- It reminds voters that the Mass. GOP exists. A contested primary generates headlines like little else in politics — domestic disputes are always the most intense. Baker v. Mihos would lead to a thrashing over ideas and personalities. Mihos’s outsized style would only draw more interest to the fight — anybody remember a campaign ad from 2006 other than Mihos’s? Though many Republicans won’t like the idea of Mihos up there, they need every identifiable face they can get these days. The debates would be on air, and the more noise and spending that goes into this, the better the chance that people will remember that politics is usually about inter-party contests, not inter-branch ones. Seeing non-Democrats advertising on tv will only help the party.
- It distinguishes Mass. Republicans from their national counterparts. A real, functioning Republican policy universe divorced from the failures of the Washington GOP is what these guys need more than anything else. A debate that is held in strictly Commonwealth terms with Commonwealth players only helps to indicate that the Massachusetts Republicans are not lockstep with the losers in the nation’s capital. More Massachusetts, less Republican. Until recently, ticket-splitting was common; this race could re-institute that.
- It may lead to self-reflection. Part of distinguishing themselves from their DC cousins (see point 2) is that development of a set of policy goals and ideas aside from the “no, no, no” route of most Republicans. A strong tussle between libertarian and corporate conservatism could show that the GOP has something to offer aside from babbling about waste and hacks. One would hope that the winner of the Republican primary would have run on some constructive ideas, rather than who can scream “not on my watch!” the loudest.
- It may bring people into the party. A non-voter who is incensed by Baker or Mihos may well become a supporter of the other. Primaries are great for building up rolls of volunteers and activists, and many of them stick around even after their candidate loses. While I don’t expect either of these guys to institute a Plouffe/Walsh level of outreach, turning any centrist voter into a Republican is a long-term win for the party.
Heaven knows the Republican Party needs all the help it can get, and heaven knows that the hackapalooza will only stop if the State House ever has reason to fear for their jobs. In other words, this state needs an opposition. Personally, given how much ground the Democratic Party covers in this state, I’m as leery of people outside the party on the left as I am of people outside on the right.
I’d guess the best-case scenario is a Baker victory over Mihos, say 52-48 — close enough to be suspenseful. Follow that with a quick display of unity, and you’re all set.
Mind you, if either of these guys bring in Bush-era losers to campaign for any reason, all bets are off. And yes, that includes Andrew Card.