It's Patrick's to lose in November
by Kevin John Sowyrda
It was an Al Gore-like political defeat for Chris Gabrieli Tuesday night, full of bitter ironies and painfully hard for him and his supporters to digest. He ran for Congress in 1998, spending millions to lose. He was a powerful and compelling compliment to his running mate when he was the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in 2002, spending more millions only to lose a second consecutive time. This year, Gabrieli spent more money to win a primary race than any other person in Massachusetts history, and yet the venture capitalist was soundly defeated by a political neophyte, an under funded underdog who just eighteen months earlier was a name recognized only by people who browse political almanacs in their spare time.
In total, Chris Gabrieli has spent at least 15 millions dollars in his three nosedive bids for public office in the Commonwealth. That's enough money to buy about 500 Chrysler 300 luxury sedans.
Time for Chris to find another way to serve mankind. His triad of defeats prove that there truly is an element of either luck or fatal misfortune to the electoral venue, because a guy this eloquent, this smart and this filthy rich should have picked up an elected office by now. Political fate has treated Gabrieli in a Machiavellian way. The best conclusion I can devise is that the political Gods that be will not give their blessing to Chris Gabrieli holding any of the seals of public office, at least not for now.
I'm not suggesting Gabrieli revert to the fetal position or become a political Howard Hughes, especially given the fact that he's a man with many worthy things to say. However, 'tis the season to avoid the ballot boxes and better invest that enormous fortune in an innovative think tank, thus avoiding the inevitable and unenviable label of 'perennial candidate.' (Though I'll admit Boston Mayor Gabrieli is still appealing to my sensibilities.)
Segue to one Deval Patrick, whose about to do something the founders of this colony never could have conceived possible or tolerable. This person of color, a Black kid from the Chicago projects where children are literally consumed by an unforgiving environment of drugs and crime, is poised to be the governor of the state that makes presidents. Not too shabby, Patrick.
Next time your son or daughter says the word 'can't' to you, show them a picture of Deval Patrick. He kicked political.....you know.....on Tuesday night because the only word he knows is can. People saw that and embraced it. That's why he won.
Now for November. Sensing that she's poised to be the last in a string of disengaged Republican governors the Commonwealth has suffered, the G.O.P. standard bearer Kerry-Healey will be pressured by her inner circle to run against Patrick the most negative campaign we've seen in the Commonwealth since the more infamous blood feuds of years gone by. Here are the candidates' strengths and weaknesses, and what will be the dynamics of the campaign this Fall.
First, Deval exudes excitement and beats his opponent on the charisma quotient as much as Kennedy did Nixon. It's a simple proposition, almost rudimentary, but it's noteworthy because it's already proven to be a key factor to Patrick's enormous success. Fresh and radiant; untainted by any connections to the incestuous beast that is Bay State politics, Patrick shines like a new penny when compared to the incumbent lieutenant governor.
On the money front, forget what you've heard about Deval not having the resources to compete with the very deep pockets of the well healed Kerry Healey. Deval will absolutely not be outspent. Democrats will unite behind his candidacy which will attract national attention and national dollars. The lieutenant governor's personal fortune pales in comparison to the money that can be raised by Democrats named Clinton, Solomont, Kennedy and Grossman, to name just a few.
Further, Deval comes out of this primary tried, true and better tested than his opponent. While the lieutenant governor was lucky enough to be unopposed in her primary, she was also unlucky enough to be unopposed in her primary. Deval got fresh debate experience and looks like the proverbial eight hundred pound guerilla following this fantastic primary win. For atleast a week, the only articles you'll read will be how in the world did he do it, hence relegating Healey to the back pages in what is a brief stretch to November.
Next, there is the anti incumbency fervor which will dictate the final terms of the general election more than any other factor. This is Healey's true Achilles heal and Patrick's greatest asset. Healey faces the daunting task of boasting her credentials as 'co-governor' while also attempting to dispossess all responsibility for Big Dig mis-management these past four years. Her advisors already have the ads in the can which they believe will raise Patrick's negatives, to compensate for this predicament. It's the only way for them to win, from their perspective, since Patrick has no strings attached to the corrupt beast which is our state government.
And here lies Patrick's weakness - that his opponent's lieutenants are disciples of the philosophy that the end justifies the means. The nuclear bombs will start this week, and Healey's own Dr. Strangelove has his finger on the button. Meet the city's most right wing, zealot; Rob Gray. If politics has war criminals, Gray would be the Slobodan Milosevic of Bay State elections, and there are the political corpses to prove it. "He doesn't take prisoners," a retiring G.O.P legislator told me Tuesday evening as I watched the candidates concede and celebrate. "Politics is definitely a contact sport for him, and he prefers to hit his opponent below the belt where it will hurt the most," he told me.
So Patrick will have to prepare for a negative campaign and not complain about it, as he very unwisely complained during the second Democratic debate about tough ads. Reilly made one brilliant comment that night, which is if Patrick thinks the primary fight is tough, wait till the Republicans start their attacks.
Last, but hardly least, there's the independent candidacy of Christy Mihos, a wild-card factor to some people, but by many estimates nothing less than a death knell to Healey; as Mihos is likely to siphon more votes from Healey than he ever would from Patrick. If Patrick wins this, he'll owe Mihos his old seat on the Turnpike Authority.
As of today, the whole enchilada is Patrick's to lose. And being the sophisticated candidate he's proven to be, he'll prepare immediately for the capabilities of Healey's minions. To do otherwise could prove politically fatal.
Kevin John Sowyrda is a political writer. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and read his daily blog at www.thebostonmemo.blogpost.com