Sacred Cods and Holy Mackerals

What now for Deval?
July 27, 2009, 10:59 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Boy, Gov, Deval Patrick really can’t catch a break can he?

He tries to be fiscally repsonsible by spreading budget cuts around fairly, but then gets blindsided by Zoo officials who all but claim the governor is going to be putting animals in a burlap sack and tossing them off the Tobin Bridge

So in response, he starts bringing around an adorable fuzzy-wuzzy black lab puppy..and the thing nips a woman at an event.

He unleashes his inner Mitt Romney, starts taking swings at the Legislature, takes credit for transportation, pension and ethics reform.. and his poll numbers drop even further!

What’s a first-term governor to do?!

It’s this latter issue that really has Beacon Hill buzzing however (By buzzing I mean, trading cell phone calls with each other from the beach). Insiders remember that day last February when the poll numbers showed that Patrick’s favorability rating had plummeted to under 40%. This news was followed very quickly by a noticable change in strategy by the Governor: blame the Legislature.

Not that it’s a bad strategy. Goodness knows the House and Senate — at that point — hadn’t done much to dispel the notion they were fiscally and ethically out of control. Pension, ethics and transportation reform hadn’t been debated yet, and the Boston Globe was still runing daily Sal DiMasi updates.

When that poll came out, the Governor made a big decision that will have major repurcussions next fall. He decided that he was better off politically being perceived as anti-Legislature, even if meant losing the support of many of the people who worked to put him in the Corner Office in the first place. By attempting to take the high road on the need for reform (conveniently glossing over the fact he never even filed a pension reform plan, and didn’t get serious about transportation reform plan until after the Senate filed their own plan) he hoped to shed the Legislature’s stink, and win back popular support.

As expected, Matthew Amorello is now about the only person with less friends inside the building than Deval Patrick. However, the poll numbers haven’t improved. In fact they’ve gotten worse.  

Just 36% now think he’s doing a good job. More importantly, his unfavorables have hit 52%. Ask Hillary Clinton how easy it is to get elected once your unfavorabilities cross 50%. Those numbers don’t come down very easily, especially not here in cynical Massachusetts.

Naturally, his numbers look even worse when put next to those of Charlie Baker and Tim Cahill. But neither Baker nor Cahill has fully gone through the media’s “build them up so you can tear them down” routine.  Cahill has received some bad headlines regarding close ties with lobbyists but nothing that’s really stuck with the public.

Cahill’s biggest challenge right now is getting a machine behind him. Sure, it’s great to have media coverage and have your name mentioned in prestigious blogs, such as this one, as a major contender, but it doesn’t get you very far if you don’t havea  small army of people holding signs, making phone calls, stuffing fundraiser invites, and all the little stuff that gets people elected. His last real race was in 2002 and the difference between the machine needed for a treasurer’s race and a governor’s race is the difference between running for library board of trustees and state representative. Ideally, he’ll quietly receive help from many of the same legislators that worked behind the scenes for Gov. Patrick in 2006. But  that type of support only goes so far. He needs to score some loud and significant endorsements early on to have a shot.

As for Baker, his biggest threat comes from Christy Mihos. If Mihos decides he really wants the nomination, he will spend millions over the next 13 months — fairly or unfairly — tying Baker to the Big Dig. Baker can protest all he wants that he wasn’t the guy in charge, and by all accounts he wasn’t — Jim Kerasiotes took that football and ran until he was finally tackled by the SEC. But the Big Dig stains easily in the minds of the average voter and Baker will havea  tough time claiming he was the architect behind the Weld and Cellucci years, while also insisting he had nothing to do with the Big Dig.