Personality politics

The latest installment of the Raybo-hearts-Scotto show couldn’t have taken place at a more appropriate spot than Sullivan’s at Castle Island. Ray Flynn, the former Boston mayor, is hot-dogging the US Senate race for all it’s worth, and Saturday’s appearance with Scott Brown at the famed Southie hot dog stand was worth a big splash in Sunday’s Globe.

It’s been many years since Flynn, who railed against “the 1 percent” before many of last year’s Occupiers were even born, was crusading on behalf of the homeless and against the evils of Reaganomics as president of the US Conference of Mayors. The one-time Democratic populist backed George W. Bush over Al Gore, shunned John Kerry four years later, and is now the leading Democratic figure backing the state’s Republican junior senator.

Flynn would still describe himself as a union-friendly, lunch-bucket Democrat. So how do his views line up with Brown’s?  “I didn’t go through his congressional record or roll call,” he told the Globe. “I don’t have time for that. People don’t have time for that. I am interested if the the guy is honest, that he has personal integrity.”  Flynn used to have plenty of time for such things, which are usually referred to as determining your political alignment. But no matter.

Flynn says his backing of Brown — which includes a TV ad filmed in his South Boston living room — is “really a nonpolitical message about the man, rather than it is about politics or ideology.” That is exactly the message Brown is counting on, as he hopes to overcome the state’s Democratic leanings with an everyman persona that projects a basic decency and a more down-to-earth mien than his Democratic challenger, Elizabeth Warren, a professor at Harvard Law School.

To all of this talk about the importance of judging candidates as individuals apart from their party affiliation, Hans Noel, a Georgetown University scholar of party politics, says: Baloney. “The person is not even close to as important as the party. Not even close,” he wrote this weekend on his blog. Framing the presidential contest — but with arguments that hold true for congressional races as well — Noel writes, “You have a choice in November between two broad coalitions.” The two major parties have clearly defined directions for the country, he says, which trump any particulars involving individual candidates. “It’s so true,” he writes, “that if some wizard blinked and Obama was the Republican candidate and Romney the Democratic candidate, I would switch my vote to stay with my party.”

Noel describes well the 40 or so percent of the electorate that each party has claim to, voters that are not going to budge because of some new damaging revelation about Romney or Obama. In the Senate race, Brown and Warren each have a big chunk of the electorate locked up. These people don’t particularly care about Brown’s truck, Warren’s heritage, or any of the other atmospherics of the race. The campaign, of course, isn’t about them. It’s about those who think like Ray Flynn.  

Voting the “person, not the party” has the allure of sounding like the actions of a someone who thinks for himself, an independent mind and not a dutiful party follower. It can tip many races, and could do so in the Senate contest. But that still doesn’t mean it makes sense.

                                                                                                                                            –MICHAEL JONAS

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The cost of employee retirement benefits is crippling many communities, the Lowell Sun reports.

A fired city attorney in Lawrence sues to get his job back, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

After being demolished due to fire damage, no plans have been made to replace an historic downtown Fitchburg building, the Fitchburg Sentinel and Enterprise reports.

CASINOS

The Cape Cod Times explores what a Romney administration would mean for Native American casinos, especially given that he recently met with tribal officials at a recent fundraiser in Boston.

The Mashpee Wampanoag are trying to intervene in a federal suit brought by a developer challenging the state casino law’s tribal set-aside.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Super PAC influence isn’t as big as expected, the Wall Street Journal reports.

INTERNATIONAL

The Christian Science Monitor takes a look at how rising food prices caused by severe drought are affecting the world’s economy and the potential for social unrest.

The MetroWest Daily News profiles a Framingham security company charged with screening visitors to ensure no arms make it into the building for this week’s opening of the 67th General Assembly of the United Nations.

ELECTION 2012

It’s still nine days away, but let the prognosticating and expectations spinning about the first presidential debate begin!

The Weekly Standard, while defending Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” claim, said that it was Republican presidents Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush who lopped off the lowest earners from the tax rolls so they could keep more of their money. The Beat the Press panel wonders if the source of the video matters.

The National Review editors say Romney tied himself in a rhetorical knot over his taxes.

Keller@Large brings in his body language expert to review the tape of the Brown-Warren debate.

Enough already with the 2012 election. Let’s move on to 2016. Bill Clinton faces the nation and says he has “no earthly idea” whether Hillary will run for president.

Salon wonders whether Mitt Romney will share the fate of former Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole: Abandonment by his party.

CHARITY

A two-year study concludes that nonprofits need a single unified lobbying voice in Washington to advocate for policies affecting the charitable sector.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The New York Times reports many financial analysts are predicting Apple could become the world’s first trillion dollar company, possible as soon as next year. Meanwhile, economists and technology analysts say the iPhone 5 could pump as much as $3 billion into the economy by Christmas.

The Herald reports on a payment dispute between Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and ambulance service American Medical Response.

A Norfolk Superior Court judge ordered two Newton brothers to pay Clay Nissan $1.5 million after they organized an online boycott of the auto dealer who they claimed fired their sister after she was treated for cancer.

EDUCATION

In lengthy back-to-back stories yesterday and today, the Globe details the disaster that Roxbury Community College has become.

Worcester State University received its largest gift ever, a $3 million donation for honors programs and scholarships from a retired Marine lieutenant colonel who graduated in the class of 1955.

The Globe reports that Boston school officials tonight will unveil long-awaited proposals for revamping the district’s cumbersome student assignment system.

A new study shows there are continuing barriers to minorities entering higher education institutions.

Illinois will have to come up with another $670 million for teacher pensions in its next budget, the Chicago Tribune reports.

HEALTH CARE

Federal officials have joined the inquiry into Partners HealthCare System’s proposed acquisition of South Shore Hospital because of concerns over that hospital consolidations are adding to the run-up in health care costs.  

A new study breaks down breast cancer into four distinct types, the New York Times reports.

States race to set up Obamacare-mandated health insurance exchanges by November 16th or risk having the federal government do it for them, the New York Times reports.

TRANSPORTATION

Fall River officials are scrambling to find eligible projects by October 1 before they lose millions in unused earmarked funds from the federal government.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A new study shows that some of the ocean’s top predators could lose more than one-third of their habitats due to climate change.

Berkshire Enviro-Labs in Lee has had its water-testing certification pulled by the state after an analyst at the company submitted falsified records for dates he said he tested a piece of equipment.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

The Archdiocese of Boston places the pastor of St. Joseph’s Church in Lynn on leave after receiving a report of sexual abuse, the Item reports.

A Brockton man who has had his license suspended 22 times has been caught once again allegedly driving under the influence, this time with a 7-year-old in the front seat without a seat belt.

The Quincy District Court building was renamed in honor of former attorney general Francis Bellotti in a dedication ceremony yesterday that included retired Supreme Court Justice David Souter.

SPORTS

After years of starts and stops, the city of Brockton dedicated a larger than life statue to legendary boxer Rocky Marciano.