Here’s the Diehl with wacky Mass. politics
Trump endorsement underscores state’s odd party dynamics
IT’S OFTEN HARD for outsiders to make sense of Massachusetts, where Democrats reign supreme but Republicans have dominated the governor’s office for more than three decades. Today’s development does little to help clear things up.
The thumbnail version: A former Republican president who is deeply unpopular in the state has endorsed a former Republican state rep running for governor who has virtually no chance of being elected – and yet it could be a sign of the trouble ahead for the Republican incumbent, who continues to be one of the most popular governors in the country.
Donald Trump, banned from Twitter, long his preferred platform for zinging enemies and offering “complete and total” endorsements, was left to put out a statement extolling the virtues of Geoff Diehl, the former Whitman rep running for governor.
As is often the case with the ex-president, for whom grievances and payback are often what fuels his fire, this was as much an opportunity to unload a double-barreled assault on Charlie Baker, the Republican governor with temerity to wave off allegiance to Trump. Calling Baker a “RINO” (Republican in name only) who “has done nothing for the Republican Party,” Trump charged the two-term governor with driving up energy costs and crime rates, botching the vaccine rollout, doing nothing for veterans, and disrespecting police. For good measure, he likened his “green climate” views to those of lefty firebrand AOC.
Baker, who has yet to say whether he’ll run for a third term next year, faces an ugly intraparty showdown, where much of the Republicans’ minuscule remaining base in the state (only 9 percent of registered voters) remains enthralled with Trump – and disillusioned with his moderate ways. That schism extends to the party’s top ranks, where Trump loyalist Jim Lyons serves as state chairman – and ongoing thorn in Baker’s side.
Four years ago, Springfield pastor Scott Lively, who makes Diehl look like a wishy-washy centrist, grabbed 36 percent of the Republican primary vote against Baker. Diehl is figuring he can do better.The state’s semi-open primary rules allow voters not registered under any party label to vote in primaries, and Baker’s strength comes from support from those “unenrolled” voters who take a Republican ballot. Next year, some of them will also feel the pull of a competitive Democratic primary, which already has three contenders.
MassINC Polling Group president Steve Koczela tweeted last night that Trump’s “favorables” in Massachusetts in the last polling done before the 2020 election stood at 31 percent. That underscores his limited appeal here – and the limited impact of his endorsement in a general election matchup. “Even so, his numbers among Republicans were often higher than Baker’s own. So in a Republican primary, this dynamic is something to pay close attention to,” Koczela said.