It's Shannon vs. Mitt
: The gubernatorial primary is over
, and there were no big surprises, except for the margin and order in which the losers finished. So let’s quickly get to the big showdown: Shannon vs. Mitt. Here’s how Hub Blug sees it:
: He must show 1.) That he knows what the ultimate problem is on Beacon Hill (which is to say, Beacon Hill itself) and 2.) That Shannon O’Brien is part of that Beacon Hill problem and 3.) That he’s capable of challenging and vanquishing that problem.
On the first point, Mitt has indicated he indeed intends to make “the mess on Beacon Hill” the issue, blasting all the backroom nepotism and patronage that we now associate with inefficient government, high taxes, prolific spending etc. The campaign is still about hacks and anti-hacks, not unlike the 1990 race waged by William Weld. Mitt doesn’t need to tout pre-programmed promises about cutting taxes, restoring trust, blah, blah, blah. Instead, he just needs to keep hammering away at the Beacon Hill culture. Mitt often veers from this message. He does so at his peril.
On the second point, Mitt has clearly indicated he’s going to try to link O’Brien, who was born and raised within that culture, to the Big Mess. But this morning, he and his new running mate, Kerry Healey, got out of the starting gate by blasting away at O’Brien’s handling of the pension fund, as if that’s really the issue. Dumb, dumb, dumb. Their campaign was immediately off message. O’Brien, who had so much going for her (being a woman, among them), still only got 33 percent of the Dem vote yesterday. People are suspicious of her background and her Hillary-like will to power. She’s an issue. If Mitt is lucky, Tom Finneran will show up at this morning’s Democratic “unity” rally along with Shannon. Mitt’s campaign better be recording the proceedings. Clips of Finneran and O’Brien together will make fine TV commercials come October.
On the third point, Mitt has a huge image problem: Politically, he’s viewed by many as a lightweight outsider. He doesn’t need “Ken and Barbie”
columns like these from Howie Carr, who, by the way, also pinpoints what Mitt should make this election about. If Mitt can’t prove point 3, he’s finished. Done. Gone. Period. The jury’s still out on this. Too often, Mitt looks lost, confused and amateurish, traits not associated in voters’ minds with the strength and toughness required to take on Beacon Hill. Voters will not put up with a third weak GOP governor in a row. (Paul C. and Jane S., take a bow.)
: She must: 1.) Keep Dems unified (no easy task, as Scott Lehigh
points out this morning) and play the gender card at every moment (she’ll have plenty of help from people like Joan Vennochi
) and 2.) no matter what, she can’t get tagged as the candidate of choice of the Beacon Hill cabal and 3.) conversely, she must show that Mitt is incapable of reforming the Beacon Hill cabal.
On point 1, the Dems are indeed unified. They want to win. Bad. She has momentum, and people love a winner. Scott Lehigh’s valid points aside, Hub Blog thinks O’Brien is one of the most disciplined, relentless candidates the Dems have put up in a long, long time. She’s ruthless, and she’s capable of making the promises and threats necessary to keep the troops in line. She’ll also play the gender card at every turn, attracting a lot of women who understandably want to see one of the gals prevail over Massachusetts’ old boys’ network.
On point 2: Stressing her fiscal conservatism (whether it’s accurate or not) and her gender will go a long way towards deflecting attention away from her very real, very deep connections with the Beacon Hill gang. O’Brien is a hack. Everyone knows it. Men don’t like it. Women don’t like it. But they’ll overlook it, to a degree, if she can fuzz the picture and display other sides of her candidacy. Ultimately, she needs to convey a subtle message, without really saying it, that she’s a hack who can reform the hacks, sort of like Nixon Going To China.
On point 3: Conversely, she has to portray Mitt as a clean-cut, out-of-touch, aristocratic amateur who can’t reform Beacon Hill. She’s already pounding away on this issue. She seems to know this is Mitt’s ultimate weak spot. But she can’t come across as too brutal. That, in turn, would remind people that she’s, well, a hack and not unlike a certain robotic U.S. senator from New York.
OK, what is Hub Blog’s prediction? Of course, it’s early, but Hub Blog thinks Shannon O’Brien will take it, even though it’s seemingly Mitt’s race to win or lose. It’s just a hunch. O’Brien is deadly. She stays on message. She has momentum. Mitt, a true non-hack and a candidate who would coast to victory in just about any other state, often looks like a deer caught in the headlights. It will hurt him. And so the race will be close. Very close.