Baker did nothing to shake up the race. He came across as intelligent and unerringly on message about cutting government, cutting taxes, cutting government regulation. He was able to demonstrate some sharp elbows but was unable to paint his vision of the Commonwealth under Governor Baker. Except by exhorting “leadership,” he was unable to explain to moderator Charlie Gibson how he was going to get his proposals through a legislature that had already rejected half of them.
Like the other candidates, he’s opposed to the extremes of Question Three, but cutting taxes is still his mantra, and if he had his way he’d roll them back to 5 percent now, even in the face of the looming budget deficit, believing his regulatory reforms can make up the difference. (Patrick, too, says he’d like to go back to five percent, but not with the current deficit.) Baker perhaps scored some points by advocating a more muscular approach to illegal immigrants, a position more aligned with Massachusetts’ public support of the Arizona approach than the Governor’s.
So here we are. Deval Patrick has maintained a slim lead in the polls throughout the campaign, but, depending on the survey, it’s close to the margin of error. And it’s less than that if more anti Patrick “undecideds” or Cahill supporters end up voting for Baker and if disaffected Democrats and Democrat-leaning Independents stay home.
Charlie Baker offers a contrast in stated philosophy and an opportunity for change. But what are his chances of success and with what consequences if he fails ? Is the “devil” we know, who has learned from his early mistakes, better than the “devil” we don’t, who has yet to make his rookie blunders?
We campaign in poetry and govern in prose, Mario Cuomo said, and voters must look beyond the over simplified rhetoric of the candidates and their political ads to understand the serious choice that must be made. Next Tuesday is not Groundhog Day, it’s Election Day. Which of the candidates do we really trust not only to make the difficult decisions ahead but then to persuade the legislature, conflicting interest groups and the public in effecting the policies necessary to make our lives and the lives of children better?
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