By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  October 13, 2006

Adding to that, some Republicans will see no benefit in remaining Republicans in a state run by Democrats. Already, several prominent Republicans have bolted the party (Christy Mihos, Gloria Larson), or are supporting Deval Patrick (William Saltonstall, Francis Hatch Jr.).

Nevertheless, a conservative-takeover scenario appears unlikely for the moment. The state GOP is almost entirely controlled not by social conservatives, but by moneyed interests — specifically, investment bankers and venture capitalists.

They are led by the triumvirate of Mitt Romney, formerly of Bain Capital; Sean Healey, husband of Kerry Healey and CEO of Affiliated Managers Group (AMG); and Crate, vice president under Sean Healey at AMG. Much of the money raised by the state committee this year has come from executives at such firms, including Bain, AMG, Fidelity Investments, Berkshire Partners, Atlantic Management, Summit Partners, J.W. Childs Associates, and TA Associates, along with a handful of prominent businesses with Republican leaders, such as EMC, New Balance, and Winn Development.

In fact, of the roughly $1.2 million raised by the state party committee this year, more than two-thirds of it comes from a mere 174 individuals, mostly affiliated with those companies.

But some wonder whether $5000 checks will keep pouring in once Romney leaves, Crate steps down (as he is expected to do next year), and the GOP’s life force withers. “Somebody giving to the Republican Party will be doing so purely on faith that there will be a future someday,” says Rappaport. “It will be extraordinarily difficult to convince anybody other than the true ideologues to step up and give.”

On the other hand, an effectively run opposition party could actually draw people and money to the GOP. “It would depend a lot on how Deval Patrick does,” says Moffitt. “If he raises taxes, people will come out of the woodwork.”

Who gets the chair?
In order to keep the money flowing, some expect Healey to champion another investment money-maker as the next party chair. But committee members might not go along with this plan, and opt to vote for a veteran organizer instead.

In fact, there are a number of viable candidates for the job but no obvious leaders, thanks in part to Romney’s and Healey’s use of the administration as a tool to build their own profiles, and nobody else’s.

“They didn’t try to create heroes” in executive offices, Rappaport says. “You can’t name three people who have come through this administration.”

Rappaport would be an obvious candidate for the job, but he already splits his time between Massachusetts and Arizona, and says he is too old (at 50) to take on the long-term project that he thinks the party needs.

There are others, though, with ambition for high office who might seek the position to boost their profile, or push for an ally to run the party as their proxy. It could be an interesting battle.

That battle might see the return of one or more of the party’s old-timers — veterans of the Weld-Cellucci-Swift administrations, who have sat out the Romney years — by their choice or Romney’s. Or it could see the return of outcasts. It might even include another Romney. Whoever the players, the outcome will say much about whether Massachusetts maintains a two-party system in any meaningful sense.

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