Columns, Opinion

RYAN: Liberal Through and Through

When I moved to Boston, there were a few things I knew to be true about the Commonwealth. I knew that I was moving to a New England state. I knew it was going to be cold, and I knew it was going to be liberal. Also there was a Chipotle on campus, and it’s pronounced “Wooster.” So imagine my surprise, when just 14 months later, a Republican candidate for governor was winning in the polls. And no, his competition was not Anthony Weiner.

In a Real Clear Politics aggregate poll released Saturday, Republican candidate Charlie Baker had 3.7 points on Democratic candidate Martha Coakley. It was Coakley’s race to lose. In a state like Massachusetts, it is always the Democrat’s race to lose.

On paper, Martha Coakley is everything the Massachusetts Democratic Party had dreamed of. She’s a Massachusetts native—although Western Massachusetts is as part of Massachusetts as Hawaii is part of the United States. After graduating from Williams College and Boston University School of Law, Coakley worked as a prosecutor before eventually becoming the first female attorney general for Massachusetts.

With the exception of her disastrous loss to Scott Brown in the 2010 Senate race for former U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy’s seat, Coakley was the perfect choice to run on the Democratic ticket. Yet, no one was surprised when her polling numbers continued to fall throughout October and November.

I initially planned to write an endorsement for the sinking “Martha Coakley for Governor” ship. Then I watched the gubernatorial debate on Oct. 28…well, I watched the first 15 minutes of the debate. I had seen enough.

Sure, I care more about the issues than oratorical (is anyone else surprised that’s a word?) abilities, but in a state like Massachusetts, the governor’s political affiliation doesn’t really matter. Regardless of election results, both the Senate and House of Representatives in the Legislature will be overwhelmingly Democratic. In either scenario, we don’t have to worry about the liberal voice being heard. We still live in Massachusetts, after all.

After Gov. Deval Patrick, the Commonwealth needs another strong leader to secure its future as an important American city. Charlie Baker may be that leader. I don’t know. However, Martha Coakley is not.

Before you say a word, it has nothing to do with her gender. I am all for female empowerment in the political sphere. I will vote for any competent, female Democrat on the ballot in front of me. Ironically, Coakley’s problem is like 87 percent cosmetic, and it’s a little late in the game to fix this.

Watch any of the gubernatorial debates and you’ll find that Coakley never seemed at ease. Even when she was given the softball question, she was on the edge trying to defend her point. Conversely, Baker was a natural. At one point in the debate, a moderator asked, “Where is your political courage?” and instead of getting defensive, Baker gave a solid, well-reasoned answer. I don’t know about you, but I want a leader who has a cool head in the face of a crisis. If she can’t relax in the middle of a debate, how is she going to handle an emergency?

In a state like Massachusetts (read: exceptionally liberal), most voters need to be given a reason not to vote Democratic. Similar to the 2010 Senate election, Coakley managed to give plenty of lifelong Democrats a reason to vote for somebody else. She has a problem seeming genuine and personable.

The Boston Globe profiled her back in September before the primary and captured this angle well. Every inch of the profile pointed out that Coakley had to change her reputation among Massachusetts voters because they weren’t very impressed.

Coakley also had to fight against U.S. President Barack Obama’s poor approval ratings. Even in a left-leaning state like Massachusetts, the Suffolk University/Boston Herald poll from Oct. 27 had Obama’s approval rating at just 44 percent. In general, people aren’t too impressed with the Democrats, and that’s just one more battle Martha Coakley couldn’t win.

Additionally, let’s not pretend that Charlie Baker is a Tea Party candidate or anything. The man is socially moderate and fiscally conservative, a combination that seems appealing to middle class voters. The slow economic recovery has made these voters more susceptible to non-Democratic solutions.

I’m not endorsing Baker, but I also refuse to endorse Coakley for governor. Considering how left leaning I am, this should say something. Coakley doesn’t get me pumped up. She doesn’t make me excited to be a Democrat. Instead, she’s the Democratic equivalent of lukewarm coffee — you drink it because you need the caffeine, not because it tastes good.

Even if Baker was the most conservative, outspoken politician in the country, the Legislature, the judicial branch and the people of the Commonwealth will remain Democratic. According to a Gallup poll from February 2013, Massachusetts is the most liberal state in the nation. One election isn’t going to change that.

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