Revere, October 9 — One basic premise unites the men and women who run for office and the men and women who cover their campaigns: when candidates talk, people care what they have to say. That’s why, a half hour before Monday’s Columbus Day parade in Revere, every media outlet in town turned out to watch Democratic gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick bash Kerry Healey, his Republican rival, for her “secret plan” to raise the gas tax (never mind that the plan was actually drafted by a legislative committee, not by Healey) . And that’s what prompted the media gaggle to rush down Broadway immediately afterward to get Healey’s rebuttal (in which she intimated that Patrick would support the tax increase in question, even though he’s said he wouldn’t).
HAD TO BE THERE: Patrick finished third in Revere in this year’s primary.
Here, however, is the sobering truth: for most voters, all this stuff is just a mess of white noise.
Take Mickey “Say No to Drugs” Casoli, a weathered ex-paratrooper who claims to have invented the slogan in question (hence the nickname), who cornered Healey just before the parade to pledge his support (“Whatever you need, baby!”). After Casoli professed his loyalty to the LG as she smiled obligingly, I asked him about his enthusiasm.
“She’s a law lady — that’s what I like about her!”, Casoli explained, sort of. “I think she’s a very ethical-type person. I think she’s very upstanding. I think she’s ladylike in a man’s world, but she conducts herself like a real lady, you know what I’m saying?”
Casoli then praised Healey’s determination to keep murderers and rapists off the street (as opposed to Patrick, presumably), and fretted that Patrick wasn’t from around here (even though Healey isn’t, either). Our conversation was cut short when parade organizers asked Casoli, who had a place of honor in the parade, to back up his car a few feet. But as Casoli put his hard-top Cadillac DeVille into reverse, he hollered some parting thoughts out the window: “You don’t want some guy coming to your daughter and raping her. You’ll kill him! I’m the originator of ‘Say no to drugs.’ You can go to the bank on that!”
The moose is loose
Call it the Casoli paradox: for all the time and energy the candidates spend honing their message and wooing voters, most elections are won and lost on the basis of vague, occasionally ill-formed impressions that take hold early and are nearly impossible to undo. Acknowledge this, and it’s hard not to wonder if Patrick and Healey wasted their time in Revere — and, for that matter, if they’ll be wasting their time at similar events between now and Election Day.
Granted, both have good reason to court the Revere vote. Patrick finished third here in September’s Democratic primary, behind Chris Gabrieli and Tom Reilly. And with Healey trailing badly in the race (20 to 25 percent, according to most polls), this is just the kind of community that could help her turn things around: urban, blue collar, socially conservative, packed with Reagan Democrats who’ve helped elect Republican governors for the last 16 years.