Is Massachusetts still in play for elections on the state-wide level? If you asked anyone in the heady days of the 2010 cycle after Scott Brown shocked the nation, you’d probably get a lot answers in the positive. (Or at least a strong maybe.) But plenty of water has passed under the bridge since then, along with an election which certainly didn’t provide Northeastern Republicans with much reason for confidence. That general air of pessimism seems to have taken over the GOP in the Bay State as they prepare for a special election to fill John Kerry’s seat in the upper chamber, since it’s hard to find anyone of any standing who is interested in the job.
Decisions by Brown and numerous other top-tier Republicans to bow out of contention for a special US Senate election were made for individual reasons but reflect Republicans’ new reality, much like their pre-2010 reality: No one expects one of them to win.
“Of course, it’s a rare opportunity, and Brown showed in 2010 that it’s possible,” said GOP political consultant Jason Kauppi. “This special election, though, comes right after an enormous national election in which, at least in the Northeast, Republicans fared very badly.”
The Massachusetts GOP is trying to put the best face on the lesser-known Republican contenders who are stepping up, including state Representative Daniel B. Winslow, who announced his candidacy Thursday, and Cohasset private equity investor Gabriel E. Gomez, who is expected to become a candidate soon.
This isn’t taking anything away from the earnest desire to serve on the part of players like Winslow and Gomez, but for a Senate race you generally hope to enlist an A team player with a lot of positive name recognition going in and the ability to attract a lot of high dollar donors. Apparently, William Weld, Richard Tisei and Charles Baker – top tier candidates to be sure – were all approached and declined. One strategist seems to sum up the general mood among them pretty well.
“You’re looking at your chances of winning,” said Kauppi, who contrasted their odds with Brown’s upset in 2010. “He caught lightning in a bottle. Can you catch lightning in a bottle again? I just think the national atmospherics are not forecast to go Republicans’ way, let alone in Massachusetts.”
I can sympathize with the Republicans in MA. We’ve had similar issues in New York, as I’m sure others around the Northeast have. When we had our own opening after Hillary left, there was a lot of energy among Republicans for taking a serious run at Kirsten Gillibrand. Entering her first real election at that level, she had very little name recognition by comparison and no real accomplishments. People were hoping that George Pataki or one of the other senior party members would throw their hat into the ring, but there was just no appetite for it. We’ve not put up a serious candidate for Senate in some time, much to the dismay of locals, so I suppose I can understand where the MA first bench is coming from. Kind of a pity, really.