Former Deval Patrick aide and Rat-Pack-talkin’ political observer Dan Payne was on ‘BUR this morning, talking about the effect of the Big Dig on the gubernatorial race. We agree that it’s the new oxygen-sucker; Payne notes that neither Reilly’s nor Healey’s new ads address it very much. On one hand, that’s not too surprising, since the ad buys were probably made a while back; on the other, they all would be wise to make as much hay as possible. Healey, of course, is busy being upstaged by Romney — well, he is still governor, you know — and Reilly’s still finding memos from seven years ago. Fine. (UPDATE: And lest we forget, Reilly’s got his own conflict-of-interest problems with this. Yecch.)
I have to disagree somewhat with Payne when he says that this marginalizes Gabrieli and Patrick, saying this puts a freeze on their campaign momentum while the media focuses on, you know, elected officials doing their jobs. Actually, this represents a fine opportunity for those campaigns, since this is their chance to bash the establishment that has led us to this place, to propose bold reforms, and to start running that tough, adversarial, anti-establishment campaign that can really tap into people’s anger. “Hope” and “results” are all fine and well; but we all know that people vote out of spite — probably more reliably than “hope”.
Now, Tom Reilly has been running a “get the bastards” kind of campaign, but he has a complicated record (as any starched-sock AG ought to have, since the law is complicated), and his eight years in office hasn’t fixed the Big Dig. I’m not saying that’s a fair assessment — merely that in the public mind, he may be linked to a political establishment that has been ineffectual or worse on the Big Dig. He’s got a few months — maybe not even — to really start kicking ass and taking names. He’s got the cameras already, which is a good start; but since the legal wheels turn slowly, he may not have enough time to make decisive headlines for himself.
I’m not going to pretend to be smart enough to know what kinds of specific reform proposals ought to be floated. Patrick has called for a special inspector general; But let’s face it: The public wants two things:
1. a safe tunnel, and
2. a public bloodletting
… not necessarily in that order.
If Deval and Gabs want to make the next few months worth their while, they will add “piss” and “vinegar” to the “hope” and “results” repertoire.
PS: By the way, the “Big Dig culture” meme is spreading… The ideas and suggestions in Patrick’s op-ed are fine, but I think we’re looking for language that’s even a little bit more provocative. Mmmm, red meat …
Chris, whattya got?