Bellwether Races in MA, NY

With president Obama’s popularity fading, two important governor races in the East are reflecting Democrats’ troubled standing with the American electorate.


In Massachusetts, Republican candidate Charlie Baker is CEO of the big Harvard-Pilgrim health plan. He is credited with turning around the company and making it one of the best in the nation. Baker also served in past Republican gubernatorial administrations in the 1990s.


Baker is smart, handsome, knowledgeable, very tall and a great speaker. He is touching a chord with Massachusetts independents and even many Democrats who are dismayed by the state’s loss of jobs and population, its sky-high taxes, its widespread corruption (three previous Democrat speakers of the House in a row indicted) and its exorbitant pay scales for state workers operating in a labyrinthine bureaucracy.


Baker now trails incumbent governor Democrat Deval Patrick by just 3 points, 45% to 42%, according to the latest Rasmussen poll of likely voters. Democrat-turned-independent Tim Cahill gets only 5%. Rasmussen now calls the race a tossup. It was until recently considered ‘leaning Democrat’.


Patrick, who was elected in 2006 and who is black, has only a 49% job approval rating, which spells trouble after Republican Scott Brown’s victory in the January race for the US Senate seat formerly held by the late Ted Kennedy.


Massachusetts is called a Democrat state, but the real voter breakdown is roughly 36% Democrat, 52% independent and 12% Republican. And a big swing to Republicans by independents, including many relatively conservative Massachusetts Catholics, will change the face of state politics.


Baker is calling for sweeping reforms in state government as did Republican New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who had polls strikingly comparable to Baker’s before winning the governorship last November. Christie was not really expected to beat incumbent Jon Corzine, but won comfortably.


Since January of this year, Christie has pushed through major reforms by confronting the state-employee unions. He “solved” the state’s “unsolvable” budget crisis in just six months, and in California Meg Whitman plans to do the same, as does Baker in Massachusetts. Christie recently appeared on behalf of Whitman and made a national story by confronting a heckler.


Baker has little support among social conservatives, however. He is very liberal on social issues and has picked an openly-homosexual running mate in Richard Tisei, who is seen as distant and aloof.


Baker hopes to bring along with him reform-minded candidates like state treasurer candidate Karyn Polito, a business-savvy Republican state senator, and Mary Connaughton, a CPA who is seeking the job of state auditor. Connaughton is well-known and popular in the voter-rich Boston area for exposing widespread corruption at the Massachusetts Turnpike Board.


In the primary Connaughton handily defeated Kamal Jain, who is a person to be watched on the state and national level. His parents came from India, and he is very smart and very conservative. This year he has authored a referendum measure to roll back the Massachusetts sales tax from 6.25% to 3%. In 2008, he authored a measure to eliminate the state income tax, which lost.


In another bellwether Massachusetts race, powerful Democrat US congressman Barney Frank, who has served since 1981, is leading Marine Corps veteran and private-sector advocate Sean Bielat by only 10 points in a recent poll. Typically Republicans have lost by 25 to 40 points to incumbents in such Massachusetts races. Political observers are claiming that a recent campaign appearance by Bill Clinton shows that Frank is nervous. Bielat leads Frank among independents 51-34.


Meanwhile, candidates like Mike Case, who is running for state representative in the 2nd district, would help Connaughton, Polito and Baker by offering more balance in a state legislature that currently is a whopping 90% Democrat. A strong Baker win is likely to ‘trickle down’ to candidates like Case, who is already seen as a likely winner.


In the 1st US congressional district, conservative small-businessman, Tea Partier and Constitutionalist Bill Gunn is challenging tax-happy John Olver, a lifelong academic and politician who has served as a Democrat foot soldier to Nancy Pelosi and the liberal left. Gunn is running a strong grass-roots campaign, while Olver is being regarded as old, entrenched and disoriented in some interviews, as if suffering from the early phases of dementia. 


In New York state, surprise Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino only trails Democrat Andrew Cuomo by a small margin in a recent poll. Cuomo is the state’s current attorney general.


Paladino is a blunt-speaking Buffalo businessman who emerged out of nowhere by defeating ‘establishment Republican’ Rick Lazio in the September 14 primary. If Lazio had been the Republican nominee, he would have been listed on both the Republican and Conservative Party tickets. But Cuomo was expected to have beaten Lazio handily.


Lazio dropped out of the race entirely on September 27 which is super good news for Paladino and could put Paladino over the top. Lazio still remains on the Conservative Party ballot, however, and could draw some small number of votes from Paladino from uninformed voters not aware that Lazio had quit.


But like a typical Republican moderate, Lazio has refused to officially endorse Paladino. So in other words Lazio was willing to accept the Conservative Party endorsement but now refuses to endorse the genuinely conservative candidate who was the choice of the voters. This type of political double-cross is going to cause more schism in the Republican party. Let’s hope Lazio gives in and endorses Paladino.


Millions of New Yorkers are furious about dysfunction at the state legislature in Albany, and about high taxes, business flight, pampered government employees and welfare recipients, and an anti-business culture among Democrats.


Paladino is threatening to go to Albany with “a baseball bat” to fix the government. A recent Quinnipiac poll taken shortly after the primary showed Paladino trailing Cuomo by only 6 points. This was shocking and completely unexpected to Democrats, since the Cuomo name has been part of New York politics for decades, while Paladino was virtually unknown and Lazio was considered a sacrificial lamb.


Democrat groups are targeting Paladino with attack ads, while Paladino is talking about Cuomo as part of the corruption problem in Albany, as a political insider who will never confront the state’s entrenched political interests. He is appealing to New Yorkers as an outsider who will fix the state using tough measures. A metaphorical “baseball bat” makes sense to more and more people.


Cuomo has strong support in New York City, particularly among black voters. But with 18% of New York voters now identifying themselves as Tea Partiers, Paladino has a big, organized advantage there that did not exist just two years ago.


Liberal columnist Susan Estrich said of Paladino:


Is Carl Paladino actually qualified to be governor of New York?


Is he ready to actually govern — as opposed to venting? Is he prepared to deal with the legislature, the bureaucracy, to make the best appointments, address the challenges facing the state? What are his thoughts about education, the environment, health care, entitlements, crime and urban problems? The issue is not whether anyone (including him) knows the answer to these questions but, more importantly, whether they care.


“Sending a message” is an old campaign strategy. But it is more often used by those who are certain to lose than by those who have a chance to win. (end of excerpt)


This line of thinking shows Democrat nervousness. Because Democrats have seen the polls and refuse to acknowledge that voters are not looking for a politician who knows the ins and out of governing, but someone with clear ideas for fixing New York’s – and the nation’s – fiscal problems.


Cuomo was conducting a classic “shoo-in” campaign with controlled appearances and reliance on surrogates like New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. But the surprising popularity of Paladino is shaking up the Democrat party both in New York state and in Washington.


Please visit my website at www.nikitas3.com for more. You can read excerpts from my book, Right Is Right, which explains why only conservatism can maintain our freedom and prosperity.