The Codcast: Is Charlie Baker beatable?

Charlie Baker, the most popular governor in America, looks like a lock for reelection, according to polls, pundits, and even lots of Democrats you talk to. But don’t count John Walsh as one of them.

The former chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party insists Baker can be defeated — and he says the governor’s team knows it. It explains why, Walsh says, Baker is furiously raising millions of dollars for his campaign — and bending all sorts of campaign finance rules to do so.

Is Walsh onto something, or is he on something?

MassINC Polling Group president Steve Koczela and I poke at this question with Walsh in this week’s Codcast, in which the well-respected Democratic strategist unspools his against-the-grain thinking. Walsh also lays out his arguments in this piece, which went out yesterday to CommonWealth email subscribers as the weekly Upload commentary.

Walsh makes his case in three parts, based on what he says are “values,” the numbers, and organizing.

On values, he says Baker has tried to present himself as “not really a Republican.” That has alienated the conservative base of the Republican Party, which Baker needs to win, says Walsh. That explains some of his nods to the right to mollify that group, including appointing the president of the local affiliate of the NRA to a state post, moves that Walsh says should give pause to progressive-leaning voters.

On the numbers, Walsh says a long string of elections, both for president and governor, show a ceiling of about 1.1 million votes on what a Republican can capture in Massachusetts. If Democrats can boost turnout this fall beyond the usual 2 million to 2.2 million voters that show up for gubernatorial elections, he says that will spell trouble for Baker and be good news for the Democratic nominee.

In his piece for CommonWealth, Walsh goes through an impressive list of elections in which the Republican candidate for governor or president in Massachusetts won 1.1 million votes. But he leaves off the one race that some think may be the model for what’s unfolding this year: The 1994 election in which Baker mentor Bill Weld rolled to a landslide reelection win with 1.5 million votes.

Walsh also argues that there will be lots of grassroots organizing that can boost the Democratic nominee’s chances — whether it’s from the campaigns of Elizabeth Warren and Maura Healey or several questions heading for the November ballot.

Even if you buy Walsh’s argument that Baker’s prodigious fundraising is, in an upside-down way, a sign of weakness, it’s hard to see the anemic fundraising numbers posted by the two Democrats vying for the nomination, Jay Gonzalez and Bob Massie, as a sign of strength. Add to that their low name recognition five months from the election and the two candidates’ standing is a far cry from that of first-time candidate Deval Patrick at this point in 2006. Walsh was the campaign manager behind Patrick’s victory.

If there is any opening for Democrats, says Koczela, it may lie with the fact that Baker gets positive ratings in polls but on very few things do voters rate his performance as excellent. “People don’t love Charlie Baker, they never really have loved Charlie Baker,” he says. “But they like Charlie Baker. They think he’s doing well enough.”

Walsh points to polls showing Scott Brown approaching 60 percent favorability on the day before Elizabeth Warren knocked him out of his Senate seat in 2012. Voters “liked Scott Brown, but they voted against him based on policies and a ground game that really impacted,” says Walsh. “That’s the place that Democrats need to get to,” he says of this year’s race. “I’m not saying it’s guaranteed, but anyone who thinks it’s not possible has not been paying attention.”



A Globe editorial urges the Legislature to include in its final budget $3 million the House has approved for halfway houses providing reentry services to recently released inmates.

Teachers unions and other advocates are pushing for the House to adopt before the session ends a measure passed by the Senate to revamp the state’s education funding formula, which a Beacon Hill commission said badly lags in providing adequate funding to schools. (Boston Herald)

Herald columnist Hillary Chabot says salaries of top officials at state quasi-public authorities have shot up under Gov. Charlie Baker after former governor Deval Patrick took steps to rein in pay at the agencies.

Melinda Garfield, the executive director of Westfield Media Center, explains why legislation is needed to protect local access channels. (CommonWealth)


Methuen, facing cost overruns caused primarily by overruns in special education spending, is seeking to borrow $4 million from the state. (Eagle-Tribune) Methuen’s auditor said another major problem area is a new contract with police officers, which is driving up pay levels to extremely high levels. One police captain is seeing his salary go from $157,000 to $440,000. (Eagle-Tribune)

A Daily Item editorial attacked affordable housing advocates protesting a proposed 10-story, 189-unit apartment building in Lynn.

Some are raising questions about Boston City Hall’s hiring of the same outside lawyer to review allegations by female firefighters of work-based harassment who has also worked to defend the city in other employment disputes. (Boston Globe)

Some Wayland homeowners will be given the chance to appeal a decision by selectmen to remove 11 private roads from the town’s plowing list, forcing them to hire private plows even though their taxes support the plowing. (MetroWest Daily News)


US Rep. Joe Kennedy was among those at the US-Mexican border yesterday protesting the Trump administration policy of separating parents and children who are detained after crossing into the US. (Boston Globe) Former first lady Laura Bush, in an op-ed in the Washington Post, called the policy “immoral.” A former director of the CIA, Gen. Michael Hayden, tweets a photo of the Nazi’s Birkenau death camp and writes, “Other governments have separated mothers and children.” Sen. Elizabeth Warren also condemned the policy at an event on Saturday. (7 News Boston)

Even as his own immigration policies come under review by both parties, President Trump launched an attack on Germany’s immigration policies with false claims about rising crime rates. (New York Times)


It could be cash only when marijuana shops open in the state, as banks are balking at getting involved with the industry and sanctioning credit card sales because pot remains illegal under federal law. (Boston Globe)

Federal regulators will hold a public hearing on a proposed ban on large herring trawlers that drag nets between two boats within three miles of the Cape shoreline, depleting the fish population and forcing smaller boast to move further out to sea. (Cape Cod Times)


Many schools are closing on Monday due to the forecasted heat. Lowell students are getting the day off. (Lowell Sun) Students in Lawrence and Haverhill are taking half days. (Eagle-Tribune)

Alexandria Steinmann offers three pieces of “employability” advice to college seniors. (CommonWealth)


Boston’s Whittier Street Health Center, which fired 20 workers last week in advance of a union vote there, reversed itself and said they will keep the jobs after all. (Boston Herald)

The Veterans Administration has hidden from the public ratings of its nursing homes, which tend to get worse assessments than their private sector counterparts. (Boston Globe & USA Today)

Lyndia Downie and John Yazwinski explain what we need to do to solve the problem of homelessness. (CommonWealth)

A 20-year study finds that the brains of children who experience stress at an early age mature faster while stress in later childhood leads to slower brain maturation. (U.S. News & World Report)


Sea level rise could threaten 90,000 homes in Massachusetts, according to a new study from the Union of Concerned Scientists. (WBUR) A. Vernon Woodworth said a UMass Boston study that dismissed the idea of dealing with sea level rise by building a barrier across Boston harbor was undermined by its many assumptions. (CommonWealth)

ICYMI: The Senate votes to put a price on carbon and National Grid says the approach is necessary if the state is going to have any chance of meeting its greenhouse gas emission targets. (CommonWealth) Sen. Marc Pacheco of Taunton says putting a price on carbon is not a carbon tax. (CommonWealth)

Truro selectmen have voted to remove the town as a partner with a $50 million federally funded project to restore more than 1,000 acres of degraded salt marshes to avoid liability. (Cape Cod Times)


Attorney General Maura Healey said Salem Superior Court Judge Timothy Feeley should not be impeached for letting a convicted heroin dealer off with probation. (Salem News)


The Boston Globe suspended columnist Kevin Cullen for three months without pay over comments he made in interviews and public remarks following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. An outside review concluded that one account Cullen provided at a conference several months after the bombing was a “complete fabrication.” The reviewers also said Cullen’s claim in an interview with them as part of their investigation that he couldn’t remember who it was he spoke to in an account under question “strains credulity.” (Boston Globe)

A report finds that foundations that give grants to support journalism often overlook underserved areas  or “media deserts.” (Chronicle of Philanthropy)