The Bay State Trump bump

President a factor in state GOP primary

Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
I wish, I wish he’d go away…

             “Antigonish” by William Hughes Mearns

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER consistently polls as one of the most popular governors in the country, some heady stuff for a Republican in the nation’s bluest state. But can you imagine what he could do if his own party was more solid in backing him?

Baker, as expected, cruised to victory in his GOP primary race against conservative preacher Scott Lively, an acolyte of President Trump. But the margin of victory – Lively outpaced his convention showing —  raised a few eyebrows among watchers who see a Trump Bump taking hold of the state Republican party.

“The fact that a guy like Scott Lively, with zero money and even less media money, living above his storefront church in downtown Springfield, could throw a scare into the biggest Trump hater in the country (at least in the RINO bracket) speaks volumes about Baker’s feeble record,” wrote Howie Carr, Trumps most notable backer in Massachusetts. “Seldom has so much dough been squandered in a political race for such little result.”

Indeed, seeds of Trumpism were glaring up and down the Massachusetts Republican primary ballots Tuesday. Jay McMahon, a staunch defender of gun rights, rode to a 2-1 victory in the race for the GOP nomination for Attorney General on the wings of his promise to not only reverse Attorney General Maura Healey’s ban on copycat assault rifles but abandon her mountain of litigation against the Trump administration.

But the most telling sign of Trump loyalism in the state was the easy victory of state Rep. Geoff Diehl to take on Sen. Elizabeth Warren in November. Diehl was among the earliest to jump aboard the Trump Express and has never gotten off.

In a three-way race, Diehl rang up more than 55 percent of the vote against businessman John Kingston, who touted his own support for Trump and got about 27 percent of the vote, and Beth Lindstrom, a former aide to former governor – and future Utah senator – Mitt Romney. Tellingly, Lindstrom was the only one of the three who condemned Trump’s style of politics, saying that was not going to defeat Warren, and her 17 percent total showed how that take went over with Republican voters.

The Real Diehl has given no sign he’ll separate himself from the bomb-tosser-in-chief. In fact, that’s a part of his platform, the ability to access the White House and be part of a Republican majority to give Massachusetts a seat at the table.

But while a virtual arm around the shoulder of the president plays well with the base, it will be a tough sell in a state that Trump lost by 27 percent. And his favorability here has dropped from that high point. A Morning Consult poll shows Trump with a 62 percent unfavorability rate in Massachusetts compared to 52 percent favorable for Warren. If Diehl ties himself to that wagon, it will be a climb of Sisyphean proportions.

Meet the Author

Jack Sullivan

Senior Investigative Reporter, CommonWealth

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.

But many local and nationally see Diehl as much as a stalking horse and surrogate for the bigger party looking to soften up Warren through attack, attack, attack to make her a weaker candidate should she decide to challenge Trump come 2020. You may not hear his name from Diehl a lot, but Trump will be a presence between now and November.

Last night I saw upon the stair
A little man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
Oh, how I wish he’d go away…