A model for Baker in Maryland

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker continues his tightrope walk between owning the “R” after his name and trying to create distance with the R-occupant of the White House. The trouble is, distance and tightrope don’t always go hand-in-hand.

On Sunday night, Baker was at a black tie dinner for the nation’s governors hosted by President Trump and the Bay State governor, who has told anyone and everyone who asks that he did not vote for either Trump or Hillary Clintonhad a seat of honor next to one of the president’s most trusted advisors – first daughter Ivanka Trump.

While it would have been a far cheerier picture for Democrats if Baker had been photographed passing the salt to, say, Stephen Bannon, rubbing elbows with family presents a somewhat awkward scenario. But despite Democrats’ drumbeat here and around the country, they’ve made little progress so far in tying blue state Republicans to the disrupter-in-chief.

Baker had been soaring with an approval rating north of 70 percent before the November elections, making him the most popular governor in the country. That has waned somewhat, though, with a WBUR/MassINC Polling Group survey showing him at 59 percent, though less than 30 percent think someone else should get a crack at the corner office.

Baker is not alone among Republican governors in Democrat-dominated states trying to maintain balance between placating the natives and keeping the lines of communication open. And it seems like Baker, much to the consternation of Democrats, they are succeeding, at least early on.

A new Goucher College poll of Maryland voters, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1, finds a broad distaste for Trump, similar to Massachusetts. But like in Massachusetts, there is a wide disparity along party lines, with 88 percent of Democrats disapproving of Trump’s early handling of the job while 22 percent of Republicans disapprove.

But the poll also shows that despite the president’s underwater approval ratings, Democrats’ attempts to tie Trump around the neck of first-term Republican Gov. Larry Hogan have not been successful. Hogan, who said he wrote in his father’s name for president on the November ballot, has a 63 percent approval rating among voters there, like Baker, down slightly from a high of 70 percent in the previous poll. And like Baker, he gets good grades from the opposition party – and we don’t mean the media. Politico wrote earlier this month about the common ground Baker and Hogan occupy.

Observers say the downtick is likely of a cyclical nature and less tethered to Trump. In Massachusetts, Democrats have hammered Baker for not being more vocal in his opposition to Trump and his policies. Jay Gonzalez, the former administration and finance secretary under Gov. Deval Patrick, has made anti-Trumpism the focal point of his nascent gubernatorial campaign and has looked to Velcro Baker to Trump at every turn. But while it might eventually lead to death by a million cuts, it doesn’t appear to be the type of bloodletting needed to make it the main issue.

A more recent MPG survey found 37 percent of Massachusetts voters think Baker has handled the Trump situation “appropriately” while 18 percent, dominated by Republicans, think he’s been “too critical.” About 26 percent think he’s hasn’t been critical enough, not a bad place for a Republican to be in an overwhelmingly blue state. By contrast, Sen. Elizabeth Warren is seen as appropriately critical by 43 percent, not much more than Baker, while 35 percent think she’s too much over the top.

While Trump’s negatives nationwide give hope to Democrats that they can retake the White House and possibly make inroads in Congress in midterm elections, Maryland and Massachusetts are not giving them a template on how to regain the state house in states they should own.



A Globe editorial backs Gov. Charlie Baker’s proposed assessment (“essentially a tax” — but don’t tell Baker) on some employers to help tackle soaring state Medicaid costs.

Do legislative staffers deserve a pay raise, too? asks Christa Kelleher, the research and policy director of the McCormack Graduate School’s Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at UMass Boston. (CommonWealth)

A bill filed by state Sen. Barbara L’Italien of Andover would ban school sports teams from using Native American nicknames and mascots. (MetroWest Daily News)

Boston officials are pressing legislators to approve more liquor licenses for the city to be designated for areas underserved by liquor-serving establishments. (Boston Globe)

State officials and advocates are moving forward with efforts to get commercial sale of marijuana underway next year, despite talk from the new Trump administration about getting tough on pot through federal law, under which it remains illegal. (Boston Herald)


Peabody officials are mulling a ban on consuming marijuana in public, much like the existing ban on consuming alcohol in public. (Salem News)

Lowell considers moving its downtown high school to pave the way for development at that site. (Lowell Sun)

A Herald editorial applauds a recent Pioneer Institute study recommending that municipal pension systems hand control of their investments to the state pension board, which has a record of securing better returns than many local boards.

Lynn officials say they’ll have to cut two drug treatment outreach workers because of state cuts at a time when the city continues to confront the opioid crisis. (Boston Globe)

Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken says the city doesn’t need a piece of paper saying it’s a sanctuary city to be welcoming to immigrants. (Gloucester Times)


President Trump is expected to announce in his address to Congress Tuesday night sharp increases in the military budget while cutting back areas such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the State Department. Missing in any of the detail are plans for an ambitious infrastructure program he touted on the campaign trail. (New York Times)

Trump’s choice for Navy secretary, Philip Bilden, withdraws his name, citing concerns with separating himself from his business interests. (Associated Press)

Maine’s government under Gov. Paul LePage has $1 billion in the bank. (Governing)


Attorney General Maura Healey’s fundraising machines runs on President Trump. (Salem News)

First-term Fall River City Councilor Richard Cabeceiras, a former firefighter who also served a tour of duty in Iraq, announced his intent to challenge Mayor Jasiel Correia in the fall. (Herald News)


Simon Jacobs, responding to an opinion piece by Lawrence DiCara and Matt Waskiewicz, says there is a better way to address regional inequality. (CommonWealth)

A libertarian law institute in Virginia funded by conservative industrialist Charles Koch is leading an effort in a dozen states, including Rhode Island, to deregulate the business of African-style hair braiding. (Associated Press)


Federal officials are probing whether school departments in Braintree and Lawrence have provided translators to parent of special needs students, as required. (Boston Globe)


Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health professor John McDonough, who helped craft the Massachusetts and federal health reform laws, says the early outlines of the Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act would gut the law’s expansion of health coverage and subsidies for lower-income Americans to purchase insurance. (CommonWealth) Advocates rallied at the State House over the weekend in support of preserving the ACA. (Boston Globe)

New research has determined diabetes is the third-leading cause of death in the United States, behind heart disease and cancer, but is often underreported as the reason. (U.S. News & World Report)

Massachusetts has one of the lowest rates of suicide in the nation, but nevertheless the number of people taking their own life has edged up continuously over the last decade. (Salem News)

Boston Medical Center and other area hospitals are part of a national effort to treat violence as a contagious public health issue. (Boston Globe)


The MBTA is rebuilding the Auburndale commuter rail station in the worst possible way, says Andy Monat of TransitMatters. (CommonWealth)

The MBTA had more derailments last year than any transit agency in the country with eight mishaps, though none of them resulted in injuries (Boston Globe)


Conservationists are worried that a bill filed by US Rep. William Keating to resolve a long-standing boundary dispute over Monomoy Island could be hijacked by GOP members of Congress eager to take back federal lands and open them to exploration and drilling for oil. (Cape Cod Times)


The price tag for the Wynn Resorts casino in Everett has gone up another $300 million to $2.4 billion. (CommonWealth)


The odd saga of Felix Arroyo, the elected Suffolk County Register of Probate who was suspended earlier this month, continues. A Trial Court spokeswoman says only that the action was taken because of “serious deficiencies” in the office’s operation, while Arroyo’s representatives refuse to release the letter he was sent that detail the allegations. (Boston Globe) Globe columnist Adrian Walker talks to three of Arroyo’s supporters in the office and says court system leaders need to divulge more about the case than they have.

The widow of one of the victims of Whitey Bulger’s gang opposes release of former FBI agent John Connolly, who is eligible to apply for parole of his sentence in connection with the slaying. (Boston Herald)


President Trump announced over the weekend that he plans to skip the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, the first president to do so in 36 years. (NPR)


#Oscarssobotched. A major screw-up in the finale of the Oscars Sunday night as La La Land was announced as the winner of the Best Picture award only to have the acceptance speeches interrupted when it was learned the actual winner was Moonlight. But because it’s always about us, Cambridge-bred actor Casey Affleck took home the Oscar for Best Actor for his role in the made-in-Massachusetts film Manchester by the Sea. (New York Times)


One of the most high-profile cops in the state, former Boston police deputy superintendent Robert Hayden who later went on to serve as police chief in Lawrence and Brockton, died over the weekend following a five-year battle with cancer. He was 74. (The Enterprise