The pull of Sal-n-Trav (quantitative..sorta)

Something we can expect on September 20th is a bunch of graphics from the Mass GOP linking the eventual nominee with Sal DiMasi, and Robert Travaglini.  It was a successful tactic in 2002 (though the crew back then inspired more hostility), but in some ways there is reason to consider the impact of the Legislature on the completion of a candidate’s agenda.

Below I look to figure out and quantify what impact the Legislature would have on candidates’ plans, and take a stab at quantifying that impact on the idelogical bent of the final outcomes such as laws.  What comes out is that a Reilly administration would be notably moderate, and that Patrick and Gabrieli end up with surprisingly similar outcomes.


I support Reilly, and also like Gabrieli.  However, I tried to be rigorous in scoring the candidates, and did not play with the ratings upon seeing the results.  This is all first draft.


From the conclusion text:

Gabrieli would actually be able to deliver a great deal of what he promises…soon into his term, he could probably work better with the Legislature than would any other candidate….The narrow difference between [Patrick's] outcome and that of Gabrieli moves the debate between the two to even greater emphasis on differences in “leadership” and personality…Governor Reilly would govern over a moderate administration, slightly more liberal than himself.

Much more underneath.  I encourage to read how I got these conclusions before commenting upon them.

Methodology and data

I think the impact of the Legislature on what a governor accomplishes depends largely on two factors:

  • Ideological differences: If both candidates are on the same page, it doesn’t really matter.  But the wider the difference between the two agendas, the greater the effect of the Legislature’s ideological “pull”.

  • State House familiarity: Being able to navigate the ways of the Legislature, and find leverage with powerful Reps and Senators is key to getting things done.

I am not going to try to estimate competence. That is an important factor, in many ways the most important one, but I see no way of fairly estimating it on a constant scale.  Time spent in Mass. politics is easy to distinguish, as the ideology on platforms — more on that later.  But how does one project gubernatorial competence when judging from running a capital venture firm, or lawyering for private corporations?

Obviously, many disputes beween the branches of Mass. government cocern corruption and power and have little ideological element (pensions, for instance).  I can’t account for those in this framework.  Underneath, I perform some back-of-the-envelope calculations to try to estimate how the Legislature would impact Governors Reilly, Gabrieli, or Patrick.

I am not including Healey or Mihos because partisanship would skew this data even more.


Simple enough.  We’ll rate all four factors (3 candidates and Leg) on a scale with 0 because the extreme left, and 5 dead center.  This will be a point of contention, but this is what I came up with. 

Factor Rating

Gabrieli 2.5

Patrick 1.5

Reilly 3.6

Legislature 3.0

Okay, prepare your vitriolic comment now.  Now that you’re done, I will say that I found Gabrieli the hardest to rate, not least of all because I have trouble finding a consistent ideoological bent across all his positions.  This is not a criticism — it may be a sign of pragmatism, which is often in short supply at this point in a campaign.

Take the scale of 0 to 10 as representing the notable impulses within the two parties — the Greens would probably clock out at -1.0, the Libertarians at 12.  I’m looking mainly at candidates with a real chance at winning on this scale.

State House familiarity

The other main factor is how candidates would be able to impact the process.  Personal relationships with legislators, favors to trade in, influence within the party that decides who gets how much help campaigning, knowledge of the rules of the Legislature all matter here.

Here, I rate candidates from 0 (figurehead) and 5 (Sal and Trav walk his dogs every morning). 

These numbers represent balance between the Leg and the govenor. A 2.5 equals total parity.  Given the constitutional balance of powers, we cannot expect much on either side of the scale, but there will be some differences between the candidates.  Given that many of the Legislature’s goals are non-ideological (and more rewarding themselves and their cronies), candidates’ pull will be over-stated when only looking at these matters of ideology.

Factor Rating

Gabrieli 3.1

Patrick 1.7

Reilly 3.7

(I rate Gabrieli somewhat higher because of experience on the Hill working on stem cell and after school programs.  Reilly is a longtime public servant in Boston, or if you prefer, “insider”.  Whatever his strengths, Patrick hasn’t had the time to really establish himself within the Legislature.)

Okay.  More questions and flames.  Moving on…

Putting it all together

The final equation looks like this:

(Candidate’s ideology*familiary coefficient)  + (Legislature’s ideology*[5-fam coeff]) / 5

What this means is the following:

I take the candidate’s ideology and adjust it based on the amount of influence on the process they have (out of a total of 5), and average it with the legislature’s ideology adjusted with their pull (5 minus the candidate’s pull), i.e., the remaining influence)

Why divide by 5?  Well, I’m adding the multipler of 5 up top to denote influence, and it has to be screened out by the end.  So everything is divided by 5.  If people want, I can provide more explanation.

And the data is:

Factor Ideology Familiarity

Gabrieli 2.5 3.1

Patrick 1.5 1.7

Reilly 3.6 3.7

Leg. 3.0

The equations are:

Gab: [(2.5*3.1)+(3.0*1.9)] / 5 = 2.69

Pat: [(1.5*1.9)+(3.0*3.1)] / 5 = 2.43

Rei: [(3.6*3.7)+(3.0*1.3)] / 5 = 3.44

Factor Familiarity Ideology Ideological outcome

Gabrieli 3.1 2.5 2.69

Patrick 1.7 1.5 2.43

Reilly 3.7 3.6 3.44

Leg. 3.0

Gabrieli would actually be able to deliver a great deal of what he promises, because of his moderate pull on Beacon Hill, and the narrower ideological difference between himself and the Legislature.  His final outcome is closely in line with his expressed ideology.  Furthermore, Gabrieli hasn’t “maxed out” on legislative influence the way Reilly has — soon into his term, he could probably work better with the Legislature than would any other candidate.

The shorter relationships that Patrick has with the Legislative leadership impact his ability to deliver on his agenda, more than any other candidate.  On the other hand, the narrow difference between his outcome and that of Gabrieli moves the debate between the two to even greater emphasis on differences in “leadership” and personality.  The moderating effect of the Legislature could provide comfort for voters unsure about his perceived liberal bent.

Governor Reilly would govern over a moderate administration, slightly more liberal than himself.  The Legislature would pull him to the left, but not by much given his strong links within that body.  This administration would be able to deliver on many of his promises.  Though this outcome is closely aligned to the perceived mean of Massachusetts voters, it is notably off the line of primary voters.

I encourage you to use this method, though imagine many people would plug in their own numbers.  I urge intellectual honesty when doing so, however — just because you don’t like Reilly or Patrick doesn’t make them a 10 or a 0.  If someone could get a
consistent empirical scale using polling data, that would be great.

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12 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. You Know What's Funny?

    Sal and Trav are both voting for Kerry Healy. They like the power where it is.

    eb3-fka-ernie-boch-iii   @   Tue 4 Dec 7:00 PM
  2. this is pretty interesting

    but i think i need a full cappucino to absorb.  off to Dunkin!

  3. Bad Craziness

    Sabutai, if you hadn't put as much work into your post as you evidently have, I'd assume it was a parody.  Assuming you're earnest, though:

    Sorry, but the whole thing is just dotty.  It has all of the rhetoric of social science (tables, quantification, etc.) but in the service of a crackpot enterprise.  It is a monument to false "precision" and specious "rigor."  Almost everything about it--the numbers assigned, the assumptions underlying them, the "equations" for putting them together--ranges from the highly dubious and contestable to the purely arbitrary.  This is so pervasively the case that there is no point in going through it piece by piece:  that's like debating the fine points of an astrological prediction. 

    I do not doubt that there are considerable differences among the three candidates in the effectiveness they would have if elected, and many of us have opinions about, even analyses of, what those differences are.  But what you've posted tells us nothing reliable. 

    P.S.  If yours a parody, it is of nearly Swiftian proportions.  If I've missed that, apologies for my obtuseness.  It's a busy day, I've got limited time for BMG, and under these circumstances I'd have to conclude your wit is too dry for this reader. 

    • Tough criticism

      Especially from a guy who writes posts with a title like "Which Candidate Killed JonBenet?"  (yeah, that one's gonna haunt you.)  Anyway, I know plenty of empiricists who take being panned by a theoryhead as a badge of honor.

      I hope there's someone out there who's not too busy to be specific about what I did wrong so I can do better.  And great job turning my own disclaimers into criticisms.

      sabutai   @   Tue 4 Dec 7:00 PM
      • Just to be clear...

        since I kind of slammed this one post of yours:  although we are backing different candidates, I've found you to be a sharp and tough-minded commentator on this site.  I look forward to the time when we're on the same team, throwing elbows at the opposition (not that they'll be much in evidence here at BMG).  I just happen to have a thing about--what I see as--misplaced quantification, and your post would have set me off no matter which candidate its final numbers supported.  One of the reasons this kind of thing bugs me is that I don't think it is at all empirical (and note that, though I may be a theoryhead, I didn't call you an "empiricist"), for I think the kind of numbers assigned and, especially, put together through such a formula, are arbitrary and uninformative.  In contrast, many of your other posts strike me as insightful and even more "empirical" (even when I start from different premises or reach different conclusions) because they are grounded in shrewd observations of our political scene. 

        As for JonBenet...well I thought, perhaps erroneously, that my flip header might draw people's attention to a real issue that the resurfacing of that old tabloid case has put in the news again.  Perhaps, as you say, I'll never live it down.  Maybe Ray Rogers will even start hounding me, reminding people about it.  Fortunately, though, I'm not running for office.

        • Don't get me wrong

          The headline on JonBenet worked, and I read the post. I had been thinking it was Col. Mustard with the lead pipe, but I'm no police officer.

          I certainly wouldn't take much of the quantitative value of this post to the bank, but if anything else the numbers helped me consider some ideas, so I thought I'd share them.  Even if one strips away the numbers, I'd consider the conclusions:

          • The Legislature will pull Reilly to the left, Patrick to the right, and Gabrieli a wee bit;
          • At least until he learns the ropes, Patrick's lack of Beacon Hill experience will leave most vulnerable to the tricks of the Sal-n-Trav show.; and
          • By the same token, Reilly's experience in state government gives him more ways to work around Sal n Trav.  Think of it this way -- who do you think has a stronger relationship with people like Terry Murray and John Rogers?

          I'm genuinely curious -- do you dispute any of these conclusions?

          I'll admit that the aspect of Patrick and Gabrieli looking at similar legislative outcomes relies heavily on the numbers, but now that the idea came to me, I think there may be a great deal of truth to it.

          sabutai   @   Tue 4 Dec 7:00 PM
  4. Jabberwocky

    This is the most incomprehensible drivel I have ever seen.  Why not be truthful and sheepishly say "I made up these numbers."

  5. Um, libertarians a 12?!?!

    the Greens would probably clock out at -1.0, the Libertarians at 12.

    That's nonsense.  True libertarians want government to stay the hell away.  Sure, that means wide leeway with gun rights and minimal taxes, but it also means wide leeway with the first ammendment (flag burning, keeping endorsements of the 10 commandments and prayer out of courthouses and schools, etc), and fourth ammendment (ranging from disliking NSA wiretaps to police search and seizure in traffic stops).

    Libertarians aren't conservative.  They're anti-government.  That takes liberal or conservative bent, depending on the issue.  Maybe you need two axes instead of one?

    • I could make use of five axes probably,

      But this started out as a fun post, not a second job. 

      While I have a lot of appreciation of the libertarian philosophy, the Libertarian Party of Massachusetts is a different creature to me.

      sabutai   @   Tue 4 Dec 7:00 PM
  6. If pigs could fly they'd be eagles

    Not sure where to start other than to thank you for the "fun" post.  You've patiently requested a substantive response that challenges your notions so I'll try to present one. Where to start? I guess the assumption that the "state house" as a monolithic entity is a good place.  The House and the Senate don't get along and are always looking for an opportunity to position the other.  Take for instance this week's yuckfest with the House and the Senate attempting to schedule a couple hour formal session to pass the billion dollar bond bill that no one is challenging and everyone agrees must be done now before more people lose their jobs (27 contractors have been laid off because the Great and General Court "forgot" to pass it before the session ended last month).  Sal mistakenly (?) announces his desire that they schedule the formal for the day after Labor Day.  The Senate goes ballistic because a couple of members will be in Russia on a "humanitarian mission" that week and because Sal brought it up the press asks the Senate what about early September, and the "humanitarian" mission is out of the bag.  One humanitarian stressed over the notion that some people might falsely label this a junket.  (is not! is so! s'not! is!)  Thus Sal is slapped around for trying to position the Senate.  This relationship is tense on a good day and will only agree on anything when there is little choice.

    Point - either of the three candidates can position himself to gain the support of one chamber thereby becoming relevant to legislating (as opposed to the current Guv) and none of it will have anything to do with familiarity, friendships, brains or brawn.  A good leader can use the bad feelings between the chambers to build serious support and forge significant accomplishments.  A great leader can bring out the best in both chambers (and there really is good stuff in each) and lead MA that way they talk about in these campaigns.

    But that conclusion assumes that the members of either chamber will vote in lock step.  More than 80% (just a guess but I trust someone will correct me) of the members have never worked with a Democratic governor.  They have worked against a governor who has sought to position the legislature and worked for some very smart and very strategic leaders over the past several years who gave them very few choices.  Many members will feel very different (read empowered) about working with a D administration.  Most obviously, they will now actually have a choice.  There is a significant group of legislators who hold their noses every year during the budget season and vote the way they're supposed to.  While this group is not ideologically uniform, they are looking for a leader, someone who is willing to work differently.  With a D administration you will hear far more dissent in each chamber because they now have cover.  Currently, when you want something in the budget you go to one person - W&M chair.  In a D administration, you now have a very powerful (at least publicly) person who you can sell your wares to.  (I'm always charmed when I read I MavDem say that Sal and Trav will be voting for Healey)

    Point - Don't assume that the members of each chamber will continue to vote as if the choice is a Romney/Celuch/Weld budget or bill vs. the Democractic leadership budget or bill.

    But ignore these points and return to the orginal post which posited the notion that Tom Reilly, whose hanging his campaign on the promise to roll back the income tax, will have lots o' success getting his promises passed because of things I'm not all together clear about.  This is the big kahuna for Reilly and this legislature has shown no intention of rolling the income tax back.  So which other promises will he deliver on?  Given that the tax rollback question will dog Reilly for his first 100 (through to his last 100) days, what goodwill will he mine to get anything passed.  The members DO NOT want to take a vote on this and have done everything to avoid it.  You really think that knowing Reilly is going to position them to have to take this vote will engender any cooperation on any bill? 

    Point - Reilly's attempt at positioning the legislature on the tax rollback is not going to win him any friends and because he's hung his hat on the 5.0 hook, the press and the people will be relentless.  Romney and Healey could sing about the rollback all day long knowing it would never pass but positioning the legislature.  Reilly can't sing that tune and accomplish much.

    So who's got cred? Gabs?  His sleight-of-hand, pizza pie budget plan has been tossed around the Building for years.  Many legislators including Mistah Speakah (the most recently indicted one) has considered creating a separate fund to collect revenues for an eventual tax cut.  It's fuzzy math not to mention impossible if all the other billion dollar promises are delivered.  Luckily most members like and respect him.  He's smart, creative and not tone-deaf.  He's done a lot for many issues important to the members and that will transfer well.  But can he lead?  Does he have the qualities necessary to take the helm from his two friends from the North End.  If he can lead, many members will follow.  He just better keep the pizza delivery to the Dominos.  Let's hope his humiliating public presentation of the $15 million spending cap is not an example of his public leadership style. Patrick?  Has major leadership potential.  Talks the talk.  His ability to deal with the Clinton administration (a chronic mess) and then the corporate boardrooms will go a long way.  The members of the legislature do not like Romney but there is significant respect, at least in the Building, for what he's done in the business world and for his tenacity.  Out of the three he can command the bully pulpit immediately and set an agenda that could actually compel legislation. He can communicate hope and leadership but can he map out a plan to lead?  A tangible document that says by 2010 this will be in place?  He's also got to talk about things that matter to the members - and hope and vision ain't it.  Not now mind you, but sometime before January.  They've got to believe that he knows where their votes are in their districts and that it matters to him.  Ask any Republican legislator if Romney knows a single thing about their districts.  And you can forget whether he did anything to help them there.

    Point - missed in the original post is the crucial element of staffing.  Both Gabs or Patrick will be successful, legislatively, if they hire good staff.  ("Staff run the Building, the legislature runs the State").  To his great credit Romney understood this and it gave him some significant wins the first 18 months.  Gabs and Deval don't have to know the Building, but their Chief of Staff and general counsel sure as hell better. 

    Reilly?  The members don't like him.  Never have.  He's not a team player.  The brand "insider" is laughable.  So why does he have their support?  Three reasons:  1. Check the members' financial reports from their most recent election.  How many (and who) got something from Reilly?  And if they didn't get money, they got in kind.  2. They signed up last year when he was 40 points up.  3. Sal and Trav continue to lead the government. If Reilly is the Guv, things will not change much.  He will not be wearing the captain's armband.  Based on who he is today and what he's said he will be the least effective of the three.

    So what?  So this is fun.  It's more inside baseball than looking at Deval's liberal label or Tom's anti-tax crusade or Gabs' pointy-headed wonkishness.  But here's the skinny, if either Gabs or Patrick wins in November the rules change dramatically.  In fact it's a new game, and not game two of a double-header.  It's a whole new game.  Now talk about fun.

  7. Relationships and deals, not ideology

    The State House is not a very ideological place. While I commend your thoughtful attempt to analyze future policy outcomes, I think the large place given to ideology in your framework misstates the situation our new governor will face.

    If Chris, Deval, or Tom take office in January, Sal's and Trav's lives will change dramatically. Currently, the Speaker and Senate President are pretty much the only game in town for a Dem legislator who wants to actually accomplish anything. Their substantive bills need to go through committees chaired by hand-picked lieutenants of the leaders. Their desired appropriations need to find favor with a senior leadership team member, the Ways & Means chair. Want an earmark for a swimming pool or elder center in your district? Who you gonna call?

    Being in good favor with the Speaker or Senate Prez also means they'll let you put their name on the invitation to your fundraisiers and show up for half an hour so attendees (read: lobbyists) can say hello and mention their favored bills to them. Ka-ching.

    But now imagine a Democrat governor. One who introduces his own bills that look a lot like those at least some members have been introducing and watching die. A governor who can spend bond money in your district and let you cut the ribbon. A governor who can come by your "time" -- and who has a bigger list of donors in your district than you do. A gov who can give jobs to a rank-and-file Dem's friends. A governor who will, unless he is a complete moron, have enough supportive Dems in both houses to get his potential vetoes upheld.

    And maybe you, Ms./Mr. Legislator, would like to be a commissioner or a judge yourself someday? Only one person can ultimately make your dream come true.

    A gov who plays his/her many cards right can be a real force in the legislature regardless of ideology. And, of course, the likely outcome of all the interplay is miles away from the "gang of three" nightmare that Romney ran on in 2002.


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Mon 24 Nov 8:43 AM