Shadow of a doubt

By ADAM REILLY  |  June 7, 2006

Will Gabrieli fatigue set in?
Heading into the convention, Gabrieli’s strategy was simple and smart: spend a couple million bucks on TV ads to drive up your name recognition and poll numbers, and then tell the Democrats they’d be crazy to keep you off the ballot.

Mission accomplished. So what does Gabrieli do now? On Tuesday, he proposed a “Deal with Massachusetts” that involves making state government leaner and more efficient. Smart move — but after Gabrieli’s recent ad blitz, how many voters are already sick of seeing Gabrieli’s face and hearing his voice? And what will the number be come September? Some politicians wear well; others don’t. We’ll soon find out if there’s such a thing as too much Gabrieli.

How nasty will the race get?
Chris Gabrieli’s speech in Worcester included a nice nod to party unity. “I’m asking you to let me join my friends, fellow Democrats Tom Reilly and Deval Patrick, in this primary,” Gabrieli said. “If you give me this chance, I’m going to spend the rest of this campaign traveling the state, pounding the pavement, to do whatever it takes to beat Kerry Healey.” A few hours later — after quickly exiting the arena and then retracing his steps — Gabrieli held another press availability that started at exactly the same time as Patrick’s speech accepting the convention’s endorsement.

To all of you who wanted to avoid a “bloody Democratic primary,” sorry: this one’s going to be a doozy. Before Gabrieli made the ballot, Reilly’s supporters already considered Patrick an arrogant interloper who hadn’t paid his dues in state politics. The Patrick people, in turn, saw Reilly as epitomizing a stale Democratic establishment, and chafed at the character-based arguments — Patrick’s got a lot of mortgages! And lives in a big house! And sits on a sketchy corporate board! — the Reilly campaign deployed against their candidate. Now the Patrick people get to hate Gabrieli, too, for obstructing their guy’s path to the nomination. And while Reilly’s people may welcome Gabrieli as a short-term brake on Patrick’s momentum, they’ll see things differently if the AG’s in jeopardy come late August. Expect an ugly internecine fight, one that leaves Patrick and Reilly (and maybe even Gabrieli) financially depleted post-primary while rendering the losers less than eager to help the winner in his general-election bid against Healey.

What will Healey do?
It’s hard to say which Democrat the LG would most like to face in the general election. Reilly could hurt her with conservative Democrats, but she’d easily outspend him, and would have no trouble painting him as another hack Irish pol from Beacon Hill. Gabrieli could match her financially, and may have the best pragmatic sense of what it’ll take to elect a Democratic governor. But he’s never won an election, has a thin base of support, and remains a weak retail politician. Patrick would be the easiest to typecast as a liberal — but he’s also the lone Democratic candidate who can actually inspire.

If Healey identifies a preferred opponent, and the race looks close in the late going, expect the Healey camp to give him a nudge or two in hopes of affecting the outcome. After all, none other than Karl Rove was impressed with the work that Rob Gray, Healey’s chief consultant, did for George W. Bush back in 2002.

On the Web
Adam Reilly's Talking Politics:
Deval Patrick:
Tom Reilly:
Chris Gabrieli:

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Harvard men
Devotees of the World’s Greatest University have to like their chances in the Massachusetts governor’s race. Three of the five candidates — Republican Kerry Healey and Democrats Chris Gabrieli and Deval Patrick — received their undergraduate degrees (or, to use the snooty term, their ABs) from Harvard College. Given recent history, this bodes well for them and poorly for Christy Mihos (Stonehill) and Tom Reilly (American International University): the last governor without a Harvard degree to be elected outright, without riding someone’s coattails into office (this means you, Paul Cellucci!), was Ed King, who won in 1978.

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