Shock: the deep blue state GOP governor with 70% approval ratings
I have to admit that this one crept up on me, unnoticed (and I lived in this state for 20 years). Karyn Bruggeman of National Journal reports:
And then there's Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker. After four months in office, the Republican governor of this deeply Democratic-leaning state is cruising at high altitude, enjoying sky-high approval ratings. And Baker's top advisers and outside observers say the reasons for his popularity are relatively simple: He's just keeping his head down and running the state.
A Suffolk University poll in mid-April showed that 70 percent of Massachusetts voters approved of Baker. Those figures, the envy of virtually any public official, weren't an anomaly, as other surveys have also shown the governor flying high. What's more, Baker's high personal ratings (74 percent of Suffolk respondents said they viewed him favorably) made him more popular than the state's highest-profile Democrat, progressive star Elizabeth Warren.
A little context: Massachusetts voters have a long history of electing Republicans as governor, mostly in order to keep the corruption of the Democrat-dominated state legislature in check. The politics of electing a rep or senator to the State House seem to be intensely local, a matter of ethnicity, personal obligations, family member relationships, and the like. Highly questionable figures like William Bulger, whose gangster brother Whitey was for years at the top of the FBI’s most wanted list, kept getting re-elected. So a GOP guv could at least keep the rascals under surveillance and the graft to manageable levels.
But Baker seems to have taken this to a new level:
Observers of all stripes point to the same few things explaining Baker's early success. Baker has demonstrated the managerial skills he promised in his 2014 campaign, is building good working relationships with Democrats, and is adeptly tackling mundane but thorny issues that other governors may not have had the patience for.
The main example: Baker's early interest in taking on long-festering and expensive problems with Boston's crumbling subway and commuter rail system, an issue that became especially pressing under the weight of unprecedented snowfall last winter—the type of natural event that often can torpedo a politician, not boost one.
"I think people view Charlie Baker as the kind of guy who wants to handle something like that. He wants to surround himself with the data. He wants to be able to find the path forward," said Peter Ubertaccio, a political science professor at Stonehill College.
Baker probably won’t win a lot of plaudits from conservatives, but in Massachusetts this approach is absolutely necessary (unless you are indicting people):
Baker has made a point of including Democrats in his administration and working with Democratic leaders in the legislature. The Republican's chief of staff is a Democrat, as are roughly half of his cabinet appointees.
Baker has won praise from some local Democrats for his handling of the snow. Unlike some other state budgets, the rollout of Baker's budget plan included cuts to health care and job training programs but still managed to avoid significant controversy.
So the Democrats refrained from their usual demonization? What’s up with that? Is it just a matter of personal relations and inclusiveness? If so, I can’t see it working on a national level against legislators like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.
I will have to pay closer attention to Charlie. Something is going on here. Can it last?
Baker already is reaping political rewards from his early popularity. Maura Healey, the state's Democratic attorney general, declared last week (a day after the Suffolk poll came out) that she has no interest in running for governor in 2018.
Prior to that announcement, Healey was considered by some pundits to be Baker's likely challenger-in-waiting. But not only has a Massachusetts governor not lost a reelection bid since 1982, Baker has built up an unusual level of strength on the job.
Hat tip: Powerline