What Deval Patrick’s 2010 Win May Tell Us About 2014

I was just wondering – exactly how did Governor Deval Patrick defeat Charlie Baker and win re-election in 2010? I know plenty of people have their theories but the governor had some pretty ugly numbers. Or maybe I’ve just been looking in the wrong places.

Consider that in the Boston Globe poll of October 24, 2010 respondents were asked “Generally speaking, do you approve or disapprove of the way Deval Patrick is handling his job as governor” and 44% approved but 49% disapproved. Given our party registration in the state we all look to Independents and only 37% of them approved but 57% disapproved.

When asked if they had a favorable opinion of the governor, 49% held a favorable opinion of Governor Patrick, 43% an unfavorable view – okay but not great.

A general question about incumbents in Washington and in Massachusetts indicated that 28% trusted incumbents but 49% wanted a new crop of leaders. It was not a fat and happy electorate in 2010. When asked if they were excited or depressed about the elections in Massachusetts and the country the Republicans were the most cheerful group and the Democrats the most depressed.

Thirty-nine percent thought Massachusetts was going in the right direction but 55% thought the state was on the wrong track.

One thing is people weren’t crazy about Baker either 38% favorable to 40% unfavorable. The choice of a strong leader was a wash, 40% Baker to 42% Patrick. On candidate who understands people like me it was 32% Baker and 36% Patrick.

There is no beating the governor for sheer likeability though; 44% thought Patrick the most likeable candidate, only 25% Baker. Let’s form a “Committee to Re-elect the Guy We Like But Don’t Think Is Doing a Very Good Job!”

So perhaps we can expect harsh attacks on Baker in 2014 while the Democrats send their candidate to cuddly re-education camp. Yet it can’t just be likeability, can it?

I really doubt that so I want to turn back to the party polarization that is commanding so much of the country’s politics, particularly research I mentioned a few weeks ago: a study by Prof. Dan Hopkins which shows that voters are voting the party and not the candidate in gubernatorial elections. That occurred in 2010: Democratic states voted in Democratic governors, Republican states voted in Republican governors. That correlation has been happening more and more in recent years and Professor Hopkins posits the pattern is likely to repeat in 2014. If so, would it be possible for even a Bill Weld or Paul Cellucci to be elected governor in Massachusetts in 2014?

Heck, maybe it was just that Patrick is so darn popular. But consider that Patrick was still roughly tied for most popular politician in the state in 2012 with a guy named Scott Brown and look what happened to Brown – he ducked Ed Markey and then fled the state.


About Maurice T. Cunningham

Maurice T. Cunningham is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. He teaches courses in American government including Massachusetts Politics, The American Presidency, Catholics in Political Life, The Political Thought of Abraham Lincoln, American Political Thought, and Public Policy. His book Maximization, Whatever the Cost: Race, Redistricting and the Department of Justice examines the role of the DOJ in requiring states to maximize minority voting districts in the Nineties. He has published articles dealing with the role of the Catholic Church in Massachusetts politics and on party politics in the state. His research interests focus upon the changing political culture of Massachusetts.
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6 Responses to What Deval Patrick’s 2010 Win May Tell Us About 2014

  1. Joshua says:

    It’s a safe bet that very few people who benifits from reckless govenment spending will ever vote for a fiscal responsible Republican. It comes down to who will provide more no-show jobs and free money for the cronies, thats who wins ellections in Massachusetts

    • Jim Walsh says:

      Joshua, you are almost correct but let me suggest some adjustments. The most fiscally responsible governor we’ve had in my lifetime might be Michael Dukakis. He tackled a bureaucracy that had become bloated during the previous ten years of Republican governors…which is a handy, vaguely correct but simplistic explanation of how we got to where we were in 1975. But during the Dukakis era (which includes the King “interregnum”) some balance was restored between spending and taxes. And I would have to say that Deval Patrick has been a pretty prudent in his years in office. But my take away on this would be that what our Commonwealth does not need a slash and burn Republican governor but a healthy, conservative Democrat at the helm who has a broad, humane vision and the skills to rein in a legislature that has a tendency to run off the rails. The real source spring of no-shows and cronyism might be the great and general court, not the governor’s office.

  2. Jim Walsh, Nahant says:

    I think there were two factors that resulted in the win for Governor Patrick.

    Perhaps the most important factor was that Mr. Baker allowed his out-of-touch party regulars to determine the tone of his campaign. As Scott Brown discovered, when you become a sarcastic and mean spirited candidate without a discernible sense of humor, voters do not warm to you, even if they are not particularly drawn to the other candidate. What is dangerous now to Democrats is that Mr. Baker may have learned his lesson.

    The second factor that won for Gov. Patrick was John E. Walsh (no relation), who became the Democratic chair after Gov. Patrick’s first win. Chairman Walsh’s focus was not on the club of party regulars and good old boys. It was about organizing and reaching out to voters street-by-street across the Commonwealth. His focus was outward, not inward and his galvanizing presence will be missed in this campaign.

  3. Christopher says:

    He probably benefited from a split anti-Deval vote. Tim Cahill ran as an independent and Patrick did not get a majority.

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  5. Jim Walsh says:

    The lack of images and focus on text is a positive feature for some of us. It’s the words and ideas that matter along with the willingness to intellectually engage. I would respectfully disagree with our soon-to-be Hawaiian friend.

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