Cost-cutting is likely to bring more criticism than compliments for Patrick — and, by extension, Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray, who observers say would love to inherit the Corner Office someday. The left will decry the cuts to social services; the municipalities will likely face tough layoffs; and those still waiting for lower property taxes and more police will find those campaign pledges abandoned.
“The Patrick administration is in a tough position,” says another political observer. “They promised more than they could deliver.”
Voters may sympathize with Patrick and Murray as victims of circumstance. But critics will argue that the Democrat-run state has been irresponsibly outspending its means for years.
That could boost the chances for a Republican challenger in 2010 — most likely Charles Baker, Harvard Pilgrim CEO, who is considered by many the strongest GOP hopeful for governor. (Notwithstanding Romney’s recently stated opinion that Kerry Healey could run again.)
The financial crisis seems to be working against Republicans nationally, in large part because their party was in charge as the crisis developed. But the opposite is true here; Republicans generally stand blameless for anything that’s happened in the Commonwealth. Except, perhaps, those closely associated with former GOP governors — as Healey, for example, was lieutenant governor under Romney, and Baker was secretary of administration and finance under William Weld and Paul Cellucci.
Gubernatorial hopefuls are not the only ones who could be helped or hurt by the crisis.
Plenty of high-profile Massachusetts pols — including US Representatives who had to vote on the Wall Street bailout — have their eye on a potential opening for the US Senate. John Kerry is rumored to be in line for a cabinet position in an Obama administration, and Ted Kennedy is facing a grave illness.
Barney Frank, as chair of the House Finance Committee, raised his profile considerably during the bailout-bill debate — even meriting an unflattering homage on Saturday Night Live. His high profile, however, brings added controversy, including questions about whether he did enough to oversee Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the lead-up to the disaster. “When they’re doing a parody of you on SNL,” says one local elected official, “it’s never a good thing.”
That pol and others suggest that Congressman Steven Lynch may have had a Senate run on his mind when he voted against the bailout bill, twice. Lynch, observers say, would run as the fiscally conservative Democrat, and as the fighter for working-class citizens. Opposing the bailout for its rewarding of fat cats and shafting of homeowners fits that profile perfectly.
Attorney General Martha Coakley, another potential Senate candidate, has also been playing a visible role using her consumer-protection powers to go after predatory mortgage lenders.
And yet another juicy political position could be affected by the crisis, according to some State House insiders.
That’s the ongoing battle between State Representatives Robert DeLeo and John Rogers for eventual succession to Speaker of the House.
DeLeo, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, was blamed by some earlier this summer for filling the budget with pork, in what Rogers supporters alleged was an effort to buy loyalty from House members.
That overstuffed budget is now drawing scrutiny, and some of those gifts will be scrapped by Patrick through his emergency 9C cuts.