Charlie sings the blues

Charlie Baker’s rhetorical style is a bit like easy listening music – not blaring, not head-banging, easy on the ears and mind, if not quite dancing music.

But lately, Baker has been adding a set of blues to his playlist in advance of the 2018 election as he waves off Republican red meat politics, a choice that may be sound for the wider audience but could invite a chorus of boos from the party groupies as primary season approaches.

Baker’s latest dalliance with Democrats, which will surely cause him no end of grief from the rabid base: tossing bouquets to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who’s taken the Kennedy mantle as a target of conservatives at home and around the country.

“That’s a decision for the voter,” Baker told Jon Keller when asked whether she deserved reelection. “She’s been very helpful to me on a number of issues.”

Not exactly the kind of “constructive friction” between the parties Baker always touts when pointing out his membership in the minority party. But since his phoenix-like rise in the 2014 governor’s race after his 2010 thumping, Baker has turned on the charm to bring non-Republican voters into his big tent. He’s forged a bromance with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, and the weekly Big Three meetings have resulted in House Speaker Robert DeLeo often siding with the lanky Republican to the angst of his Senate counterpart, Stan Rosenberg.

Baker, constantly ranked at or near the top of popular governors around the country, has learned to broaden his appeal the way successful Republican governors such as Frank Sargent, William Weld, and Paul Cellucci had done to get elected and push policy priorities through the Democrat-dominated Legislature as well as work with the true-blue congressional delegation.

Romneycare, for one example, never would have been successfully implemented if not for the presence of the late Edward Kennedy to pull the strings in Washington and play intermediary between Mitt Romney and the Democrats in the Legislature.

But Baker’s unwillingness to trash Warren – even praising her efforts – will be a discordant note to the Republican base, which is ramping up to defeat her. Already the main Democratic target of President Trump, Warren is squarely in the sights of Republicans looking to oust her.

Anti-Warren advertising questioning her role in reducing student debt has already begun popping up on radio from a group called Massachusetts First, a clear play on Trump’s “America First” campaign slogan. State Rep. Geoff Diehl, an early and vocal Trump supporter, is laying the groundwork for a run against Warren, a move many think could harm Baker in the general election by motivating Democrats to get out and vote. That, in turn, could lead to anti-Republican votes up and down the ballot.

Baker told Keller he’s not ready to endorse a Warren challenger but said, “generally speaking, I usually end up supporting the ticket.” A lot of qualifiers in that one.

But his plaudits for his relationship with Warren are sending a signal left and right that could help him in the general election, while causing him some grief in a possible primary if anyone in the party is motivated by his unwillingness to roll in the mud.

JACK SULLIVAN


BEACON HILL

Gov. Charlie Baker’s nip and tuck budget-balancing strategy calls for raking in cash from the state’s independent authorities, including $17.5 million from MassDevelopment. (CommonWealth)

John McDonough offers five takeaways on Baker’s health care plan. (CommonWealth)

Jim Stergios of the Pioneer Institute says Baker is doubling down on his predecessor’s failed biotech strategy. (CommonWealth)

A sales tax holiday would be a bad idea as the state struggles with budget woes, says Renee Loth. (Boston Globe) A Lowell Sun editorial takes the opposite view, saying that lawmakers willing to hike their own pay should be able to find enough money to offer regular citizens some sales tax relief.

Rep. Paul Heroux of Attleboro posted a message on Facebook Thursday saying he didn’t really want to run for mayor, even though he is. He later said the message had been intended for his girlfriend and was accidentally made public. (Sun Chronicle)

A Herald editorial says the House marijuana bill is better than the Senate version, and urges that any compromise measure not lower the tax rate below 20 percent.

A State House hearing this week will consider legislation to regulate Airbnb and other home-sharing and short-term rental services. (Boston Herald)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Why should elected town officials be called “selectmen” and “aldermen” when some of them are not men? (Boston Globe)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

The GOP health plan remains on life support as opposition mounts within the party just days before the Senate plans to take a vote to repeal and replace Obamacare. (U.S. News & World Report) Former Republican governor Jane Swift, in a Globe op-ed, decries the GOP health care plan, and offers a personal perspective based on a the coverage challenges her family has faced due to a chronic condition one of her daughters suffers from.

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case involving President Trump’s travel ban that was struck down by two Appeals Courts. (New York Times)

Trump calls Sen. Elizabeth Warren “hopeless,” and says calling her Pocahontas is an insult to Pocahontas. (Rawstory.com)

Sally Yates, the former acting attorney general, blasts current Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his lock-them-up proposal to reinstate mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses. (Washington Post)

North Carolina is the only state in the nation where no doesn’t mean no.” (Governing)

The Globe takes a look at presidential advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner’s real estate start as a Somerville landlord.

ELECTIONS

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh holds a whopping 31-point lead over challenger Tito Jackson in a new Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll released on Sunday. (Boston Globe) Jackson slammed Walsh’s handling of a racially charged video showing a Boston police officer yesterday, saying neither of the two officers involved in the matter should be on the job until an investigation is complete. (Boston Herald)

Incumbent Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera has $58,000 in his campaign account, far more than his challengers, several of whom are not reporting their fundraising results. (Eagle-Tribune)

Three Democrats — CIndy Friedman, Sean Garballey, and Mary Ann Stewartare vying tomorrow in a special election primary for the state Senate seat that became vacant with the death in April of veteran lawmaker Ken Donnelly of Arlington. (Boston Globe)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Companies are buying housing units in Boston to use for short-term stays for corporate employees, putting further pressure on the city’s tight and pricey housing market. (Boston Globe)

Puerto Rico’s debt crisis could be just a harbinger of financial problems in American territories as the focus now shifts to the US Virgin Islands, which is facing pressure on its debt payments coming due. (New York Times)

EDUCATION

A Globe editorial applauds a pay-for-success contract the state is supporting with the nonprofit Jewish Vocational Services that aims to help about 2,000 immigrants and refugees learn English and move into higher-paying jobs.

Damned with faint praise: Alex Beam says steady, but plodding, outgoing Harvard president Drew Faust succeeded at her one chief task — “[T]o not be Larry Summers, her outspoken, brilliant, and sharp-elbowed predecessor.” (Boston Globe)

TRANSPORTATION

An MBTA plan to boost WiFi service on commuter rail trains by installing more than 300, 75-foot towers along the tracks is coming under fire in Andover and other communities. (CommonWealth)

MBTA officials plan to unveil a proposal today to ratchet back pension payments for T employees in an effort to shore up the ailing MBTA Retirement Fund. (Boston Globe)

Milton residents contacted Massport 21,796 times last year to complain about noise from planes flying overhead on landing approaches to Logan. (Patriot Ledger)

Uber and Lyft roll into the Berkshires. (Berkshire Eagle)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Three incidents at Pilgrim nuclear power plant in late March and early April triggered potential safety threats for radiation emissions and resulted in disciplinary action, including one incident in which two employees heat-tested the wrong switch, causing a high-pressure cooling system to shut down. (Cape Cod Times)

Michael Sununu fires off round three in a war of words and facts over renewable energy with Peter Rothstein and Michael Behrmann. (CommonWealth)

The Department of Environmental Protection is evaluating a contaminated Framingham site to determine if the property, which was owned by General Chemical and stored hazardous materials for more than 50 years, qualifies for the federal Superfund cleanup program. (MetroWest Daily News)

President Trump’s anti-NAFTA stance could set up a collision with energy companies reliant on natural gas coming out of Mexico. (New York Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Michael McCarthy was found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Bella Bond, his girlfriend’s daughter whose body was found washed up on Deer Island and went unidentified for four months before a tip led police to McCarthy and Rachelle Bond. (Boston Globe)

The West Bridgewater police chief is coming under fire for refusing to release reports involving a drunken driving accident that left one person severely injured. He did hand over records that redacted the names of those involved. (The Enterprise)

An 8-year-old girl was wounded in a drive-by shooting in Jamaica Plain. (Boston Herald)