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

What Obama can learn from Patrick’s win

In my latest for the Guardian, I take a look at what lessons President Obama can draw from Gov. Deval Patrick’s unlikely political comeback.

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Conflicting reports on a possible Brown foe


  1. L.K. Collins

    Not much.

    Because as an electorate, Massachusetts is very different from a lot of the electorate in such places as Ohio and Florida.

  2. Mike Benedict

    @LK: Yes, finally something we can agree on! It’s true: the Mass electorate is more intelligent.

    All that said, the losers are those who wanted government to do something other than build its pension. Obama will spend the next two years selling his accomplishments instead of actually governing. Whether you like it or hate it, this Congress has accomplished more than the previous 8 years combined, and passed more significant legislation than at any time since the first years of FDR. All that is about to change.

  3. Steve Stein

    OK, why is this a “comeback” for Governor Patrick? He never trailed in this race, as far as I can recall.

    One thing Obama might learn is “have a less than stellar opponent”. I think both Scott Brown and Deval Patrick benefited from this. I notice the Tea Partiers want a Palin/Huckabee ticket. I think Obama would be exceedingly fortunate facing such opposition.

    Note that the Tea Party cost Republicans control of the Senate: their candidates for Senate in Delaware, Nevada and Colorado all lost races that saner Republicans would have won.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Steve: Patrick hit his low point before the race began. To deny that this was a comeback is to deny the reality of where he was at a year, two years ago — Marian Walsh, Jim Aloisi, casinos, tax hikes.

      Anecdotally, I know liberals who were convinced they would vote for Charlie Baker, only to come back to Patrick after some of his reforms kicked in and after Baker proved not to be the second coming of Bill Weld.

  4. BP Myers

    @Dan wrote: “thanks to an educated workforce employed in fields such as higher education, medicine and technology”

    The largest employer in the state of Massachusetts is the state of Massachusetts. Throw in all those who rely on the largesse of cities and towns, as well as those on the periphery who suckle upon the teat of government, I suspect you’re looking at more than half the population.

    Ironic that Deval actually presides over a system of government that Obama has falsely been accused of moving us toward.

  5. Steve Stein

    @BP – according to this, “Government” (Fed, State and Local) employs 435,800 people in Massachusetts. The private sector employs 2.74 million.

    I suspect you’d have to widen your definition of “suckle” pretty far to get to “helf the population”.

  6. Mike Benedict

    @BP: Perhaps you are right. However, I would add that no Republican is going to be able to change the system. Much like it took a Democrat (Clinton) to get NAFTA passed, it will take a Democrat standing up to the status quo pensioners (and I don’t mean the teachers, who are largely responsible for funding their own retirement) to fix that problem. No unions or Democrat legislators are going to work with a Republican governor. (And based on the actions of Republican congressmen over the past two decades, I can’t blame them.)

  7. BP Myers

    @Steve Stein says: “Government” (Fed, State and Local) employs 435,800 people in Massachusetts. The private sector employs 2.74 million.

    I suspect many of those almost half-a-million government employees have families they support. Your chart also breaks out “Health Care and social assistance” with another almost half-a-million. How dependent are they on taxpayer dollars? How many family members do they have? More than 600,000 in “Educational and Health Services.” I’d ask the same question of them.

    Face it. Massachusetts has reached the tipping point where there are more of “them” than “us,” them being those who rely on the government for their daily bread, and us who have to make it on our own. That’s why tax referendum fail, and even when they don’t, the government just ignores them with impunity.

    That’s also why nationally, something like yesterday can happen, but something like yesterday will never happen in Massachusetts. There are more of them than us.

  8. Bob Gardner

    This election was more a back splash than a wave. In two years the country will be a little less white, and older voters will be a little less conservative.
    The electorate will be a lot less dominated by older conservative white voters.

  9. Pat Daukantas

    @BP: “Us” versus “them”? Well, geez, I’m the child of a welder working for a small-business welding shop and a baker working in a public-school lunch program. Am I “us” or am I “them”? Should half my genes hate the other half?

    Should families divide the way they did during the Civil War? Should siblings stop talking to each other because one is a physician in private practice and the other is an assistant DA? Should parents who are cops and teachers shun their children if they work for a for-profit company?

    Gimme a break. We’re all Americans, last time I checked.

  10. C.E. Stead

    @Dk – because we have a provision requiring a flat tax in our Constitution.

  11. Mike Benedict

    What’s interesting to me is that of the 15 states at or above the US average for unemployment, the majority (9) are traditional red states, yet those states stayed red. What’s more, Mitch Daniels, whom some talking heads last night were parading as the next great GOP leader, boasts an unemployment rate well above the national average.

    So much for the Republicans holding their own leaders responsible. Do as I say, not as I do.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Mike: But how can Daniels be held responsible for the fact that there’s a socialist of Kenyan origin in the White House?

  12. Steve Stein

    @BP “Face it. Massachusetts has reached the tipping point where there are more of “them” than “us,” them being those who rely on the government for their daily bread, and us who have to make it on our own.”

    You keep saying it, but I still don’t see any data to back up the claim, just hand-waving. I’m sure the private sector employees have families as well. And I don’t doubt that there are families that are half “them” and half “us”. My wife, for instance, works for an agency that gets DPH contracts. But she makes a lot less than I do (for work that is considerably more difficult). Does that make my family 75% us and 25% them?

  13. Mike Benedict

    Correlation is not causation. But obviously Daniels and the GOP are not interested in pesky little details like that!

  14. Mike Benedict

    @CE: Where, exactly, is that provision?

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Mike: @C.E. is right. In order to have a graduated income tax in Massachusetts we would need to amend the state constitution. It’s been put before the voters several times, and it’s always lost.

  15. Nial Lynch

    From Steve’s link to Mass jobs estimate chart it appears that the number of state employees has increased by 3600, or 3 percent, in the last year. Good to see that business is booming in the government racket.

  16. Mike Benedict

    @Dan: Sorry, I missed that CE was referring to the state Constitution.

    Carry on.

  17. ben starr

    Glancing at the turnout numbers in Boston and Worcester, its not obvious that turnout won the race for Patrick. Seems that turnout was generally about the same (not clear its the same bodies). What is notable is that turnout in these cities was down 30-35% from ’08 election such that Patrick did not win simply by motivating the Obama voters (minorities and the young).

    I still don’t see what was so great about Scott Brown (as compared to Baker) and what was so terrible about Coakley (as compared to Patrick). Brown did have issues to run against whereas Baker isn’t that different than Patrick (both have the MA legislature as an adversary).

    • Dan Kennedy

      I still don’t see what was so great about Scott Brown (as compared to Baker) and what was so terrible about Coakley (as compared to Patrick).

      @Ben: Substantively? OK. But Patrick and Brown have the best political instincts of any newcomers I’ve seen in years. Baker and Coakley? Not so much.

  18. Mike Benedict

    Brown a political newcomer? He was first elected to the State House in 1998!

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Mike: Yeah, and for all we know he was a selectman before that. Fact is, he was a completely new face to 97.5 percent of the electorate.

  19. ben starr

    @dan Off topic a little but did you see the impact of the Globe’s endorsements? They endorsed one statewide republican candidate, Mary Z, and her Dem opponent got the same 49% of the vote that the Dem at the top of the ticket received. And her opponent had a notable public stain. I’m not sure why an editorial page continues to exist in the old media but it provides little value while heaping baggage upon journalists attempting to appear objective in their reporting.

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