The drop of the Bay State from 1st to 8th in the U.S. News rankings will undoubtedly complicate Charlie Baker’s re-election effort, but it isn’t likely to cause the odds makers to move the state’s gubernatorial race from a “likely” re-election to a “toss up.” Nonetheless, it is clearly an unexpected gift to the three folks competing to be Baker’s general election foe.
There is a clear lesson here to be learned (or remembered), of course. Don’t exaggerate the credibility of a friendly referee until the clock shows all zeros. Obviously, the Governor’s liberal use of last year’s number one ranking makes this year’s descent more embarrassing. The good news here, even for supporters of the Governor, is that in Massachusetts politics this news really will cause discomfort for the incumbent governor and give aid and comfort to his eventual opponent. I call this good, not because I am a critic of the governor, but because I am a fan of Massachusetts politics, which, unlike national politics, still operates according to useful democratic norms.
Donald Trump gets hits every day with embarrassing self-inflicted barbs. Every day, including today, he contradicts his own prior assessments of everyone and everything from the mundane to the monumental. Nonetheless, he and his Keystone Kop appointees blow up every democratic norm in site and march merrily on without care or clear consequence. Clearly, the significance of the “credibility” issue has been suspended in Washington. So, let’s take a moment to celebrate the fact that we have elections in Massachusetts where candidates are still stung by their mistakes and misfires. The fact that the news coverage of the state’s new ranking included discussion by experts of the questionable methodology of the rankings themselves should also be considered a testament to the relative good health of our state’s ongoing political narrative.
Governor Baker will absorb some blows from this, but he can also use it to highlight another image that will be crucial to his re-election, namely how un-Trump-like he is. Rather than distracting or denying, the Governor should acknowledge the challenges we face with humility as well as the successes obscured by this embarrassing turn of events. The Guv’s Democratic opponents should also take care to highlight their own un-Trump-like approaches to politics by making fair arguments about the Governor’s shortcomings and missed opportunities. Admittedly, this is a very low bar for all involved that I am confident will be easily cleared.