Establishment vs. unknown
The cracks in the Clinton Massachusetts support began to show early. A year ago, the Clintons’ close friend — and ardent Reilly supporter in ’06 — Alan Solomont chose to raise money for Obama. In those early days of the campaign, Obama was also getting huge financial support from his former Harvard Law School alumni and other progressive donors in the state. So much so that, amazingly, to this point, Obama has out-raised Clinton in Massachusetts.
But endorsements, particularly from elected officials and party organizers, were slow in coming for the challenger. Bill Delahunt is the only one of the state’s 10 congressmen (all Democrats) to endorse him.
More recently, US Senator John Kerry also endorsed Obama — but it does not appear that Kerry intends to lend any concrete assistance to the campaign. The biggest thing Kerry could help Obama with, insiders agree, is the use of the senator’s legendary e-mail list. But sources suggest that Kerry has not, and will not, offer it up to Obama. Nor has he loaned staffers to the Obama effort, and he is unlikely even to appear at any Obama rallies in Massachusetts. After all, Kerry’s got his own re-election this November to worry about.
But it was this past fall’s endorsement from Governor Deval Patrick that turned heads — and got people wondering whether Patrick could do for Obama what he did for himself a year earlier.
Patrick’s endorsement has not stopped officeholders across the state from flocking to the Clinton cause — and in many cases, doing far more than lending their name. Nearly two-thirds of the state’s Democratic senators, and half its state representatives, have endorsed Clinton, including Speaker Sal DiMasi and Senate President Therese Murray. So have Congressmen Richard Neal, Jim McGovern, Barney Frank, and Stephen Lynch. Boston mayor Tom Menino is said to be putting much of his machinery to work for Clinton. State senator Karen Spilka, state rep Ruth Balser, and others are actively organizing for Clinton.
But most of these same forces lined up for Tom Reilly, who lost. They also backed Deb Goldberg for lieutenant governor in 2006; she, too, lost in the Democratic primary.
And many of these same people rallied behind Niki Tsongas in this past year’s special election for US Congress. Tsongas — like Clinton, blessed with the surname of a beloved Democratic party legend — also dominated the polls, but in the end barely survived a primary challenge.
Recently, as attested by the Patrick win, Massachusetts Democrats have certainly seemed eager to vote for the unknown challenger over the well-known establishment figure. And despite the polls, there is still plenty of time for a local Obama surge.
With New Hampshire in the rear-view mirror, local volunteers are now focusing on Massachusetts, say Obama staff and supporters. Organizational meetings are happening all over Massachusetts, and this past weekend those volunteers were making calls from 36 phone-bank locations across the state.
Things will really pick up after this Saturday, when the Democrats’ last pre–Super Tuesday primary takes place in South Carolina. After that, the power of the grassroots will be unleashed for the 11 days leading to February 5.