It started here. And tonight, it ended here.

Back in January, Scott Brown rocked the political world in Massachusetts and around the country by winning the Senate seat held for decades by Ted Kennedy.  There’s no doubt that Brown’s victory energized Republicans both here and elsewhere.  And for a while there, it was looking like the red tide threatening much of the country would reach into Massachusetts as well.

It hit the rest of the country hard tonight.  But we stopped it cold here.  Stopped.  It.  Cold.

Charlie Baker lost by 7 points (exactly as Suffolk polled it last week, so kudos to them for again nailing a statewide race, just as they did with Scott Brown).  Sean Bielat, the darling of national Republicans who were salivating over the prospect of knocking off Barney Frank, lost by 11.  Jeff Perry, who had help from Mitt Romney and the NRCC (he was one of their “Young Bums Guns”) as well as Baker and Brown, lost by 4.  All the other congressional challengers lost convincingly by more than 10 points.  

The other seriously contested statewide races, Treasurer and Auditor, also went for the Democrats.  Steve Grossman won easily (10 points), despite predictions by some savvy observers that Polito would pull it out.  And even Suzanne Bump, who faced a determined opponent and had to contend with some embarrassing stories in the Globe, pulled it out.

Frankly, here in Massachusetts, it wasn’t even all that close tonight.

Here’s hoping that, as Democrats elsewhere sift through the wreckage of what happened tonight, they look to Massachusetts to see what can actually work.  The GOTV operation assembled by the combined efforts of the Deval Patrick campaign, the state Democratic party, and Organizing For America, worked brilliantly.  It should be a model for 2012 around the country.  And the top of our ticket here ran a largely positive campaign in which he stood up for what he believed, and never tried to pretend to be something he wasn’t.

The next couple of years won’t be easy, here or elsewhere.  But I’m pleased and proud that Massachusetts Democrats will be playing a leading role.

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36 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Governor Patrick did not forget his base

    After losing a large chunk of the people who put him in office -- I mean the activist base who actually donated to his campaign and pounded the streets for him, as opposed to the entire population of folks who voted for him -- because of his support for not one, not two, but three resort casinos, he recognized the danger and rebuilt the foundation of his movement.

    Tonight's victorious campaign was the culmination of a years-long process of re-acquainting himself with his base, re-earning their support through actions large and small -- not just words, important though those are, but specific leadership decisions, often unpopular among some sectors of the electorate -- and, ultimately, reaping the benefits.

    There was no enthusiasm gap among Democrats and, more broadly, the entire reality-based community in Massachusetts.


  2. I am just relieved

    That I bought my home in MA and chose it for my state. Whatever happens nationally, I know that our leaders here will protect our progressive programs and continue down that path.

    Given the way the rest of the nation went tonight, I don't think it'll be hard to stay in the top one or two in economic growth, education, or any of the other measures we in MA have been doing so well in under Patrick.

    RE "what actually works" - it helps, so much, to have a candidate at the helm like Patrick.

    Truth to tell, I was proud to vote for every single Democrat in contested races in my district and statewide. (Yeah, there were some uncontested races that I declined to mark.)

    And it was gratifying to see Tsongas, Donoghue, Patrick/Murray, Grossman, and Bump, as well as the rest of the Congressional delegation, win so big after all the work we did these last long months.

  3. Real Democrats win

    stand up for your principles, show political courage and people will vote for you.

    That needs to be the lesson from tonight.

    • Democrats need to follow the lead of winners, like Deval Patrick

      It would be stupid to follow the lead of quitters, like Evan Bayh.

    • Unless you're Russ Feingold.

      • good point

        I dont know what kind of campaign Feingold ran, though.

        If he didn't do a Deval-style campaign, then maybe a more grassroots approach would have won it.  

      • He had to fight

        a torrent of attack ads funded by anonymous "outside" groups.

      • Real Democrats win

        far more often than they lose.

        In this environment, in a competitive state like Wisconsin, with a self-funded gazillionaire, and a few more gazillions in merciless, Citizens-United style outside attacks, there's going to be some unfortunate asterisks. If we had a real brand this past election, though, and if congresscritters decided they weren't afraid of what they've accomplished, I think we may have had a chance at retaining the House.

        I also think that had we rid ourselves of the filibuster, and therefore been able to pass bills that were something more than "necessary evils," we would have easily retained the House (Memo to Harry Reid: 86 the filibuster, please).  

        • There are a lot of factors

          in the losses of Grayson, Feingold, and Perriello --all principled unashamed progressives.   Being assertively principled is not a guarantee.   Harry Reid apparently ran an excellent ground level campaign and I think studying his victory against all the pundits predictions in the face of a horrible Nevada economy may be a lesson.  

          I am going to make a conjecture.  "Bringing home the Bacon" is the best strategies to win re-election.   Feingold was famously anti-pork barrel.  If you're a Wisconite in need what does that do for you?  I am not saying it is in the best interest of the country, just that it is effective.  

  4. Still sorting through it all

    But, to paraphrase Atrios, I'm pretty sure it confirms what I've been saying all along.

  5. Brown vulnerable in 2012?

    As this posting points out, last night's results disprove the notion that Scott Brown's victory in January indicated a huge shift to the right in MA.  January was a special election, the only significant election in the nation at that time.  It seemed that every hate group in America sent in money and goons to elect this disgusting candidate, whose campaign centered (among other things) on contempt for the fundamental American values of fair treatment and due process.  

    All the Scott Brown wannabes in MA were wiped out yesterday.

    This makes me wonder if Brown might be vulnerable in two years.  Supposedly he is very popular, but people may now wake up to the positions he has taken, which show typical Republican support for the 1% or 2% wealthiest Americans at the expense of everyone else.

    • Do not underestimate Brown.

      He may hold views that are at variance with the majority of the voters in this state, but he is a very effective candidate.  He connects with voters in a way that Baker, or Coakley for that matter, simply could not.  Witness his speaking out calling for an investigation of the death of the Easton college student in NY by police.  This is the kind of thing that will communicate to voters that he cares about them.  He doesn't do stuff like that for political expediency either.  He genuinely does care about that student and his family in Easton.  The Democrats will need to put up a candidate who is equally skilled as a campaigner and communicator.  At this point I have no idea who that is.

      • And don't forget his brilliant

        choice of opponent.

        I don't mean to say that an incumbent will be a pushover in two years, or that Brown does not have his own political hair assets.

        But the "Brown leads the Bay State rightward" thing is a huge crock of stupid. Massachusetts is not any sort of left-wing haven and never has been. We are still the same state as always, more about personalities than ideology, and including quite a few conservative voters.

        So I think that Michael is right that Brown is vulnerable, and also that Jim is right that political chops and people skills will count a lot.

    • That's not news

      Scott Brown was assumed vulnerable the day he was elected.

      That doesn't mean he can't get re-elected.  But he'll have a hard time, and that's always been widely accepted.

      In order to capitalize on his vulnerability, we need to get some strong Democratic candidate(s) to start running early, so that we have a good candidate with a good campaign win the primary.  If we'd had more time in the special election, and nominated either Capuano or Khazei, Scott Brown would probably not have won.

      Brown managed to win by successfully running on a double message.  To the tea partiers, conservative populists, and outside right wing groups, he signaled that he was one of them.  To mainstream Massachusetts voters, he ran as a socially liberal, fiscally conservative, independent moderate - the kind of Republican a lot of Massachusetts feels somewhat okay with.

      You can't normally run with two messages.  You have to be careful to project the right messages to the appropriate people, over and over, without accidentally mixing them up too much.  Your opponent will usually contrast them for you, and then neither of your target groups will be sure about your message.  But Brown almost didn't have an opponent; the Coakley campaign let him get away with it.  That's not to say that it wasn't a skillful job - it really was.  He ran a great campaign.  But it was a risky campaign designed for a hard to win election, and it was not inevitable that it should win.

      Obviously, Brown can't actually do the job of Senator as both types of candidate he ran as, simultaneously.  So he's been walking a tightrope, trying to do a bit of both, and build up enough individual points on his record to satisfy both segments of that coalition.  A good opponent could take that apart.  Brown can't win with only one segment of that coalition.  Can he think of some other winning coalition?  Maybe.  But it'd be a real challenge.

      On the other hand, if we nominate another weak candidate who doesn't campaign much. Brown will try to do the same thing he did last time, and he'll have a reasonable chance of pulling it off again.  That's his "easy" (though still not guaranteed) path to victory.  We need to make it hard for him, and force him to think of some new way to win.

      • Brown is a Massachusetts media and Romney machine

        His daughter is the most popular woman in Mass.  His wife is one of the most popular news-readers.   He gets nothing but good press in Mass and is a hero to national republicans.  He has 4million left over from last campaign.  

        It will take a lot to unseat him.  

        • Well, let's not overstate the case.

          Ayla the most popular woman in MA?  Good heavens, that's a bit much.  No idea about Gail Huff's popularity, but she was frankly a non-factor in his election, since she couldn't both stump for him and do her job.

          However, I do agree that, so far, the local press likes the guy, the national GOP will work hard to keep him in office, and he has a ton of money (I think it's actually more like $6 million).

          We have our work cut out for us.  The good thing is that, with the right candidate and the right team behind him or her, we know we can win.

          • I think those factors have

            been somewhat overlooked--better to overestimate the opposition than to underestimate them.  I really do think that we are up against brutal media and popularity issues with Brown and his connections.  

            I grudgingly give  Brown credit for being a  frequent guest on radio talk shows over the yrs; solidifying his bonding with that audience. Eric Fehrnstrom and the Romney people were always good at working the media.  I suspect that Gail Huff over 10 yrs fosters some deep insider connections.  A lot of my coworkers were psyched to vote for Brown because their kids idolized Ayla.   It is good to be on the right side on policy issues but you have to be aware of what you are up against on the social and media scene.  

            I agree with the right candidate and right team behind them (not Coakleys team) it can happen.  I think it will take one of those "transcendent" style people like Deval or Obama to get that kind of enthusiasm to beat Brown.  

            • His votes

              Brown is building up a record of votes that will include many that will be unpopular in Massachusetts.  He's already voted against unemployment insurance extension, and ending Don't Ask Don't Tell, and a few other things.  He is legitimately vulnerable if someone runs a good campaign against him.  We don't need a super-candidate (though it would be really nice to have one, of course).

              • we need a candidate and media operation to

                make people care about those votes.   He voted against tax breaks for outsourcing.  I mention that to anyone at work and they dont want to hear it.  

                • $quot;they don't want to hear it$quot;

                  This reminds me of a conversation I had with someone on election day.  He was talking about his sister, who he claimed got most of her news via email forwards.  She told him that she was voting for Scott Brown because we needed more people who weren't politicians in government.  He could not convince her that Brown was, in fact, a lawyer and politician and not a contractor who drives a pickup truck.

  6. YES!!

    My thoughts exactly.  

  7. Impressive win

    It's really quite remarkable that Patrick is where he is today, celebrating a pretty comfortable victory over someone who (at least at first) seemed like a formidable candidate in Charlie Baker.

    I was certainly a critic of Patrick in his first year or so  -- not because of drapes and Cadillacs (ridiculous non-stories), but because his political inexperience really showed through. But he learned from his rocky start, managing to work with the state legislature AND at the same time (this is key) keeping true to his optimistic outlook and core principles. And in the meantime has guided the Commonwealth well during a time of true economic hardship nationally.

    In many ways, his tough first year makes his tenure after that period even more impressive. It shows he's willing and quite able to re-evaluate himself -- a trait that is quite unusual in the business of politics, in which smug arrogance and self-importance are certainly not unknown. Above all, I think it indicates that whether you agree with him or not, on issues such as the sales tax or casinos, Patrick really does have at his core a honest desire to make the Commonwealth a better place.

    That's true leadership, and I'm confident the Commonwealth will be in good hands moving forward. Congratulations, Gov. Patrick.

  8. Still Concerns

    Read this sentence again:

    Jeff Perry, who had help from Mitt Romney and the NRCC (he was one of their "Young Bums Guns") as well as Baker and Brown, lost by 4.

    All the media attention on this sleaze and Bill Keating only beat him by 4 points. After it hit the fan this should have been a rout. Winning by 4 is a helluva lot better than losing by the 20 Coakley did in this district, but to this sleaze? Almost any other candidate would have won this seat.

    They picked up a significant number of state House seats, too. That is not insignificant going forward. Other Dems had serious fights. Therese Murray had  fight.

    I'm not playing chicken little here, but I think JohnD had a point a couple days ago: this is the first time in a very long time that the GOP had candidates for all the statewide and congressional seats, and that's a good thing for them. That some of those races were battles is even better.

    It was a tough day out here, we lost a lot of the ground we gained in the last couple cycles. Deval won Medfield last time by 100 votes, he got killed yesterday. The rest of the ticket, especially Bump, didn't do a whole helluva lot better. Sheriff and DA races were tough, and against nobodies. Surrounding towns weren't any better.

    We managed to fight to  a draw in one Rep seat so Denise Garlick could ride the Needham vote and hold Lida Harkins' seat, but that was a lot of work and a great candidate. And a lot of Needham votes.

    Their hopes and dreams may not have come true. This was a big letdown after the Scott Brown thing. But, as a party building thing, this election was not a bad night. They gained experience and, if they're smart, the groundwork for an organization.

    Maybe Scott Brown was high tide and they are on the ebb. Or maybe this was something they can build on.  We'll see.

    • $quot;Almost any other candidate would have won this seat.$quot;

      Maybe - but the reality is that Bill Keating did not actually run much of a campaign.  I can't tell you the number of times I got the daily campaign schedule email from Team Keating which showed no events scheduled.  Every time I got one, my heart sank a bit.  Keating was rescued by the astonishing statewide GOTV operation assembled by John Walsh & Co.  

      All of that said, the fact remains that the 10th is quite a conservative district that Scott Brown won by a lot, and we won it last night.  I think the fights are good - they harden our candidates and prevent complacency.  And I'm glad that, last night, we came out on top of the big ones.

      • David, please accept that Keating is more of a Steve Lynch Democrat than

         a McGovern one.  I thought that he was the best candidate to oppose Perry for this reason.  Remember that places like Weymouth are filled with the children and grandchildren of folks who came from Dorchester and Southie after the Second World War. (tend to be more conservative than even the old gentry Republicans.)  Obviously people were comfortable with Keating. I voted for him, did not vote for Delahunt the last few times.  

        • Good to see that someone (you) has a sense of humor, on this day of very, very, very serious political discussion.

          of ideology.  It's a question of running a good campaign.  Had John Walsh & Co. not run a truly epic GOTV operation, we'd be talking about Congressman Perry. *shudder*

    • they will build on it

      I've been quite surprised that Republicans haven't gained seats election after election.  You might say, oh, 2006 and 2008 were Democratic years, but in the Massachusetts House Republicans lost several seats in 2004 as well.

      We have (and still had) a state legislature so overwhelmingly Democratic that it's astounding that it stays that way.  Out of 200 members of the House and Senate, 180 are currently Democrats.  That's 90%.  In a set of 200 legislators, there are always a few bad apples, a few districts whose opinion has shifted, etc.  Someone's gotta lose.  And when 90% of the incumbents are Democrats, even if there's no particular public sentiment against them, when a few of the low-hanging bad apples lose, most of those ought to be Democrats.

      Sure, we're a very Democratic state.  We might be 2/3 Democratic.  We might even be 75% Democratic, though that seems a bit high.  But no way, by any stretch, are we a 90% Democratic state.  So there's only one way that level of Democratic dominance could've been sustained: Republicans simply weren't running candidates.  Or didn't have good candidates.  Democrats who could've lost or maybe even should've lost, didn't have effective challenges.

      What the Republicans finally did this year, perhaps inspired by Scott Brown, or the tea party, or the national polls, was make a decent effort at putting together a bench.  So now...  it looks like they're up to 17% of the state legislature.

      Massachusetts is not an 83% Democratic state.  It really ought to be easy for Republicans to gain some more seats before they hit their real wall - the point at which they really need to try, or Dems really need to screw up, for them to get further.  We're not at that wall.  All Republicans need to do to gain a few more seats is simply to be an effective statewide party with a bench of candidates who run for office.

      I think they took a significant step towards that this year, and they ought to be feeling encouraged by that little ray of hope in what was otherwise a disaster for them.  You can't become a real political party in one year, but I suspect they'll work at it and eventually we may have an actual Massachusetts Republican party.

      Those gains don't mean Democratic dominance of the state legislature is under any threat, but it does mean the unrealistic level of dominance that could only be sustained when there's no real opposing party, may be at risk.

      P.S. Personally I'm in favor of that, because even though we'll end up with fewer Democrats, we'll also end up with, on average, stronger Democrats.  It mostly won't be the Chang Diazes and Sciortinos of the legislature who will lose seats when Republicans start being an effective party. And when we have to try harder to wrest some seats from Republicans, we'll be forced to find stronger newcomers.

      • Republicans will gain seats in the Legislature

        when they decide to do the grunt work, and put real candidates up for the seats, and not Larry, Curley, and Moe like they did during the year that Romney made a big show of running a lot of candidates. They lost even more seats as a result. Stop viewing yourselves as the executive party, hoping for some celebrity candidate to appear (Romney/Baker) to capture the governor's office for you. It may feel good, but it's the Lege than drives this ship of state.

    • It works both ways,

      It was a great party-building night for Republicans, but I don't think you can underestimate how great a night it was for party building within the Democratic ticket. We took the best that they could throw at us -- including some fairly sharp candidates -- and beat them across the board at a state level. We lost a few seats in the state legislature, but this has literally been the most difficult climate for democrats in... forever? Certainly, as long as I can remember.

      As for the Cape Cod seat... It's perhaps the most conservative congressional district in Massachusetts -- and a 1 vote victory is just as much victory as a 1,000,000 vote victory. The win is what matters, and Keating won with room to spare in an election a whole lot of people thought we'd lose (including many Democrats) not too long ago.

      • True -- I agree except for Hudak. He was

        by far not the best that could have challenged Tierney in old line Republican North Shore.  

        But they thought Charlie Baker was a cinch as a winner and we slapped him silly

    • We had a similar experience in

      Groveland, especially with the size of the vote against both Deval and Bump.   Interestingly, Coakley easily won here--far different than the senatorial election.  

  9. David, lots of good posts -- I have to quibble with one comment:

    You say

    And even Suzanne Bump ... pulled it out.

    I think that's a mischaracterization, ignoring the difference that a 3rd party candidate made (compared with the Grossman victory).

    Polito got 45% of the vote, Connaughton got 46%. Not much different!

    • Suzanne Bump worked her butt off campaigning.

      She did it old style like Harry Reid did---lots of public events, breakfast, talking to people.  She didnt waste a day.  Other dems should learn from this.  

  10. Call me jaundiced

    But I want to see some exit polling before we all celebrate with hosanas that Massachusetts voted for Deval Patrick.  He didn't even get half the votes.

    What about the possibility that Massachusetts voted against Charlie Baker?

    sabutai   @   Tue 4 Dec 7:00 PM
    • You're jaundiced. ;-)

      He got awfully close to half the votes.  In a year in which an independent did better than any other indie in MA history, that's not bad.

      Certainly, there were some voters who voted against Charlie Baker.  But that number is probably fairly low, and some of them voted for Cahill.  

      Anyway, the truth is that it doesn't really matter.  Deval won, he gets 4 more years, and he's not running again in 2014.  It's a great chance for him to govern fearlessly.  I hope he does it.

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