read more: Boston Herald
[password]Feeling confident after their historic congressional win in November, Republicans have set their sights on the White House.
But before they pop the champagne, Republicans should consider the political resilience of Gov. Deval Patrick.
Barack Obama and Deval Patrick have, of course, been compared before. In 2008, Obama even modeled his campaign slogan – “Yes, we can!” – on Patrick’s 2006 mantra, “Together, we can!” But when it comes to 2012, the similarities are strikingly scary.
Less than a year ago, Patrick’s poll numbers were in the tank. The public was frustrated with the economy and angry with Patrick for raising taxes, papering over state budget deficits with federal stimulus money, and supporting government benefits for illegal aliens. Massachusetts Democrats had just received a “shellacking” at the polls from Scott Brown. Patrick’s defeat at the hands of Charlie Baker, a CEO with a reputation for reform, seemed a foregone conclusion. And yet, incredibly, Patrick pulled off a win.
So what are the lessons for the national GOP?
Sometimes a midterm pickup isn’t a sign of things to come, but a wake-up call for the party in power. Brown’s stunning Senate victory energized Massachusetts Democrats who vowed not to take a single vote for granted come fall. If the midterm congressional elections have a similar effect on the president, he just may win himself a second term.
Avoid a third-party candidate. No doubt about it, independent candidate Tim Cahill cost Baker the governorship. Cahill pulled votes and contributions from Baker, but also forced Baker to spend time and money defending unfair attacks, rather than drawing clear distinctions between himself and the governor.
In 2012, any third-party presidential challenge is likely to come from the right and eviscerate GOP chances of winning. To avoid this, Republicans must nominate a candidate who can assure Tea Party activists that the era of big government conservatism is over.
Stick to big, ideological themes. The tricky part for the eventual GOP nominee will be convincing voters that he or she can get government off our backs, while avoiding specifics during campaign time.
Baker laid out a detailed plan for reforming government and cutting spending, and he was killed for it. By tipping his hand, Baker kicked the public service unions and government hacks into high gear and made himself vulnerable to the left’s classic scare tactics: “Baker wants to cut education!” “Baker will steal your pension!” “Baker wants to balance the budget on the backs of the poor!”
Although Baker’s proposals proved his readiness to govern, they also may have cost him the opportunity to do so.
At the national level, a focus on specifics is even riskier. The American people don’t want to scrutinize a presidential candidate’s blueprint for governing; they want to understand the candidate’s core values and feel secure in his or her judgment and track record. The GOP needs a candidate who will not get bogged down in policy details, but will be able to articulate a principled, ideological basis for his or her world view (think Reagan).
In this media-driven world, charisma counts. It is not enough to be right on the issues. If it were, Baker would be governor. On many issues, from immigration to taxes, Massachusetts voters disagree with Patrick. Yet, Patrick found a way to connect with voters and convince them to stay the course.
While some Republican presidential hopefuls might be tempted to dismiss lessons from blue-state Massachusetts, the GOP would be wise to study carefully Deval Patrick’s path to victory.
Can Obama win re-election? Did Patrick? “Yes, they can.”[/password]