEP to ask if harassing a man to his grave over a small gazebo was the best use of dwindling state resources, a spokesman said, “We were aware of Mr. Melanson’s health situation, and not wanting to add to the burden of his family at that difficult time, we worked with his family and his attorney to give four separate extensions of the removal.’’
Budget cuts, tax hikes, "shared sacrifice" and all of that... and yet still, the MA DEP has enough dough in its budget to spend time and resources "harassing a man to his grave over a small gazebo."

Disgusting.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Are there two David Plouffes? Or...

Last summer the Globe trumpeted the news that David Plouffe, President Obama's 2008 campaign manager and mastermind of his winning effort, was being dispatched to Massachusetts. "The announcement of Plouffe's role in Patrick's campaign is a sign the governor is beginning to build his campaign network and trying to put to rest doubts political insiders have raised about whether he is committed to running again," the Globe opined.

"I feel a lot of loyalty to him," said Plouffe, referring to our Governor. "This will be the one race I spend a lot of time on.... Deval Patrick is family to those of us in Obama world, and we're going to do all we can to help him."

At the time, folks who knew of my long-standing prediction that Governor Patrick will not ultimately seek reelection thought the news definitively disproved my pet theory. I remained unconvinced (I'm stubborn).

Well, it seems "family" only goes so far in "Obama world" (kind of like "transparency" and "post-partisanship").

The New York Times reports on its front page this morning that "Mr. Obama has asked his former campaign manager, David Plouffe, to oversee House, Senate and governor’s races to stave off a hemorrhage of seats in the fall."

So, either there are two David Plouffes out there, or the White House has determined to kick Governor Patrick (along with all of his Yes We Can! baggage) to the curb.... or the White House knows something we don't.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Important effort - lousy timing! Or is it...?

You're a back-benching Democrat in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. You do not like the way the House is managed by Speaker Robert DeLeo. You know that in a chamber that is totally and completely controlled by the Speaker and his small leadership coterie, where dissent is stifled and rebellion is virtually unheard of, you run a huge professional risk by sticking your head above the masses and raising a complaint. Still, you are fed up - and you, along with seven of your colleagues, decide to speak up.

And you pick this week. THIS WEEK!!?? When all the world is focused on one and only one political story. When the Governor's lame state of the state address creates barely a ripple in the sea of Scott Brown coverage. You pick this week to raise up your head and voice your complaints. Astounding.

Okay, after that verbose intro, here is what I'm blogging about (since God knows you did not read about it in the paper this morning):

Barely a year after he took office promising a more open, collaborative leadership style (not that the promises were all that credible at the time), Speaker DeLeo finds himself the target of an unthinkable open rebellion by a small group of eight Democratic lawmakers. From the State House News:
Eight disenfranchised House members, feeling the branch has become undemocratic and the committee process “irrelevant,” are asking colleagues to join them in efforts to reel in House Speaker Robert DeLeo, arguing the House Speaker “determines everything.”

Saying bills no longer reach the floor because of their merits as judged by committees and instead are debated only if permitted by DeLeo, the representatives say they’ll push for greater transparency in House operations and procedural changes they say will take away from the “consolidation of power” in DeLeo’s office.

“A representative form of government is supposed to give us all a voice at the table so the interests of our constituents are adequately represented, but when all power is put in the hands of one person, it corrupts that process and opens the door to abuse,” the representatives wrote in an email circulated Thursday.

The email, entitled “The Larger Problem in the House,” was presented by Reps. Matthew Patrick, Thomas Stanley, Lida Harkins, William Greene Jr., Will Brownsberger, Steven D’Amico, Joseph Driscoll and John Quinn. The rank-and-file Democrats are not part of DeLeo’s leadership team...
The legislators describe a House where the committee process is “irrelevant,” where details of the House’s $47 million budget are kept secret, where members are apprehensive about voting against leadership’s wishes, where floor debate is often “meaningless,” and where lobbyists have “more power because they know that if they get the Speaker behind a bill, it will pass.”

“A Speaker now determines everything in the Massachusetts House,” the representatives wrote. “He determines which bills come to the floor for a debate, and he appoints his paid and unpaid leadership team that constitutes a majority when the Republicans take themselves out of the picture. When in his favor, he may give members good office space, additional staff or, more importantly, allow budget amendments to pass.”
The problems identified by these sudden insurgents are not new. They existed under now-indicted Speaker Sal DiMasi. They existed under each of his also-indicted predecessors. So what has changed? Why are Democrats, albeit just a tiny minority of them, speaking up now?

Hmmmm. Here's a thought. Maybe the timing of this little rebellion isn't so perplexing after all... Maybe the eight signatories to this week's legislative declaration of disenfranchisement just have better political survival instincts than their many still silent colleagues.

House Minority Leader Brad Jones responded to the insurrection with his own email, accurately pointing out that many of the reforms proposed by the tiny band of Democratic rebels have been repeatedly proposed by House Republicans over the years, only to be stifled by uniform Democratic opposition. "These votes would indicate that “THE LARGER PROBLEM IN THE MASSACHUSETTS HOUSE” is the one-party domination in the legislature the cure for which lies at the ballot box," Jones wrote.

Prior to this past Tuesday, legislative Democrats would have haughtily scoffed at Jones's invocation of the 'ballot box solution.'

Post Scott Brown, they aren't scoffing any more.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A challenge

Can someone out there cite for me another Congressional election that had, by itself, a greater immediate impact on national affairs than did Scott Brown's stunning win on Tuesday? I cannot think any that come close.

As exhibit A, I offer this article from the Associated Press, reporting on Speaker Pelosi's new-found sobriety on health care reform:

WASHINGTON – Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that she lacks the votes to quickly move the Senate's sweeping health overhaul bill through the House, a potentially devastating blow to President Barack Obama's signature issue.

Pelosi, D-Calif., made the comment to reporters after House Democrats held a closed-door meeting at which participants vented frustration with the Senate's massive version of the legislation.

Her concession meant there was little hope for a White House-backed plan to quickly push the Senate-approved health bill through the House, followed by a separate measure making changes sought by House members, such as easing the Senate's tax on higher-cost health plans. Such an approach would be "problematic," she said, though Democrats haven't completely ruled out pursuing it.

"In its present form without any changes I don't think it's possible to pass the Senate bill in the House," Pelosi said, adding, "I don't see the votes for it at this time."

This represents a 180 degree turn compared to the cram-it-through strategy that the Democrats have pursued for months, through this past weekend, and the pivot is 100%, completely and totally due to Scott Brown's election and the resulting political reverberations that are slamming back and forth through the Democratic caucus room.

This change will not just mean an enormous political defeat for the President. It will not only mean the end of an ill-conceived, gigantic monstrosity of a bill. It will mean that the enormous tax increases baked into the bill will not be implemented. It will mean that the vessel through which Congressional liberals intended to smuggle European-style single-payer health care into the United States will not be built. It will mean the unfathomable debt that would have been created by this wrongheaded plan will be avoided. It is a huge, massive, gargantuan big deal.
"We're not in a big rush" on health care, Pelosi said. "Pause, reflect."
An excellent idea. And a pause that could have been useful, both politically and substantively, much earlier in the process. Now it is too late - Pelosi and her cronies will be reflecting over a political corpse. And thank goodness (and Scott Brown) for that.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Perfect Storm

Well holy moly. I'd almost convinced myself that what I think just happened actually happened. Then I clicked into the Drudge Report, saw the screen below, and was slapped back into the sense that someone slipped me a mickey and I'm in the midst of a very vivid hallucination.

A lot of commentary flying around this morning, of course, both local and national. There are the petty, nasty hissy-fits of the folks whose worldview simply cannot allow for such a development as the election of a Republican to represent Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate (he'll be sitting in the Brown Seat, by the way). I'm not reading those today. Those people don't matter a whit today.

Then there are two primary camps: those who argue the result was a referendum on President Obama and/or health care; and those who think this was all about a terrible campaign matched up with a surprisingly nimble and efficient one.

Personally, I think the real story is a combination of both, plus another crucial factor that, with very few exceptions, the national media is missing. Yes, 56% of voters who turned out told Suffolk polling that health care was their top issue, so there's plenty of support for the "referendum" argument. Yes, the Coakley campaign was a picture of disconnected ineptitude from the day after the primary through last night. And yes, from the day that he announced Scott Brown busted his rear tirelessly, 7 days a week, all across the Commonwealth.

But there was another piece too, which I think helps to explain why all of those independents and conservative democrats turned out yesterday to pull a lever: the fed-up Massachusetts factor. The aggregation of DiMasi, and Gallucio, and Wilkerson, and Marzilli, and Turner, and the tax hikes, and the budgetary ineptitude, and the profound voter disappointment in Governor Patrick. While none of these bore directly upon the choice between Scott Brown and Martha Coakley for the U.S. Senate, they provided a subtext that motivated many thousands of people who would not otherwise have bothered to participate to get out and vote.

Today the country is focused on whether the White House and Congressional Democrats will receive and correctly interpret the message Massachusetts sent yesterday on behalf of a frustrated and ornery national electorate. In Massachusetts, however, it is fair to wonder if Beacon Hill's Democrats will get the message too. Time and again they have proved themselves to be a remarkably reality-resistant bunch.

Next November is a lifetime away. If the sea change that occurred between President Obama's inauguration in January and last night proved anything, it proved that these days the political worm turns awfully fast. Unless their heads are well and truly buried deep in the sand, though, there have to be a lot of Democrats on Beacon Hill this morning wondering if the coalition of Republicans, Independents and fed-up Democrats that Scott Brown built is coming for them next.

I think it is.

UPDATE: 1/21: Margery Egan agrees (yikes.) So does the Associated Press.

Monday, January 18, 2010

VOTE.

Working for Scott tomorrow. Not blogging. I'll say this: the "vibe" out there is the polar opposite of what it was a year ago last November. It is unbelievable. Don't blow it. Don't read those polls and assume history will be made whether or not you participate. Go vote, and make sure everyone you know does too.



Poll update. Holy Moly.

Politico has Brown up 9 and Coakley "in freefall."
"I actually think the bottom is falling out," said InsiderAdvantage CEO Matt Towery, referring to Coakley's fall in the polls over the last ten days. "I think that this candidate is in freefall. Clearly this race is imploding for her."
Suffolk has Brown up by HUGE margins (high double digits) in their "bellwether town" poll (which has a record of predicting outcomes within roughly 1%).
"Brown has continued to build on the momentum that we saw last week in the SuffolkUniversity statewide poll," said David Paleologos, director of the SuffolkUniversityPoliticalResearchCenter in Boston. "There's still a day left, and a number of factors, including weather, can affect turnout, but the latest bellwether polls suggest a solid lead for Brown."
I almost don't want to share these. I almost want to go to their keepers and beg that they be taken down. Not a single Brown supporter can be heard to read these polls and say, "it's in the bag."

GET OUT AND VOTE!!

Still, it's a good bet the famous "Dewey Beats Truman!" photo has begun the rounds among the state's dwindling number of Coakley fans...

Vote tomorrow. Make sure everyone you know votes tomorrow.

PPP's latest, completed last night, has Scott Brown up by 5 - but that is within the poll's margin of error.

UPDATE: AND the Rothenberg report just moved MA to "lean takeover":
Brown is running extremely well with Independents in the Bay State, and unless Democratic turnout exceeds everyone’s expectations, Brown is headed for a comfortable win. Move from Toss-Up to Lean Takeover.
Unreal.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Mudslide

Good lord. Every single commercial break during the football games yesterday played like a horror movie with Scott Brown cast as the machete-wielding, gore-streaked Republican. On my way into the city this morning, WBZ radio ran the audio version of the same horror show. Ominous music, anguished narration. Sarah Palin appears to be the co-star of choice in these fright fests, although to my knowledge she's had exactly zero to do with the campaign in this state. Best supporting actress honors have to go to "unnamed rape victim denied emergency contraception by Scott Brown," who also makes repeated appearances in the ads.

On a personal level, it must kill Brown to refrain from shooting back at the specifics of the union- and Coakley-sponsored attack ads. The charges are ridiculous; particularly the one about rape victims, which is also offensive. (I keep expecting the crew who wailed to the heavens about Kerry Healey's parking garage ad to come out with equally vociferous condemnation of the rape victim meme in so many Coakley ads, but they are strangely silent...)

But Brown is right to refrain from answering Coakley's baloney specifically or in kind. Responses only serve to amplify the charges. Much better to take the approach he has taken (from the classic kitchen setting!), pointing out all of the important issues that Coakley is not talking about while her surrogates fire away with their mud.



Of course it is possible that Coakley's 11th hour fusillade will work. Campaigns run negative ads because, all things being equal, they "move the needle" more quickly thank policy-laden or "positive" ads. Except when they don't.

When they don't is usually when they come to be perceived as over the top or desperate. My perception could well be influenced by my bias, but it seems to me that any one of the many ads I've seen and heard over the past few days could be seen by itself as over the top and desperate. Taking the ads in the aggregate, being subjected to them one after another after another, I have a hard time believing that anyone not already firmly in the bag for Coakley will not find them off-putting. We'll see in a couple of days.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Yes, it is petty. No, it does not "matter."

But gosh, it's funny.

The definition of insanity

Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting it to work out differently has been called the definition of insanity. If that is the case, then bring out the white coats for Martha Coakley and her advisers.

An unenrolled friend of mine just received the latest in an escalating series of desperate email solicitations. Titled "Help Vicki Be Heard!", this one seeks my friend's immediate contribution to begin airing "a compelling advertisement from Vicki Kennedy telling voters across Massachusetts why I need their vote this Tuesday."

You may recall that a little over a week ago (you know, back when a Scott Brown win was unthinkable), when the first polls came out showing Scott Brown within striking distance, the Coakley campaign hastily pulled together what they viewed as the kill shot - the emotional endorsement of Coakley by Ted Kennedy's widow. It back-fired, and Martha's numbers continued their slide.

Polls now show Martha trailing by varied margins. So what does her campaign do? They recycle that same endorsement, which already failed to convince voters of anything other than the fact that Martha is utterly and completely out of arguments in her own favor.

It's as if Coakley and her team have locked themselves in a sealed bunker, and aren't receiving any communication from the outside world. The Vicki endorsement HURT Martha. People - even Democratss - are quite clearly telling pollsters that yes, they loved Teddy. But no, they don't particularly care what his widow thinks. Or his nephews. Or his interim replacement. They do not care and are annoyed at the presumption that they must care, and that if enough people with the Kennedy surname tell them to vote for Martha, they will get in line and vote for Martha.

UPDATE, 1/16: I find myself in rare disagreement with the Globe's Adrian Walker this morning (though I typed it first)!:
But, really, this is all about the voters, many of whom are clearly tired of being told what to think and who they should vote for, and are taking things into their own hands... The scenario Coakley used to fear was having to run against a Kennedy. But the real danger lurked elsewhere. It was running as the candidate of the establishment with an electorate that suddenly seems to want anything else.
In a separate-but related illustration of political insanity, down in DC President Obama and his advisers are sealed in their own insulated bunker. While voters in Massachusetts (Massachusetts!!!) prepare to elect a Republican who is running primarily on a vow to stop Obamacare in its tracks, Obama, Reid, Pelosi and co. are twisting arms, buying votes, bribing unions and slamming down on the proverbial gas pedal even as the health care reform train hurtles toward an unbridged canyon.

Insanity.

Prediction - The President is going to steer clear

He went to get the Olympics. He went to save Copenhagen. But here's a prediction: the President's people won't let him come to Massachusetts. Can't have three floors dropping out under the President in as many months.

UPDATE: Looks like I was wrong. Of course it is possible to parse this in any number of ways. Could be that all of the people saying, like me, that the lack of an Obama visit would prove Martha was done convinced the President that he has to come. Could be that he cannot sustain the political hit, among Ds, of failing to come to the aid of the person who arguably holds the key to health reform. Could be that his people are seeing numbers that nobody else has, indicating that Martha's numbers are recovering. Could be the Ds are completely losing their minds. Could be, could be, could be...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

This sums up Martha Coakley's campaign perfectly

A telling little excerpt in the middle of a much longer Globe piece today about the Coakley Coronation Campaign:
there is a subdued, almost dispassionate quality to her public appearances, which are surprisingly few. Her voice is not hoarse from late-night rallies. Even yesterday, the day after a hard-hitting debate, she had no public campaign appearances in the state.

Coakley bristles at the suggestion that, with so little time left, in an election with such high stakes, she is being too passive.

“As opposed to standing outside Fenway Park? In the cold? Shaking hands?’’ she fires back, in an apparent reference to a Brown online video of him doing just that.
Yes, Martha. Exactly. As opposed to standing outside Fenway Park. In the cold. Shaking voters' hands.



And just how has Martha chosen to spend her days, since she's not shaking hands and meeting voters? According to the Globe,
Aware that she has little time for the hand-shaking and baby-kissing of a standard political campaign, she has focused instead on rallying key political leaders, Democratic activists, and union organizers, in hope they will get people to the polls.
Martha spends her time with "political leaders, Democratic activists, and union organizers." Scott Brown spends his time busting his rump back and forth across the state, meeting as many voters as he possibly can.



And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why a Republican finds himself on the brink of winning 'the Kennedy seat.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Martha Coakley thinks her voters are stupid sheep

That is the only way to explain the way she's running her campaign.

Until this week, she has spent the entire primary and general election campaign keeping her head down, taking care not to say anything memorable or provocative, appearing in public as seldom as possible. She is a Democrat, Massachusetts is a "blue state," and she is running for a Senate seat to which our voters reliably reelected Ted Kennedy for cycle after cycle, by huge margins. She did not think she needed to earn her votes. She did not think she needed to appeal to the voters' intelligence or so much as acknowledge that they have a choice on Election Day. She thought that the 'D' behind her name on the ballot would be enough to ensure a landslide election by a docile herd of woolly Massachusetts voters.

When things got a little hairy at the end of last week, with a shocking poll showing Scott Brown within - GASP! - single digits, she thought it would be enough to pull together a hasty endorsement by the remnants of the Kennedy clan. Surely the sheep-like Massachusetts electorate would get in line.

Apparently that did not do the trick either.

So now, getting desperate, the Coakley campaign has decided to double down and assume that their targeted voters are really, really stupid. Coakley has released the first 'negative ad' of the campaign, an amalgamation of anti-Republican cliches and boogeymen that verges on parody. Give it a watch, and then read on:



Now ask yourself: is this ad meant to appeal to the voters' intelligence? Of course not. In fact, it is not even subtle in its disdain for the voters' intelligence. Rush Limbaugh = bad (and in case there were any doubt, a shot of him with his hand extended, palm out, has been chosen for just the right Third Reich flair). Bush/Cheney = bad. There are aggrieved seniors, ominous music, even a weeping woman. The word "Republican" is spat repeatedly, as an epithet.

The most shocking numbers in recent polls have reflected Scott Brown's significant lead among unenrolled voters (who, incidentally, make up 51% of the electorate here in Massachusetts). This sort of MoveOn-esque garbage is not designed to appeal to them. Clearly Coakley's people have decided that the only way she can win this thing is to bludgeon the Democratic base into turning out in large numbers.

A lot of my best friends are Massachusetts Democrats. They are not stupid, and they are not sheep. This ad is going to turn off more voters than it turns out - just the latest in a series of Coakley moves that seem calculated to leave her on the losing side of the result next Tuesday.

That is why Republicans and change-minded independents ought to help the Coakley campaign to spread this ad around. Show Coakley's voters just how stupid and malleable she thinks they are.

And make a contribution to Scott Brown.

And vote a week from tomorrow.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Three words: Arrogance. Of. Power.

Under the headline "Scott Brown swearing-in would be stalled to pass health-care reform," the Boston Herald this morning reports on the latest breathtaking display of hubris and arrogance from the Democrats - both federal and here in Massachusetts - who are clinging with increasingly whitened knuckles to their hold on absolute control of our government.

But if Brown wins, the entire national health-care reform debate may hinge on when he takes over as senator. Brown has vowed to be the crucial 41st vote in the Senate that would block the bill.

The U.S. Senate ultimately will schedule the swearing-in of Kirk’s successor, but not until the state certifies the election.

Today, a spokesman for Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin, who is overseeing the election but did not respond to a call seeking comment, said certification of the Jan. 19 election by the Governor’s Council would take a while.

“Because it’s a federal election,” spokesman Brian McNiff said. “We’d have to wait 10 days for absentee and military ballots to come in.”

Another source told the Herald that Galvin’s office has said the election won’t be certified until Feb. 20 - well after the president’s address.

Since the U.S. Senate doesn’t meet again in formal session until Jan. 20, Bay State voters will have made their decision before a vote on health-care reform could be held. But Kirk and Galvin’s office said today a victorious Brown would be left in limbo.

Ah, "it's a federal election." That explains it. Except, as the Herald also notes, the special election that sent Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (D-endangered) to Washington was also a "federal election," and yet somehow she took office just two days after winning her seat. At the time, the Democrats needed her vote to override a Bush veto.

This time, of course, they need to keep Paul Kirk's placeholder vote to maintain the all-important 60th Senate vote until the health-care reform bill can be rammed through to the President's desk by the increasingly Ahab-esque duo of Reid and Pelosi. Kirk, for his part, casually declared yesterday his expectation that he will vote for the health-care "reform" monstrosity, even if Brown is elected. His statements, coupled with the pronouncements issuing from Secretary Galvin's Beacon Hill office, suggest that the fix is indeed in.

This sort of arrogance explains exactly why the Democrats are in the previously unbelievable position of possibly losing 'the Kennedy seat' to a Republican. More and more, the Democrats here in Massachusetts and down in DC seem determined to drive themselves over the nearest electoral cliff.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

In other news...

"Key Kennedys endorsing Coakley," reads the headline in the Globe today.

Well knock me over with a feather! Who would have thought that the Kennedys would endorse Martha Coakley over her Republican opponent? What's next? Kids who like iced cream? Dogs enjoying hamburger?

In other breaking news, Steve Grogan is rooting for the Pats this Sunday, Bill Clinton is pushing Obamacare, and my two-year-old daughter has come out strongly in support of Kraft Macaroni 'n Cheese (it's the cheesiest!).

This is great non-news for Martha Coakley. Like her campaign-by-avoidance strategy, though, this could backfire on her. Could it be that with the last great Kennedy gone, even Massachusetts voters might start to chafe at the assumption that the Kennedy clan retains some sort of ownership claim on one of our two US Senate seats? They already hand-picked Ted's immediate successor, long-time family consigliere Paul Kirk, dispatched to DC to warm the chair and wait to cast 'the Kennedy vote' on the health care bill. Now he'll stand with Kennedy's widow, with Joe-for-Oil and with whatever other Kennedys the campaign can scrape together, and presume to again tell Massachusetts' voters who they should send to the Senate.

The irony, of course, is that virtually anything these Kennedys might say today in support of Coakley's election will be more than she's said lately on her own behalf.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Excellent column on Martha Coakley's dodge campaign strategy

Brian McGrory's column in the Globe today, titled "Where's Martha Coakley," is not to be missed. Read it. Send it to your friends - especially your Democratic and Unenrolled friends.

Here's the meat of it:

If you're a registered voter in Massachusetts, your friendly Democratic Senate candidate, Martha Coakley, is sticking her thumb in your eye.

Coakley, in exquisitely diva-like form, is refusing all invitations to debate her Republican opponent in the race, Scott Brown, unless a third-party candidate with no apparent credentials is included on the stage. She may also require a crystal bowl of orange-only M&Ms in her dressing room, but we haven't gotten that far yet. Her demands have led to an astonishing result: there will be just one -- that's one -- live televised debate in the Boston media market this general election season...

...For that matter, let's take a look at Coakley's campaign schedule for today. Well, actually, we can't. There isn't one. She isn't doing anything in public -- no meetings with voters, no debates, no public appearances. For all we know, she's spending much of her time at home with the shades drawn waiting for Jan. 19, Election Day, to come and go.

Which is the real problem with all this. Voters want their political candidates to earn the position -- with hard work, innovative ideas, and a hearty nod to the process. The funny part about a good campaign is that voters not only get to meet the candidate, but the candidate gets to meet the voters and learn what's on their minds.

In Washington, senators don't get to dodge their opponents. Right now, dodging looks like the Coakley way.

Glad to see someone is noticing. Read the whole thing. Pass it on.

Sticking to my prediction

Back in February, and on numerous occasions since, I predicted that Governor Patrick would not run for reelection in 2010. Recently, as Patrick has bulked up his campaign staff, repeatedly claimed to be in the race, and shown at least a little bit of interest in fund raising, several people have pressed me to back off of that prediction. I'm sticking to it.

I've explained several of my reason for clinging to this theory in prior posts. Today's newspapers bring another one.

Republican candidate Charlie Baker (for whom I'm firmly in the tank) shattered all previous Massachusetts gubernatorial fund raising records in 2009. "Shattered" is the Boston Globe's choice descriptive, and it is apt. In the five months of 2009 since he announced his candidacy, Baker raised twice what Patrick did in the entire year. His account currently holds ten times the amount in Patrick's coffers, despite a high-profile Patrick fund raiser headlined by the President late in the year.

I've cited Patrick's moribund fund raising in the past as evidence in itself of less than total commitment to a second term run. But his relative weakness in comparison to his likely opponent also plays another way:

At this point, it is a very good bet that the White House is encouraging Patrick to bow out. He has a very strong opponent, who is only getting stronger. His poll numbers are abysmal, and show no sign of recovering. The likelihood of an electoral rebuke is getting greater by the day.

The Obama White House cannot have that. Patrick is Obama's political doppelganger - his Mini-Me. Patrick's campaign was the test case for Obama's. His victorious campaign, run on Yes We Can! and Hope! and Change! was a precursor of the President's win two year's later.

The sharp downward trajectory of Patrick's popularity once he started to govern is also mirrored currently in Washington. President Obama's political people cannot let the Patrick's parallel political track end in voter denial of a second term. The punditry would have a field day. Much better to give Patrick the opportunity of a graceful exit.

That is why the day is fast-approaching when Governor Patrick will call a press conference to announce that he has received a call from Washington with the proverbial offer he cannot refuse from the President. "When the President of the United States calls you to service, you answer that call," he'll say (quite possibly verbatim), followed by various professions of regret at the missed opportunity to put his record before the voters of Massachusetts.

Lt. Governor Tim Murray has been a stronger fund raiser than his boss, and could step to the top of the ticket. But with several newly-minted political heavyweights on the D side of the aisle (Pagliuca, Khazei), Murray - who would necessarily carry the "Patrick/Murray" baggage - might not have a clear path.

Everyone knows 2010 will be an interesting political year in Massachusetts. My bet is that it will be more interesting than most people think.

Oh, and apparently I'm not the only one thinking along these lines.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Memo to MA Senate: That horse is already out of the barn

More on the Senator Anthony Galluccio mess.

The State House News this afternoon reports that it is finding a lot of reluctance (much of it anonymous) to the notion of expelling the jailed Senator amongst his colleagues in the Massachusetts state senate.
Dazed by the jailing of their third colleague to face serious criminal charges in less than two years, Massachusetts state senators were in disarray Tuesday while waiting to hear whether Sen. Anthony Galluccio would voluntarily give up his seat.

Most senators the News Service contacted said they hoped Galluccio, sentenced to one year imprisonment for violating his parole, would resign before a formal session scheduled for Wednesday when senators would likely vote to launch an Ethics Committee probe against the Cambridge Democrat.
Get that? Galluccio has entered a guilty plea, been sentenced, violated his probation and been jailed - and if he does not voluntarily resign his seat, the senate intends to "vote to launch an Ethics Committee probe".

What are they going to probe, exactly? Do they need to investigate to determine if Galluccio - who a judge determined yesterday lied under oath in addition to everything else - has behaved unethically? It would seem that particular horse is long since out of the barn.

And yet even this non-sanction appears to be too much for a number of senators, who fervently hope Galluccio will spare them the trouble by resigning voluntarily. "My heart breaks for him," says one profile in courage, speaking to the SHNS only "on condition of anonymity."

"I'm very reluctant to say to the people of Sen. Galluccio's district that we're going to take action to deprive you of your choice," says another anonymous senator. Again with the horse and the barn. Senator Galluccio deprived his constituents of their choice when he rear-ended a minivan and fled. He did it again when he violated the terms of his probation on the very first day, and yet again when he stood up in court and blamed oral hygiene for a blown breathalyzer test. Finally, the judge deprived the Senator's constituents of their choice when he sentenced Galluccio to a year in jail.

Look, these are human beings. Many of them probably count Senator Galluccio as a personal friend as well as a professional colleague. This cannot be an easy thing to deal with. They deserve sympathy, just as Galluccio's family deserves sympathy.

None of that should matter when the senate Democrats, as the SHNS puts it, "meet Wednesday in a closed caucus to consider action against a third colleague in less than 18 months." If Galluccio does not resign, he should be expelled.

UPDATE, January 6 : So that's that. Next??

"...except in special circumstances."

Surprising (and excellent!) new poll numbers out this morning from Rasmussen on the upcoming Massachusetts special election between Scott Brown and Martha Coakley to replace the late Senator Ted Kennedy in the US Senate. Rasmussen has the race at 50-41, advantage Coakley.

What's so surprising or excellent about that, you ask? Well, for starters, 50 percent is an awfully ugly number for a Democratic candidate who has carried herself as the ordained replacement for Kennedy since winning her primary. Last month I observed that nobody likes hubris, and wondered if the voters would allow Coakley to get away with ignoring her opponent and taking election for granted. Whether the fact that fully half of the electorate in this overwhelmingly blue state apparently prefer not to give her their votes is a result of that hubris, I have no idea. But it's a surprising and - for Coakley - terrifying figure.

Second, and most significantly, Rasmussen shows Brown carrying unenrolled voters (who outnumber Ds and Rs put together in Massachusetts) by an astounding forty-four points, 65-21.

Coakley has tried hard since the primary to stoke the perception that her victory in this race is a foregone conclusion. At the same time, Scott Brown has been campaigning around the clock, all over the state, at events large and small. He's made news and generated buzz with some innovative advertising. These numbers show his efforts paying off - and Coakley's inevitability strategy on the brink of backfiring, big-time.

My title above quotes an excerpt from the Rasmussen report: "In Massachusetts, however, Democrats vastly outnumber Republicans and it is very difficult for the GOP to compete except in special circumstances."

The dual fiscal disasters at the state and federal levels, where Democrats currently control everything; voter discontent across the political spectrum; Brown's tireless campaigning juxtaposed with Coakley's arrogant indifference and sense of electoral entitlement. Could these be combining to form the "special circumstances" necessary for Massachusetts to shock the nation by sending a Republican to Washington to fill 'the Kennedy seat'?

Stranger things have happened.

Go to Scott Brown's website, right now. Make a contribution. Get a yard sign. Volunteer. Do something to help make this happen.

And put January 19 in your calendar so that you will not forget to go out and vote.

Monday, January 4, 2010

There goes another one.

Over the past couple of weeks I've wondered how long Massachusetts state senate president Therese Murray could put off dealing with the latest among her membership to run afoul of the criminal justice system, senator Anthony Galluccio.

Well, it seems that again the criminal justice system has relieved the Massachusetts Legislature of the need to deal with a dicey situation. Boston.com is reporting this afternoon that Middlesex County judge Matthew Nestor was unconvinced by Galluccio's 'oral hygiene' excuse for a blown breathalyzer test, determined Galluccio violated the terms of his probation on the very first day of his wrist-slap sentence, and promptly ordered him confined to the Middlesex House of Correction for a year.



This is very sad. I've spent some time at the HOC myself (visiting clients). That is not a place that I would wish on anyone. It is not so sad, on the other hand, as the situation could have been a few months back when Senator Galluccio rear-ended a family minivan and then fled the scene. He successfully evaded capture for long enough to place forever in doubt the question of whether he was inebriated at the time of the accident. His past record - and the terms of his (now moot) probation - suggest the court believed that he was, in fact, drunk.

This particular scandal has little to nothing to do with politics. This is a case of all-too-common human failing, played out in the newspapers. It does, however, have political ramifications. Or it should, anyhow. Once again, a Democratic state senator is leaving office to enter the not-so-warm embrace of the criminal justice system. That makes three in less than two years, if you're counting - and that's just the senators! Once again, senate leadership failed to discipline the member in question until institutional discipline was rendered irrelevant by the much more decisive and authoritative hand of the law. Once again, the newspaper tomorrow will detail not only the personal failings of this particular state senator, but also the procession of his former colleagues who preceded him out the door.

Over time, voters tend to notice these things. Don't they?

UPDATE: You know what they say happens when one assumes? Well, in my earlier post I just assumed that the prompt end to his term in office would be a necessary corollary effect of Senator Galluccio's being sentenced to a year in the clink. Silly me.

Here's a sadly predictable bit from the State House News's coverage of the sentence:
Galluccio's Senate colleagues said before the ruling that they would be reluctant to vote for expulsion, but were hopeful he would resign if jailed. Speaking privately, senators from both parties described a high threshold they said should be set before forcing out the public's choice. Several used the word "impossible," though to describe the task Galluccio would face in trying to represent his constituents from jail.
Minority Leader / candidate for Lt. Governor Richard Tisei has already issued a call for Galluccio's resignation. Unsurprisingly, the hatches seem to be battened down on the other side of the aisle. According to the SHNS, "No one emerged from [Senate President] Murray’s office late Monday to speak with reporters, who had gathered outside shortly after the ruling, and the doors were locked." President Murray did, however, issue a statement indicating that the Senate will meet in a full formal session on Wednesday of this week and "take action, if necessary, at that time."

Presumably there now will ensue a series of behind-the-scenes efforts to persuade Galluccio to resign before Wednesday, to save the senate the embarrassing spectacle of a debate on his possible ouster - and to spare those queasy colleagues of his the obligation to cast a yea or a nay on the proposition of booting one of their own. Personally, I'm hoping he hangs in there.

I'd like to see who has the cojones to get up and argue that he ought to retain his seat.