Baker and Trump: the home stretch

With the election just five days away, Charlie Baker is no doubt looking forward to a reprieve from the nonstop questions from reporters that look to hold candidates accountable as they compete for office.

The state of the MBTA. Whether he’s moving fast enough on clean energy. The opioid epidemic. Scandal at the State Police. They’ve all been part of the mix.

But nothing has had quite the staying power of questions about how the popular moderate Republican governor of a very blue state views and deals with the divisive leader his party has put in the White House.

As the Globe’s Matt Stout writes today, the questions started coming way back in 2015, and Baker’s impatience with the Trump question didn’t need time to take root — a “smirking Baker” was annoyed with it from the start.

“Three-plus years later, and much to Baker’s chagrin, it’s one he’s still being asked,” writes Stout.

Baker famous declared that he blanked his presidential ballot in 2016, maintaining that Donald Trump didn’t have “the temperament” to be president. It’s a view that he says has not changed.

He’s expressed opposition to various Trump initiatives and comments with language ranging from calling the president’s acts “disgraceful” to “disappointing.” He has opposed a number of Trump’s bigger moves, including his attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the undoing of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, and efforts to defund Planned Parenthood.

He’s been far too timid in speaking out, say Democrats like his opponent Jay Gonzalez and US Rep. Seth Moulton. Hardcore Massachusetts Republican conservatives, meanwhile, are livid at the distance he’s put between himself as the president.

Baker has taken flak for his fundraising efforts that help steer money not only to his own reelection effort but to the Republican National Committee, where the dollars find their way to boosting Trump-allied candidates. An American Prospect piece this week zings him for carrying out that fundraising while offering anti-Trump rhetoric. “Charlie Baker Can’t Have It Both Ways,” reads the headline. But apparently, he can, as Baker seems to be gliding toward an easy reelection in deep-blue Massachusetts.

Marty Linksy, who worked with Baker in the Weld administration, said one could call his approach to all things Trump “cautious” or “thoughtful.”

Baker would no doubt opt for the latter characterization. Nothing may illustrate that better than the op-ed he penned in yesterday’s Globe that criticized those on both sides for the “hatred and invective” now hurled regularly in the political arena in place of reasoned and respectful debate.

It’s a false equivalency argument that doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny. In classic Baker fashion, he offers just the teeniest (“cautious”) acknowledgement of that by writing that the ugly tone of national discourse has come “[f]ollowing the example set by President Trump.”

The crux of Baker’s Trump problem has perhaps been most succinctly framed by MassLive reporter Gin Dumcius, who has pointed to the governor’s political mentor and observed that Baker is a Bill Weld Republican at a time when even Bill Weld isn’t any longer a Republican.

If successful next Tuesday, Baker will get a respite from the questions. But only a brief one. The 2020 New Hampshire primary is only a year a couple of months away.

–MICHAEL JONAS


BEACON HILL

State Auditor Suzanne Bump failed to meet audit timelines for 29 agencies, meaning they weren’t audited as required over a three-year period. (CommonWealth)

At a State House hearing, advocates detail what they claim is an epidemic of abuse against disabled adults. (MassLive)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Fall River City Council President Cliff Ponte said Mayor Jasiel Correia “informally” asked to speak to the council before members vote next week whether to remove him from office in the wake of his federal fraud indictment, a request Ponte said he would agree to only if Correia answers questions from councilors. (Herald News)

Boston city councilors slammed National Grid executives for being no-shows at a hearing on natural gas infrastructure and safety. Utility executives said they would meet with councilors on that topic, but did not want to be part of a public hearing with locked workers that would likely veer toward discussion of the contract standoff. (Boston Herald)

Police estimate 50,000 people attended Halloween festivities in Salem. (Salem News)

Though most of the hundreds of thousands who turned out for the Red Sox victory parade cheered responsibly, a few threw full cans of beer toward the team, with one can hitting manager Alex Cora and another slightly damaging the World Series trophy. A 19-year-old man from Cape Cod was arrested and charged with felony assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. (Boston Herald)

The head of the Mashpee Planning Board has been cleared by the state Ethics Commission over possible conflict of interest allegations brought by other town officials and the local Chamber of Commerce. (Cape Cod Times)

Braintree Mayor Joseph Sullivan is planning on meeting with the owner of the property where the boarded-up Motel 6 stands to discuss redeveloping the site. The lodging was closed for good after a police officer was shot last year attempting to serve a warrant, the latest in a spate of criminal activity over decades at the motel. (Patriot Ledger)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

President Trump lashed out at House Speaker Paul Ryan after Ryan dismissed the president’s plan to use an executive order to alter the Constitution over so-called birthright citizenship. (Washington Post)

The New York Times takes apart 15 of Trump’s statements on the campaign trail and Twitter in the past few weeks that are either demonstrably false or wildly misleading.

Immigration courts across the country are struggling with backlogs that can delay cases for years. The situation in Massachusetts is among the worst. (WBUR)

ELECTIONS

David Capeless, the former district attorney in Berkshire County, weighs in on the increasingly contentious race between his hand-picked successor, Paul Caccaviello, and the Democratic nominee Andrea Harrington. (Caccaviello, who lost the primary, is now mounting a write-in campaign.) Capeless said he stepped down and arranged for Caccaviello to take his place for the right reasons, but regrets the move opened Caccaviello to attacks. Capeless also says the emails used in a CommonWealth story on the transition were taken out of context. (Berkshire Eagle)

Meanwhile, in the Plymouth DA race, questions are being raised by Democratic challenger John Bradley about tactics employed by Republican incumbent Timothy Cruz, whose office has withdrawn first-degree murder charges in seven cases since 2015. (Boston Globe)

The Globe looks at Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jay Gonzalez’s tenure as state budget chief under Gov. Deval Patrick. (Boston Globe)

The Herald endorses Democrat Lori Trahan in the race for the open Third Congressional District seat and backs Republican Anthony Amore in his challenge to Secretary of State Bill Galvin.

Joan Vennochi wonders if the legitimate concerns about nurse staffing will get any attention if Question 1 is defeated next Tuesday. (Boston Globe)

Two views on Question 2: David Ropeik says we need to set in motion a bid to overturn Citizens United, while Bradley Smith and Paul Craney say passage would take constitutional rights away from many. (CommonWealth)

The American Prospect looks at Gov. Charlie Baker’s have-it-both-ways approach on Trump and national GOP fundraising.

The Globe wades across the border to endorse Rhode Island governor Gina Raimondo for another term.

President Trump unveils a new ad on immigration that blames Democrats for letting a cop killer into the country. A CNN analysis calls it racist and likens it to the Willie Horton ad run against Michael Dukakis when he ran for president.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

With cemeteries filling up with the bodies of the past and 2.7 million Americans dying every year, the number of people being cremated has increased and now slightly exceeds those who opt for traditional funerals and burials. (U.S. News & World Report)

ARTS

The Worcester Art Museum gets a $600,000 grant from the Barr-Klarman Massachusetts Arts Initiative. (Telegram & Gazette)

EDUCATION

An East Boston elementary school won a $100,000 prize from Edvestors for gains made by its students. (WBUR)

Boston police are investigating racist graffiti targeting blacks that was spray painted on the Joseph Tynan Elementary School in South Boston. (Boston Herald) Globe columnist Renee Graham says Southie’s Whitey Bulger helped cement the city’s reputation for racism.

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Researchers on paralysis have published a report in the journal Nature that shows they’ve had a breakthrough with the development of an implant that has helped paralyzed and partially paralyzed patients walk without supports. (New York Times)

TRANSPORTATION

Ridership has dropped since the Brockton Area Transit Authority raised fares 20 percent in July but officials said the 3 percent decline is not as bad as expected. (The Enterprise)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has sent a letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission pressing the agency to ensure the troubled Pilgrim nuclear power plant remains safe in its waning months before shutdown. (Cape Cod Times)

A new scientific study makes the startling claim that the world’s oceans have built up heat faster than previously thought, indicating global warming could heat up the Earth sooner than predicted and before humans have a chance to deal with carbon emissions. (Washington Post)

A landfill in Southbridge pays an $86,000 fine and agrees to hire an engineer to monitor work at the facility to make sure it is in compliance with regulations. (Telegram & Gazette)

CASINOS/MARIJUANA

Voters at a Special Town Meeting in Orleans narrowly approved a ban on retail pot sales but gave the okay for other recreational marijuana facilities such as cultivation and manufacturing. (Cape Cod Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Bristol District Attorney Thomas Quinn determined that a New Bedford cab driver was acting in self-defense when he shot and killed one of two men allegedly trying to rob him in August. (Standard-Times)

The questions continue over how convicted murderer Whitey Bulger ended up transferred to a West Virginia prison that housed a fellow Massachusetts hoodlum with a thing against rats. Bulger was killed there less than a day after his arrival, and the fellow Bay State murderer is a suspect in his death. (Boston Globe)

MEDIA

Digital First Media, owner of the Boston Herald, Lowell Sun, Denver Post and many other papers, is cutting 107 jobs at its Colorado Springs service center and outsourcing the work to a separate company. (The Gazette)

Report for America announces a plan to address local news deserts in California by putting 10 reporters on the ground.