Two of the biggest names in Massachusetts politics recently entered the contest for governor and one looks like he’s learned from a previous race he lost.
The other still needs to make some adjustments.
Former state official and healthcare executive Charlie Baker announced his campaign for the GOP nomination with a video that shows the “new” Charlie Baker.
The “old” Baker was a stern campaigner who repeatedly and stridently attacked Gov. Deval L. Patrick in the 2010 contest. And while doing so he came across as a little mean, perhaps accomplished and smart, but not somebody you’d want to have a beer with. Patrick won the charm offensive and returned to the corner office.
In his current video Baker looks like a new man. Gone is the business suit and frown, replaced by a pair of blue jeans, an open collar shirt and a smile. He talks about his wife and three kids and the video was filmed in his cozy suburban backyard.
The other new entrant in the 2014 race is Martha Coakley, the current attorney general. Perhaps she’s best known to many Democratic activists as the person who in 2010 lost the U. S. Senate seat to Republican Scott Brown. It had been held for nearly 47 years by the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.
Many political observers believe that her biggest problem was that she didn’t seem to have much heart and was a poor campaigner. She famously derided the standard campaign practice of standing outside of Fenway Park to greet voters and mistakenly identified star Red Sox pitcher and Brown supporter Curt Schilling as a New York Yankees fan.
She appeared to be out of touch with many Massachusetts voters.
In her campaign video released on Monday Coakley warmly described Bay State residents as the “strongest, toughest and most resilient people” in the nation and was shown greeting lots of smiling voters. A good start.
But her narration still made her sound like a stiff, lawyerly candidate who speaks in an annoying monotone.
She needs to retool her image a bit more.
Baker knew what he had to do
Baker and his campaign staff knew that he didn’t connect with voters in his 2010 race and they made the right adjustments. Smiling, warm and confident, Baker sounds like a knowledgeable “everyman” in his video, someone you could talk to in a bar or your kitchen.
Coakley, not so much. She needs to work on her tone and learn how to put a little oomph in her voice when speaking about subjects she really cares about. Plodding and professional may have worked in a race for attorney general, but voters expect a little personality, if not a genuine spark, in their candidates for governor. This needs to come from the candidate herself.
Baker is likely going to have a free ride in the primary, so he has from now to November 2014 to polish his new image and gently, but firmly, hammer the Democrats along the way.
Coakley is entering a crowded Democratic primary where Treasurer Steven Grossman leads three other announced candidates. There’s another contender who has suspended his campaign pending an Ethics Commission ruling and two others who are still considering getting into the race.
If Coakley is going to emerge from this pack next September as the Democratic nominee she’s got to show some emotion and prove she’s got the moxie to take on Baker in the general election.
Massachusetts attorneys general have been on a losing streak recently when trying for the top job and unless she tweaks her campaign persona Coakley will likely become just one more AG who couldn’t make the final cut into the major leagues.