Tag Archives: Massachusetts

Kerry to Kennedy? Apparently not

New York Magazine has more:

Whenever a Senate seat becomes available in Massachusetts, at least one Kennedy — any Kennedy, doesn’t really matter who — must, by law, at least consider running for it. With John Kerry’s seat opening up soon, Ted Kennedy Jr. has fulfilled this sacred duty, but today the Globe reports that he won’t run, partially because he lives in Connecticut, which is not the same state as Massachusetts. Ted Kennedy’s widow, Victoria Kennedy, has also been rumored as a possible candidate. When asked by the Hill on Friday about her intentions, she had no comment.

Another Senate race in Massachusetts?

Speculation is heating up that Massachusetts U.S. Senator John Kerry may be named to a Cabinet-level post in Obama’s second term: most likely either State or Defense. This has prompted a cascade of worries that the Democrats are making an unforced error and may lose a Senate seat if they can’t field an able candidate to replace Kerry in Massachusetts. (This is especially concerning given recently defeated Senator Scott Brown’s persistent popularity.) Dan Amira at New York Magazine makes this point:

As everyone is aware, Kerry’s elevation to a cabinet post would open up a Senate seat in Massachusetts, providing the just-defeated Scott Brown with an opportunity to rejoin the Senate without even having to take on an incumbent. Why would Republicans do anything to dissuade Obama from setting this chain of events in motion? Do they have a personal vendetta against Brown, despite his unique position as the only Republican in the entire state of Massachusetts capable of winning a Senate seat? First, GOP senators blocked Elizabeth Warren’s confirmation to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, thus freeing her up for an ultimately successful run against Brown. And now the potential opposition to Kerry’s nomination, Brown’s only route back to the Senate for the foreseeable future.

Of course, any discussion of the hypothetical nomination’s bad political strategy can’t exclude President Obama, who should be hesitant about the idea of Secretary Kerry for the same reason that the GOP should be thrilled. Yes, the Democrats gained two seats last week, bumping their majority up to 55. According to the Washington Post, administration officials believe that the gains “provided a cushion that allowed them to consider Kerry’s departure from the chamber.”

But why risk diminishing the Democratic majority at all when there are plenty of other suitable would-be defense secretaries who aren’t sitting senators? Just to reward a friend? That probably won’t seem worthwhile if an important piece of legislation ever falls one vote short of passage and Scott Brown is the deciding no vote — an admittedly unlikely but hardly impossible scenario.

Alec MacGillis at the New Republic, however, says Democrats shouldn’t be quite so concerned:

As the Democrats try to game out the risk of opening up the Kerry seat, the key factor to consider is context—that is, the circumstances in which the election to replace him would be held. Martha Coakley lost to Brown in 2010 in part because she was a deeply underwhelming candidate and because Brown offered a certain boy-next-door appeal. But she lost mainly because she was running in a low-turnout special election at a very improprituous moment for Democrats. Likewise, Warren knocked off Brown last week not just because she was a more feisty candidate than Coakley was, but because she was running in a general election where the state’s natural Democratic dominance would assert itself. This was what I kept hearing from veteran Democrats when I went up to Massachusetts to report on Warren’s midsummer struggles—even if she was having trouble finding her footing as a candidate, they said, one had to assume that she would benefit from high Democratic turnout in a presidential year. Yes, Brown would be able to peel off some of Barack Obama’s voters, but only so many.

And that’s just what happened. When Brown beat Coakley in 2010, 52 to 47 percent, there were barely more than 2.2 million votes cast. When Warren won 54 to 46 percent last week, there were more than 3.1 million votes cast. The contrast is particularly stark in the urban centers where Democrats rack up big margins. In Springfield, some 28,000 people voted in 2010 and Coakley netted about 7,000 votes. Last week, nearly twice as many voted there and Warren netted almost 25,000 votes. In Boston, she netted 120,000 votes where Coakley had netted less than half that amount. Turnout in the city was 65 percent—way above the 43 percent turnout in 2010, and higher even than the 62 percent who turned out for Obama’s first election.

What does this mean for a possible Kerry replacement? Well, on the one hand, that Democrats do need to worry about special elections, when the broader party base is less likely to turn out. But one also needs to keep in mind that the context for this special election (which would likely be held around June) would be much friendlier than the one in January 2010. Unless the tax and “fiscal cliff” negotiations go horribly awry for Obama, he and his party will be in a more favorable spot next spring than they were in late 2009 and early 2010. There is a chance that this time around, Patrick will not decree that his interim appointment to the open seat be forbidden from running in the special election, as he did in 2009 when he appointed longtime Kennedy aide Paul Kirk as interim after the senator’s death. This would allow the interim Democrat to run with a slight sheen of incumbency and, perhaps, even preclude a costly primary. Finally, there is the fact that the state electorate would be coming off a recent election where Warren and other Massachusetts Democrats drilled into the state’s many Democratic-leaning independent voters the importance of putting party over personality—even if voters liked Brown fine, they needed to consider the ramifications of giving Mitch McConnell another vote in the Senate. Presumably, this lesson would maintain a greater hold on voters next spring than it did in early 2010.

Don’t forget about Massachusetts

These days, the senatorial contest in Massachusetts is getting drowned out by the deafening noise emanating from presidential election news coverage. But in recent weeks, Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren appears to be pulling away from Republican incumbent Scott Brown and now holds a 4.4% lead in the RealClearPolitics polling average.

Boston Globe reporter Michael Levenson checks in on the two candidates’ evolution of styles throughout the course of the campaign cycle:

Fifteen months ago, exploring a run for the Senate, ­Elizabeth Warren told 60 activists at a Dorchester house party that if she had not succeeded in creating a consumer protection agency, there would have been “blood and teeth on the floor.”

The activists loved it. Here was Warren in full pugilistic mode, the full-throated voice of liberals who had watched dispiritedly as Republicans rose to power on the energy of the Tea Party. At last, they had their counterweight.

Now, as Warren steams into the last two days of her closely fought race with Senator Scott Brown, there is a lot less blood and teeth on the floor and a lot more hugs and hearts on the sleeve. She has softened her ­image and rhetoric over the campaign, becoming a more polished and, some say, more conventional Democratic candidate.

Brown, a veteran politician who has long branded himself a bipartisan bridge-builder, has undergone his own shifts. He has risked his likability by going on the attack and has pushed his pitch to the left with ads that feature President Obama and tout his support for abortion rights and equal pay for women.

Brown’s moves, designed to tarnish his opponent’s character and align himself with some Democratic ideals, may reflect the political calculation of a ­Republican trying to win in a heavily Democratic state in a presidential year.

On Saturday, speaking ­before several hundred supporters at a rally at Plimoth Plantation, Brown ­made a direct ­appeal to voters sick of partisan gridlock. He said Warren would march “in lockstep” with her party while he would be “an ­independent voter, somebody down there working together with both sides.”

Scott Brown’s Model Justices: A Venn Diagram

In Monday night’s Massachusetts Senatorial debate, Scott Brown noted that his favorite Supreme Court justices are Scalia, Kennedy, Sotomayor and Roberts, which is a little bit like saying that your favorite foods are spam, foie gras, twinkies and vegan butter. While Brown might have been able to pick two out of the above four without raising too many eyebrows, the more names he added to that list, the more it looked like he was randomly grasping at any Justices he could remember. (Especially with Sotomayor and Scalia; for God’s sake, doesn’t Brown know that they are both YANKEES fans??) But what if, despite Elizabeth Warren’s guffaws and obvious glee–which even a facepalm could not hide–Brown actually knows more about The Nine than we’re giving him credit for? The First Casualty has come up with a Venn Diagram to see if we could make any possible sense out of Brown’s answer (click to enlarge):

 

Bottom line: Brown’s answer would have been way more credible had he stuck with any combination of Scalia // Kennedy // Roberts. As it is, barring some further explanation that we’ve all missed, his four-way answer makes little sense unless he highly prioritizes Catholicism in a Justice. Either that, or he’s a huge fan of the United States v. Jones majority opinion from last term (where the Court held that the Government’s attaching of a GPS device to a car constitutes a search requiring a warrant), which all four model justices joined.

Victoria Kwan holds a J.D. from Columbia Law School in New York and has just completed a clerkship with a judge in Anchorage, Alaska. She tweets as @nerdmeetsboy and will continue to post periodically here on legal issues. Rumor has it she and Jay Pinho are dating.

The Massachusetts U.S. Senate race heats up

Tonight incumbent Republican Scott Brown debated Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren once again, and the exchanges were a bit more hostile this time. (David Gregory, as the moderator, was spotty at best.)

What I continue to find interesting about this race is how different the tenor — and how much lower the production values — are in comparison to the national presidential race. Tonight, for example, both candidates really whiffed in key situations: Scott Brown named Antonin Scalia as his model Supreme Court justice (a huge no-no in overwhelmingly Democratic Massachusetts), Elizabeth Warren clearly knew nothing about the Red Sox when asked (she should be at least marginally prepared for the obvious questions at this point; and no one should underestimate the importance of the hometown team in shaping Mass. elections), and then — perhaps most inexplicably — Brown missed on the same question when he had a clear chance to showcase his blue-collar, sports-aware Mass. roots (cue images of his pickup truck here).

On a side note, I ran across this video of Scott Brown greeting his supporters after the first debate several weeks ago, which aptly demonstrates his aisle-crossing, nice-guy appeal:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3FHx0i8f9M]

I’m still rooting for Warren, but it’s usually hard not to like this guy at least a little bit. Except for when he does this:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LAIMc_U1F8M]

Mitt Romney needs to fire his advisers

The man is now flailing. His campaign’s policy incoherence has been an issue ever since the beginning, but this is getting ridiculous:

Mitt Romney on Wednesday cited his record in shepherding through the Massachusetts health care law as a sign of his empathy for all people, talking far more openly than usual about a controversial plan that has caused him so much strife with conservative Republicans.

“Don’t forget — I got everybody in my state insured,” Romney told NBC late Wednesday afternoon. “One hundred percent of the kids in our state had health insurance. I don’t think there’s anything that shows more empathy and care about the people of this country than that kind of record.”

Romney made the comments just before going on stage in Toledo, for a rally in which Romney used President Obama’s health care law as a chief example of what’s wrong with the current administration. The dichotomy of his statements further illustrated the tightrope Romney has had to walk in pledging to repeal President Obama’s federal law, while simultaneously trying to take credit for the state-level plan he signed into law in Massachusetts.

“I will repeal Obamacare and replace it with real health care reform,” Romney said during the rally. “Obamacare is really Exhibit No. 1 of the president’s political philosophy, and that is that government knows better than people how to run your lives.”

“I don’t believe in a bigger and bigger government,’’ he added. “I believe in free people pursuing their dreams. I believe in freedom.”

And speaking of presidential elections…

…get ready for more of this in the upcoming months:

“Certain precincts in this county are not going to vote for Obama,” said John Corrigan, clerk of courts for Jefferson County, who was drinking coffee in a furniture shop downtown one morning last week with a small group of friends, retired judges and civil servants. “I don’t want to say it, but we all know why.”

A retired state employee, Jason Foreman, interjected, “I’ll say it: it’s because he’s black.”

This could get ugly. One of the more interesting aspects of this general election matchup between President Barack Obama and the presumptive Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, is the fact that they both suffer from two very similar trust deficit problems with large swaths of the American public.

Governor Mitt Romney of MA

First, both Romney and Obama are seen, by significant portions of the public, as un-American. For Romney, this is due to his Mormonism, which 22% of Americans last year cited as a disqualifying factor for the presidency. For Obama, this is due to his father’s Kenyan heritage and his own race, as well as lingering doubts as to his birthplace resulting from repeated lies being perpetrated by some right-wing groups.

Secondly, both candidates supported, and subsequently passed, universal healthcare coverage laws in their respective constituencies: the entire country for Obama, the state of Massachusetts for Romney. And although Romney has vowed to repeal “Obamacare” as soon as he is elected President (which may become a moot point next month if the Supreme Court rules the law unconstitutional), the fact that he passed a virtually identical bill while governor certainly doesn’t help his credibility.

And it is this tension — between the candidates’ political weaknesses and their desire to attack those same perceived weaknesses in their opponents — that should turn what might otherwise be a rather boring general election contest into riveting political theater. It will be interesting to see Obama subtly play up his Christianity and Romney do the same with his, well, whiteness. In terms of who has the edge, I’d give Romney a slight advantage here. Despite the fact that Obama projects an infinitely “cooler” public persona, a significant portion of the American public is still reticent (or racist) enough about his identity to such an extent that Romney can exploit this discomfort for electoral gain. Conversely, while Obama can try to very gently remind Americans of Romney’s Mormonism (to be clear, I find it ludicrous and disgusting that anyone wouldn’t vote for Romney based on his Mormonism, but that probably won’t stop Obama from trying), he likely won’t score as many points with this as Romney can with the “un-American” verbal grenades he’ll be tossing at Obama.

Cropped version of File:Official portrait of B...

On health care, however, I think the situation is flipped. Obama has the advantage here, as Romney has made Obamacare’s repeal a central cog of his presidential election campaign and yet passed basically the same thing in Massachusetts. His problem is one of credibility, especially given the massive attention being paid to the questions of whether he is sufficiently conservative and whether he has a real “core.” Obama, on the other hand, will likely be in a superior position, since it’s a law he passed as President and he is clearly interested in keeping it on the books. His weaknesses are twofold: 1) although individual elements of the law remain popular, the overall legislation is not; and 2) Obama has shown a surprising (and absolutely infuriating) tendency to back away from his own legislative achievements. If he wants to own Romney on the health care question, he needs to be unequivocal in his support for the health care bill he passed. Of course, Romney can then use this firmness to try to showcase how Obama’s out of step with the American public, but again, he’ll run straight into the credibility buzz-saw (since he passed the same thing at the state level).

This could end up being a very delicate tap-dance in the debates. Meanwhile, the TV ads will likely get really ugly, on both sides.