For once, I agreed with Tufts poli sci prof Jeff Berry, who was on 'BUR this morning expressing skepticism for Tim Cahill's independent play.
Consider: He's got $3 million in his campaign chest already. Good for him. A strong start. But one might expect that this is as good as it gets for Cahill. It's got to be a heck of a lot easier to raise money as a near-permanent incumbent, than as an independent insurgent. He'll have no party organization: That means no bodies or campaign infrastructure, but also no $5,000 backdoor donations.
The Republican party isn't what it used to be — which wasn't all that much. (Even back in 2002, the Republicans were in big trouble before Romney saved their bacon.) But the Republican candidate will have access to the money and some degree of organization.
As far as the rhetorical positioning goes … Cahill's on somewhat stronger ground. Many people will be unhappy with the sales tax increase and the assortment of other revenue devices passed by the Governor and legislature. Between Cahill, Mihos, and Baker, we'll have a lot of Something-For-Nothing rhetoric flying around next year. And that may well get some purchase with the electorate.
In that context, it's going to be important to remember that we've been dealt a holy-crap $5 billion budget gap, and that Gov. Patrick has indeed been forced to make ugly, ugly budget cuts — even cuts that will cost the state money long-term; cuts that affect very vulnerable people. And look around — 48 other states are in deficits this year. We're not doing the worst by any stretch, as awful as it is now.
Framed properly and fairly, the question for Cahill is what he would have done differently under the same circumstances. So what are the real, stated differences between Cahill and Deval Patrick? Well let's see …
- Deval likes resort casinos;
- Tim wants casinos and slots, and more lottery … perhaps cockfighting and bear-baiting are next.
OK … and how about health care?
- Gov. Patrick speaks about health care as a moral necessity. The Patrick administration is busy implementing the health care law– and indeed trying to significantly change the way it's delivered and financed.
- Tim says the health care law is a luxury.
- Gov. Patrick looks for new revenues to blunt the cruel impact of the $5 billion budget gap.
- Maybe Tim thinks we can print money. Or have more slots. Or something. Oh yeah, less health care, that's something. But he hasn't detailed how he'd close the gap differently; only those who actually have to govern are required to do so.
Governor Patrick's not popular right now; I think that might change over the next twelve months, as the governor re-presents his résumé to the public; but we shouldn't sugar-coat the situation of today. Still, I don't see a situation where an independent Cahill somehow knocks out both a strongly progressive Dem incumbent and an establishment Republican in Baker.