Sunday, October 26, 2014

Thoughts on the MA Governor's race and the Globe endorsement of Baker

The main paper in my old hometown has endorsed Republican Charlie Baker. As the nominal "liberal" paper in town, this has been the topic of a good amount of discussion, but really not much surprise. Baker has done a good job of portraying competence, while Coakley has been foundering. Again.

I have two thoughts here. First, more of an obervation. I'm eternally unimpressed with Coakley, but after the primaries I thought she had an upper hand. I thought her choice to let the LG race play out on it's own was smart. It allowed Steve Kerrigan to build up an electoral base, something Baker missed out on by hand-picking Polito (who is awful, for what it's worth). But the difference between Baker and Coakley in the time sine the primaries has been too much to ignore. Baker has a tendency to have a bit of an abrasive personality, but he has been forceful and consistent in his argument. Meanwhile, as a liberal myself, it is heartbreaking to see Coakley just totally unable to illustrate either her own agenda or the underlying arguments for liberalism in general. I don't think she's like Mitt Romney in that she has no agenda other than that she wants to be elected. Rather, I think she's just an abysmal communicator.

Second thought, and it is a more cynical one. The Boston Globe is interesting in selling papers. I do think they lean slightly to the left editorially, as the market it caters to does the same. But most of its leftist leanings come in the categories of foreign policy (which doesn't apply to Baker) an social issues (Baker is a moderate). The Globe has never been particularly progressive fiscally, and as Dan Kennedy of Northeastern University pointed out, Baker is the type of Republican the Globe has typically been attracted to. Anyhow, in order to keep its status as an independent arbiter, it makes sense to occasionally endorse a Republican. Unlike, say, Scott Brown who seemed to run a personalist campaign based on the fact that he'd be an "independent voice" while bending over backwards to avoid saying what that meant, Baker has outlined a policy agenda. You can call his agenda bullplop if you want. (And you should. It's bullplop). But at least it's something concrete-ish. So there's some meat there.

The point I'm getting around to is that, Baker and Coakley have given the Globe an opportunity to show off its own legitamacy. It's endorsements carry more weight in both the long and short term if it isn't just a down-the-line Democratic ticket. Compare this approach to the rival Boston Herald, which endorsed the embarrassingly unqualified Gabriel Gomez over Ed Markey in 2013. I don't know that the Globe entirely buys that Baker would make a better governor than Coakley, just that there's enough reason to believe Baker is more competent for the Globe to use this race as a chance to say "See! We endorse Republicans too!"

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