Dan Winslow brings his campaign to Danvers

Winslow in Danvers

U.S. Senate candidate Dan Winslow calls himself “the Dan with a plan.” I am the Dan without a plan. But I do follow Winslow on Twitter. So when I saw that he was heading for Danvers Square, I walked the block and a half from my house to see if we could connect.

Winslow, one of three Republicans running in the primary on Tuesday, was greeting voters and meeting supporters at New Brothers. We’ve conversed so much on Twitter that it was hard to remember that this was actually our first meeting.

Winslow is as ebullient in person as he is on social media, touting his endorsement by the Springfield Republican as representing a “clean sweep” of Massachusetts newspapers. (Most notably, Winslow has been endorsed by both the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald.)

Still, the polls suggest that Winslow — a state representative, former judge and a top adviser to Mitt Romney when he was governor — is running third, behind former U.S. attorney Michael Sullivan and venture capitalist Gabriel Gomez. The winner will square off against one of two Democratic congressmen, Ed Markey or Stephen Lynch, in a special election to be held in June.

Winslow’s hopes would appear to rest on low turnout (likely to be especially low given how little attention the campaign has received following the Boston Marathon bombing) and his get-out-the-vote effort. His profile as a fiscally conservative, socially moderate Republican is one that has traditionally appealed to independent voters in Massachusetts. But he’s not well known, and there are only a few days to go.

Photo (cc) by Dan Kennedy. Some rights reserved.

Michael Sullivan’s tired, uninspired debate performance

Dan Winslow and Gabriel Gomez at least seemed interesting in tonight’s Republican Senate debate, sponsored by WBZ and the Boston Globe. But Michael Sullivan, who’s way ahead in some polls, came across as old and cranky, a garden-variety right-winger who couldn’t even bring himself to support the gun-control compromise announced in Washington today.

It seems to me that either Winslow or Gomez could at least make the Democratic nominee — Steve Lynch or, more likely, Ed Markey — break a sweat. If either of them gets a chance, that is.

And, oh, the Massachusetts Republican Party has come to this: both Sullivan and Gomez attacked Winslow for being part of a governor’s team that raised taxes and passed Romneycare. If Willard Mitt Romney is now too liberal for Republican primary voters, then their candidate is headed off an electoral cliff.

Finneran takes the hit

Frank Phillips and Shelley Murphy report in today’s Boston Globe that former Massachusetts House Speaker Tom Finneran will plead guilty to obstruction of justice in a legislative-redistricting case. In return, Finneran will not go to prison and will not face federal perjury charges.

The charges have always struck me as faintly ridiculous. As Harvey Silverglate pointed out in this piece in the Boston Phoenix a year and a half ago, U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan would have had a difficult time proving that Finneran did anything other than parse his words a little too cutely when he testified in the redistricting case. There was also no reason to think that whatever obfuscation Finneran engaged in was “material” to the outcome — key to proving perjury. In a remarkably prescient passage, Silverglate wrote:

Given the merits of his case, Sullivan is unlikely to prevail unless he pressures Finneran into accepting a plea bargain. Sullivan has many weapons at his disposal for applying such pressure, not the least of which is his power to recommend that if Finneran pleads guilty, the judge refrain from imposing a prison term. But Sullivan’s power to indict (it is rightly said that a federal prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich) and to pressure Finneran into a plea bargain is not the standard by which a federal prosecutor is supposed to decide whether to charge a citizen.

Silverglate closed that observation with this: “Besides, the former Speaker’s legendary toughness might well thwart any effort to pressure him into pleading guilty.” Sometimes, though, even a tough guy knows when to take the deal that’s offered him — regardless of whether he’s actually guilty.