Category Archives: Mass Politics

Washashores enter a local district race on Cape Cod

First term Democratic Representative Brian Mannal has had better weeks.  The question is whether Cape Codders direct their ire at him or his washashore opponents.

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From the Archives: The Coakley Media Narrative

Prof. Cunningham is on vacation but has left behind some favorite posts from the archives. Read on to consider that Martha Coakley’s 2010 mistakes did not cost her that race but could cost her this one.

The Stumbling and Bumbling Martha Coakley

coakleyMartha Coakley, this time you’ve gone too far. When the Boston Globe ran an article in which Democrats fretted that you are a political bumbler and fumbler, my colleague Professor Ubertaccio rose to your defense.  I made fun of the Democratic knee-knockers too. Then in The Myth of Martha Coakley’s Mistakes I argued that the AG’s fumbles and bumbles didn’t really impact the 2010 special election loss to Scott Brown.

So how does the AG thank us? With this, from Frank Phillips of the Globe: Martha Coakley’s Campaign Funds in Disarray.

I’ll continue to maintain that Coakley’s fumbles and bumbles didn’t cost her the election in 2010. But they might cost her the election of 2014.

That is because the media frame established on Coakley from 2010 is one of an inept politician who commits serial unforced errors. A frame is a window through which we perceive reality.

Coakley seemed to recognize the stark force of the Globe story depicting Democratic insiders as anxious that she could fall apart in a gubernatorial contest.   Even though those experts were wrong that her miscues cost the party the special senate election, the story is strong enough that it had to be addressed. So she set about to combat the notion that she isn’t a hard working campaigner by getting all around the state. She did her mea culpas. She even campaigned outside of Fenway Park, adding to the list of miracles occurring at the lyrical bandbox this year. Her announcement video didn’t offer any reason to vote for her but still, some polls showed her beating the Democratic field and Republican Charlie Baker.

But then along comes the Phillips story in the Sunday Globe revealing that Coakley has so mismanaged her leftover federal campaign account from the senate race that she may have committed “a violation of campaign finance law.” It’s hard to tell if the account is flush or in deficit because the records are so inaccurate. Oh, and one of the individuals paid to oversee the accuracy of the account is Coakley’s sister.

Plus as AG, Coakley has pursued state political figures including former Lt. Governor Tim Murray for campaign finance violations. Naughty naughty Tim.

So in other words, she has completely blown the effort to alter the media frame.

Let’s also remember this bit of inside information from a September 5 Globe story by Phillips and Jim Sullivan, Baker Enters Governor’s Race, Coakley Weighs Bid:

Coakley insiders say she has yet to make a final decision about whether to run, but confirm that much of her decision depends on whether she can assemble a highly talented group of organizers, media consultants, and pollsters.

Organizers, consultants, and pollsters; that ought to do it.

In one piece of good news for the Coakley campaign, Massachusetts has no statewide version of Saturday Night Live. Tina Fey would have a field day.

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Globe Poll: So Much Data, So Little Context

Conflict and controversy are marketable media commodities and stability is just plain boooooorrrring. Thus we have Sunday’s Boston Globe story based on the newspaper’s poll showing that if Martha Coakley loses to Charlie Baker in November it might be attributed to disloyal Democratic followers of Steve Grossman.

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Pols against politics don’t win primaries

There is a pretty standard theme in most “outsider” political campaigns that was evident last night in the Democratic gubernatorial debate. Don Berwick says he’s not a politician and that government should be run like a business. The only other major party candidate for governor hitting this theme as hard as Berwick is Mark Fisher, the Tea Party Republican challenging Charlie Baker.

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Massachusetts Madisonianism

Recently in thinking about the Massachusetts legislature I’ve come across some academic arguments that the power of the legislature has deteriorated significantly over the years. These arguments take the long view – legislative dominance from the time of the 1780 Constitution, a draining of power while the executive’s power increased from the early twentieth century onward. Then there is my colleague Professor Duquette’s argument that there is no need for business interests to support Republicans because the Democratic legislature already acts like it is Republican.

The work of these scholars is important in understanding how our legislature conducts the public business. I tend to agree that the legislature’s power has receded some through history, but that it retains enormous power that only a legislature can properly exercise. Moreover in the differences the legislature has had with both Republican governors and the progressive Democrat Deval Patrick a sort of Massachusetts Madisonianism may be at work.

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Has the Globe’s weekly poll impacted the Guv’s race?

The Globe’s Frank Phillips recently called the ongoing race for the corner office in Massachusetts “one of the least-energized statewide races in years.” His Globe colleague Jim O’Sullivan speculates that this might have something to do with “a candidate lineup that has not, to put it politely, exactly set the electorate on fire.” While I agree that there have been few fireworks to date, I wonder if the Globe’s own coverage of the race hasn’t played a role.

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MassForward’s “Mother’s Ad” Disappears and Social Science Suggests Why: Race

All the talk this week in the Massachusetts Governor’s race is on the ad Martha Coakley is running that paints her as a political outsider who has never been embraced by the old boy’s club. She’s right …and I’ll get to that in a forthcoming post. But the ad story going under the radar is the one we’re no longer seeing: The Mother’s Ad.

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Questioning Faith and Politics

Recently Governor Deval Patrick stood with leaders of diverse faith communities and invoked his own religious faith as a rationale for accepting immigrant children into the commonwealth. I wrote admiringly of that decision and some among our commenters suggested that when religion calls to ideas that are not consistent with the prevailing liberal ideology around here, our Democratic politicians are more likely to spurn than to heed faith leaders. I think those critics are justified and they rightly point out the complicated nature of religion and politics in the land our forebears sought to establish as a Model of Christian Charity.

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Prof O’Brien’s research featured in NYTimes

The New York Times Editorial Board featured Professor O’Brien’s co-authored research in their 8/11/14 editorial on voting access developments in the American States: www.nytimes.com/2014/08/12/opinion/where-voting-is-now-easier.html

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Media Coverage of Women Candidates

Do the media treat women candidates for governor or senator differently, focusing more on personal traits than on substantive issues or on horse race? Is that sort of coverage helpful or harmful to women candidates? If there are such effects do they hold for primaries as well as general elections?

I can’t answer those questions in the context of a Democratic Party primary for governor featuring a woman candidate but an article in Political Research Quarterly has me thinking: Johanna Dunaway, Regina G. Lawrence, Melody Rose and Christopher R. Weber, “Traits versus Issues: How Female Candidates Shape coverage of Senate and Gubernatorial Elections.” (2013).

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