By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Anyone want to bet against Martha Coakley?

Martha Coakley

Martha Coakley

State Attorney General Martha Coakley is in a commanding position to succeed the late Sen. Ted Kennedy now that former congressman Joe Kennedy has announced he won’t run.

I doubt many people are surprised by Kennedy’s decision. Last week, WBZ-TV (Channel 4) political analyst Jon Keller and Boston Globe columnist Scot Lehigh both gave Kennedy a taste of what he could expect from the sensible center had he chosen to jump in. Needless to say, conservative talk radio would have savaged him.

Who would want to bet against Coakley? Not me. While several congressmen ponder whether they should give it a try, Coakley is already off and running. She’s won statewide, and the times would suggest that voters may be looking for something a little different. As a woman and as someone who’s not part of the Capitol Hill gang, Coakley can position herself as an outsider.

As for the Republicans, so far the party has been unable find someone willing to be a human sacrifice. Former lieutenant governor Kerry Healey, who at least would have been well-funded, has decided against running.

Call this a gut sense rather than a prediction, but barring a major unexpected development — like Victoria Reggie Kennedy getting in — this race may be over before it even begins.

Photo (cc) by weinbergagain and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

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  1. O'Rion

    Yes talk radio would have been indignant. But they still will be, no matter who is in the race.

    I never bought into the nonsense over the Chavez connection with Joe. Does the country care about the Bush/Saudi connection?

    Martha has several advantages, the most obvious being that she’s likely to be the lone female on a 3-6 candidate ballot. Joe just wasn’t up to it and good for him for recognizing it.

  2. Michael Pahre

    Dan, you’re missing the real way of handicapping the race: it matters how many people are running for the Democratic nomination, and where they (broadly) sit on the political spectrum.

    Conservative Democrat (i.e., a moderate Democrat in any other region of the country) Stephen Lynch won his Congressional seat in a many-way race, because the liberal wing of the party was split so heavily amongst many candidates. Lynch mostly had the middle to himself, and took the plurality in the Democratic primary.

    Remember that many Massachusetts voters are unenrolled (=independent), which means that they can walk into the polling place on primary day and choose either a Democratic or Republican ballot. The Republican primary will be uninteresting, so most will pick up a Democratic ballot. That means lots and lots of moderates voting in the Democratic primary.

    The reason why Lynch is running again is that he could see what everyone else could see — that there will be a few other major candidates in the race (e.g., Coakley, Capuano, Meehan).

    Everyone is betting on the Democratic winner running on a strictly liberal platform, which is probably how Coakley, Capuano, and Meehan will position themselves.

    I am betting on Lynch right now, until I see Capuano try to stake out a more moderate, less liberal platform… but I expect him to hew closely to liberal positions. And it will be an irony that Ted Kennedy’s seat will flip to someone who doesn’t seem to be a strong proponent of the kind of health care reform that Kennedy championed.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Michael: (1) Lynch may be getting cold feet. He’s taken out nomination papers, but he’s still muttering about family considerations. (2) I’m not sure Coakley is all that liberal. I’ll concede that I don’t know a lot about her, but my impression is that she’s more moderate than any of the congressmen pondering the race except Lynch. (3) Even if Lynch gets in, it could be one-on-one with him and Coakley. I just don’t see any stampede into this race — in fact, quite the opposite.

  3. Michael Pahre

    OK, Dan. I’ll take your bet, a wager placed in Governor Patrick’s Casino #1: you’ve got Coakley for the nomination, I’ve got Lynch.

    What shall be the wager?

    Everybody says that they have to talk to their family. But only minor candidates take out nomination papers without having actually decided and planning on turning in the signatures. They make those silly family statements because they want to have a big press conference when they announce and lead the evening local news coverage. That’s all Lynch is doing in his delaying dance.

    If you want, I’ll add a second bet: there will be at least four major candidates for the Democratic nomination, where “major candidates” is defined as having held elected (a) state-wide office; (b) Congressional office; (c) Mayor in a city of >= 100,000 people; or (d) party leader in legislature (speaker, president, majority leader, whip). Care to take the second bet, too?

    • Dan Kennedy

      Michael: I don’t want to have a stake in the outcome, so I’ll have to decline your offer. However, if Lynch wins, I will give you a free lifetime subscription to Media Nation.

      Fish: Either Brown or Michael Sullivan would be an attractive candidate. In 49 states. Not this one.

  4. Nial Liszt

    Now that she has single-handedly investigated and prosecuted all political corruption in the state, MIA Martha thinks that she deserves to move up.

  5. O-FISH-L

    Dan, you dismiss State Sen. Scott Brown (R-Wrentham) at your own peril. As a retired police officer, I’ve been asked to go easy on Martha Coakley because her husband is a well-liked Cambridge officer. Ok.

    But Coakley and our own host shouldn’t rush to crown Coakley just yet.

    When I want the conservative agenda advanced in the state senate, I go directly to Robert L. Hedlund (R-Weymouth) or Michael W. Morrissey (conservative D-Quincy). But Brown is a quick understudy and I would support him for US Senate.

    As Ted Kennedy proved, 99% of politics is image. Here’s Sen. Scott Brown, with an American Idol and BC Athletics daughter, a second daughter who is borderline Supermodel, and a wife who is a veteran local news correspondent (should keep the media attacks sane, anyway. Brown is also a senior officer in the military (JAG Corps I believe) and the pictures of him in uniform will go a long way.

    I promised my brothers I’d go easy on Coakley, but it’s time to improve on the dowdy, egotistical image. Could Dem Madonna Louise Ciccione spare a Malawian child perhaps? Paging David Banda.

  6. mike_b1

    Scott Brown is something of a South Shore joke. It is almost as if they voted him in just to see what would happen.

    And of course, nothing did, because he’s a total lightweight.

    Next candidate, please.

  7. mike_b1

    My in-laws, who live in Scott Brown’s district, absolutely consider themselves “South Shore.” That’s good enough for me.

  8. Peter Porcupine

    I give her credit for not being a Kennedy family toady. Others may feel the Day-late-and-Dollar-short Delegation Deserves Defeat.

  9. O-FISH-L

    Does Coakley really inspire anyone, even within her own party? Other than the game of identity politics which I think many voters grew tired of last year, what’s left? A second liberal, like Capuano, could split the libs and allow Lynch a path.

    In the final, Brown is a terrific candidate. Watch the military and B.C. crowds rally around him, not to mention his wide geographic appeal from Wrentham (his home) to Wakefield (where he graduated H.S.)

    In an almost Obama-esque way, Brown becomes quite a novelty and will attract attention because of that. In a “throw the bums out” atmosphere, voters will be tantalized by a Republican who actually has a chance. Some might even toss him a vote just to see what happens. If Obama continues to stumble terribly, Brown gets a boost from that too.

    Watch for Democrat dirty tricks if it’s a Brown v. Coakley race. ACORN probably has another “Scott Brown” ready to run as an independent, hoping to confuse the elderly.

  10. Bob Gardner

    Wow, O-Fish-L, you have to clear your comments with the police? I’m going to re-read some of your old posts.

  11. Neil

    Call this a gut sense rather than a prediction, but barring a major unexpected development — like Victoria Reggie Kennedy getting in — this race may be over before it even begins.

    I rather call it a gutless prediction, one that you don’t stand behind.

    You showed your reasoning. Pahre showed his reasoning. Stand by it, bet Michael a dollar.

    When will we see you Van Jones piece?

  12. O-FISH-L

    ps – The wild card will be weather conditions on that unusual January election day.

    A snowstorm or merely frigid air will drive the expected low turnout even lower. With nothing else on the ballot, we could be looking at a 12% turnout.

    If Obama rams through government health care, card check and amnesty in the next few months, the angry will brave the elements but the status quo crowd may not. Bad weather breaks to Brown’s advantage.

    There could even be a scenario where Sec. of State Galvin is pressured by his own party to cancel or postpone the election if weather is in play. Galvin’s unwillingness to postpone things on 9/11/01 tells me that he won’t be party to any shenanigans, but worth watching.

  13. mike_b1

    Should DK bet even a nominal amount, it changes his role from neutral (if opinionated) observer to having a stake in the outcome and immediately biases the gist of his commentary. There’s no reason to take the bait.

    O-Fish, Dems won’t have to find another Scott Brown to confuse matters. No one knows him. He’s DOA. You really think voters would elect a Republican to replace Teddy Kennedy? That’s crazy talk. This is as much a slam-dunk as any race in the history of Mass.

  14. Dunque

    I don’t thinmk Scott Brown can be so easily dismissed if he chooses to run. MikeB – I think thou doth protest too much.

    One thing Martha Coakley is or should be faced with in this race is her continued defense of the Fells Acres prosecution. THAT will be a VERY interesting discussion.

  15. Neil

    “Should DK bet even a nominal amount, it changes his role from neutral (if opinionated) observer to having a stake in the outcome and immediately biases the gist of his commentary.”

    Technically yes, but let’s not pretend Media Nation is journalism. It’s an opinion blog about news and people magazine personality topics.

    Furthermore, Dan called the race with one exception (Vicki Kennedy’s entrance.)

    If Dan is calling races, he already has a vested interest in the outcome, his credibility as a prognosticator.

    Putting his money, a dollar, where his mouth is nothing more than asking him to stand by his prognostication.

  16. mike_b1

    Practically every media outlet calls races, so it’s hard to use that as evidence of a “vested outcome.” You are confusing analysis with involvement. Now, if DK were to start betting on the outcome, he then would have a tangible stake in the outcome. As I see it, every time he writes, he puts his reputation on the line. That is worth far more than one dollar.

    Also, it’s funny to me how you belittle (“It’s an opinion blog about … people magazine personality topics”) something you spend so much time and energy on. Not sure what that says about you, but it’s not good.

  17. mike_b1

    Dunque, there is no GOP party in this state. It wouldn’t matter if the Republicans nominated Ronald Reagan, they can’t win.

    Fells Acres prosecution? Good luck gaining traction with that.

  18. Mike_b1: Exactly right. Opinion journalism is journalism, too. And most people understand that there’s a difference between expressing opinions, which I do, and being partisan, which I’m not.

  19. Rick in Duxbury

    I don’t see Ms. Vickie getting in. If you think Joe K had skeletons in his closet, you haven’t read anything about the Reggie family. Even by Louisiana standards, these folks are slimy. Google them and “Tulane scholarships”. Yes, Scott Brown would have to run the table in this bluest of states. However, after the last national election, would you want to bet against a “flavor of the month”? My question is: when can we expect Tookie Amirault to resurface? With 20/20 hindsight, Martha does not look too good on that one.

  20. Ron Newman

    I don’t see why you’re writing off Mike Capuano, who has proven his ability to win splintered multi-candidate races already.

  21. Michael Pahre

    I was only half-serious in putting forward the wager… and never expected Dan to take me up on it.

    But my offer of a wager was, after all, a response to the title of Dan’s blog post. “Ask and ye shall receive” directly implies the contra-positive “Ye shall not receive if you don’t ask.”

  22. Al

    the Republicans will expend their energy on the Gubernatorial election. There’s no way a Republican is getting Ted Kennedy’s seat.

  23. I think Lynch will run and he has a good shot at it but only if there are at least five or six Dems in the race. If the “progressives” eat each other alive, like they always do, Lynch will win.
    It’s important to remember that there are pro-life Democrats in Massachusetts and they have polled as high as 19 percent in polls I have seen over the years. Lynch also voted against the TARP plan and has strong union support, meaning his cred is pretty high with those constituencies. He also beat other better-financed, more liberal candidates in the special election for the 9th in 2001, meaning he can’t be ruled out.
    If, however, Lynch wins, the GOP will have its best shot ever, if they run a pro-choice Republican with a ton of money … I thought that would be Muffy Healey, who just said she isn’t running, which means it looks like it’s gonna be Christy Mihos.

  24. Neil

    And most people understand that there’s a difference between expressing opinions, which I do, and being partisan, which I’m not.

    Except when you announce you are liberal:

    Fellow liberals, let’s be honest with ourselves.

    You should try that.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Neil: “Liberal” is ideological. “Democrat” is partisan. Get it? Most people do. I don’t make campaign contributions, I don’t put bumper stickers on my car, and I don’t write about who I will and won’t vote for. It’s an important distinction that most readers of this blog understand. I also understand that you don’t get it. Sorry.

  25. O'Rion

    O-Fish “shouldn’t rush to crown” Brown just yet.

    “Mihos “intends to switch over to the Senate race within the next 24 hours,” said spokesman Kevin Sowyrda, who added no well-funded, credible Republican has been willing to step up to run so far.”(From Blue Mass Group)

  26. Amusedbutinformedobserver

    Attorneys General from Massachusetts have a tough time climbing the electoral ladder. Just ask Scott Harshbarger, Tom Reilly, Frank Bellotti, Bob Quinn, Elliot Richardson, Eddie McCormack, Frank Kelly or Jim Shannon. But then there were Paul Dever (1946) and Edward Brooke (1966)

  27. Neil

    Dan, Are you a liberal Republican? Get it?

  28. Bob Gardner

    Another wild card is the state legislature. Let’s assume that sometime before January it becomes clear that the special election is not going to turn out like they hoped. Couldn’t they just cancel the election and give back to the governor the power to appoint an interim Senator until the next general election?
    You might say that the state legislature would never try to change the rules in the middle of the game, but it looks like we’re about to cross that bridge.
    Seriously, would there be any legal way to stop them? Is there anything to prevent it except their reluctance to appear craven and stupid (or as the Globe editorial page puts it, their vanity.)?

  29. mike_b1

    Bob, if things were going so badly, any Democrat in the legislature who hopes to someday move up would be better off letting the GOP win (hehehe, fat chance) and thus give themselves a chance in the subsequent election. To cede the office to another Democrat means waiting their turn — which may never come.

  30. Bob Gardner

    mike, It seems farfetched to me, too. But my main point is that, legally, there doesn’t seem to be any limit on what the legislature can do, up to the point when a new senator is sworn in. Or is there? There is a political limit, or at least there used to be–but the legislature doesn’t seem to mind looking stupid and craven. Not to mention how dishonest the latest globe editorial is. Somebody mentioned Marty Nolan was back in town; I wonder if someone rehired him to write it.

  31. O'Rion

    So Mihos is out–but he never was in– while Brown says he’s out if Card is in.
    So far I don’t see where AG Coakley has a whole lot to worry about.

  32. Rick

    Keeping a streak os some thirty years, dan Kennedy once again is shown to be nothing more than a self indulgent bag of wind

  33. re: Fells Acres
    Amirault was found guilty and this verdict was upheld several times by both political parties. There were physical findings of abuse in the children and the children showed signs of strong sexualized behaviors after the abuse. The children as adults continue to state they were abused.

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