Thrill and Agony

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  November 14, 2012


The vote totals that poured in through the state secretary's office November 6 provided one set of winners (Elizabeth Warren, John Tierney, Joe Kennedy III, medical marijuana) and losers (Scott Brown, Richard Tisei, medical suicide). But there were plenty of other victories and defeats in Bay State politics last Tuesday.

Here's my partial scorecard.

Winner: Senator John Kerry. Pundits suggested that Kerry wasn't really trying to help Warren win, because that would hurt his chances at a secretary of state appointment — Obama wouldn't risk Brown winning Kerry's seat, according to the theory. In fact, Kerry was all-in with Warren, and the unexpected cushion of a 55-45 Democratic majority keeps his hopes alive.

Loser: mean-spirited Republicans. You would think they had learned from Charlie Baker. But there was Brown, from the beginning, mocking Warren's "professor" title, challenging her academic bona fides, and winking while his staff and media supporters called her "granny" and "Fauxcahontas." Tisei's purely negative campaignagainst Tierney apparently backfired as well.

Winner: labor. Although they looked a little shaky in some of the state primaries, labor unions redeemed themselves and then some in the general election. Firefighters, led by Ed Kelly, were a huge force for Warren, as was the Mass. AFL-CIO under Steve Tolman. Early indications suggested that union households, which gave half their votes to Brown in the 2010 special election, held much stronger for Warren this time. Oh, and as a bonus, labor doesn't have to worry about an anti-union Romney presidency.

Loser: outside influencers. The "People's Pledge" to keep third-party ads out of the Senate race held, much to the surprise of almost everybody — and voters could not have been happier about it. That success almost guarantees that it will return in future races, at least as a challenge among candidates if not in full adoption. Meanwhile, the National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC) decision to invest heavily in Tisei's race may have saved Tierney, one Democratic consultant tells me, because every ad and website had to include the words "National Republican."

Winner: Doug Rubin. As the strategist behind Deval Patrick in 2010 and Elizabeth Warren in 2012, Rubin has now won back-to-back races starting from behind, against top-notch opponents. The 2014 gubernatorial hopefuls will be bidding for his services.

Loser: Shawmut Group. The political consulting shop of Romneyites, including the now-notorious Eric Fehrnstrom, had its two most famous clients lose: Romney and Brown. Had those two races gone the other way, Fehrnstrom would be the new Karl Rove. Instead the firm is 0-for-eight with candidates since Brown's upset victory. You can count pollster Neil Newhouse as a loser too: his client Romney, like Baker before him, seemed to be genuinely convinced of victory right until the vote counts came in.

Loser:Boston Globe andBoston Herald pollsters. It's one thing to be wrong when all the other pollsters are wrong — as in Tierney's surprise victory over Tisei. It's another to be wrong when everybody else has it right. Five other publicly released polls in the final stretch all found Warren with a significant lead, of between four and seven percentage points. The final Globe poll, conducted by the University of New Hampshire, had the race even; the Herald poll from the University of Massachusetts-Lowell had Brown ahead by one. Warren won by seven.

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  Topics: Talking Politics , Doug Rubin, John Kerry, election,  More more >
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