Monday, December 23, 2013

Gabriel Gomez said WHAT?

Ah, the Christmas season is upon us. While our Democratic brethren probably feel our party affiliation makes us hard-hearted Grinches, we beg to differ.

We are ALL about peace, harmony and family. Can you feel the love?

Wait, what? Gabriel Gomez said what? He called conservative blogger Rob Eno a WHAT? And then he went on Herald Radio today and said he meant to say it?

Oh, Massachusetts Republicans... What are we doing to ourselves? We have an election to win next year. Airing our dirty laundry and internal fighting in the press is not the way to achieve victory. The word "Klan" should not be coming up in conversations about our party. Period.

Look, there are very few times we would ever say the GOP should be like the Democrats. But here's one instance where the Dems kick our butts. When they have internal disagreements, you don't find out about it in the press. We are positive they have their share of intra-party skirmishes, but they are much, much better at keeping them behind closed doors. Instead, they focus their external efforts and messaging on rallying voters to their side.

When gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker decided to run with former state Rep. Karyn Polito at the beginning of the month, the day-two story in the Boston Globe was about conservatives in the party considering pulling support for the team. We'll leave the politics of that story alone. What's wrong with this situation is that the storyline about the Republicans is not what we'd do for the state if we were to lead, the story is that Republicans can't get it together.

This is not to say that there is no room for disagreement in the party; internal debate is important for the health of the party. But, it should be just that – internal debate. Rent a meeting room like we do for state committee meetings, and instead of polite clapping and speeches and whispered conversations in the back of the room, let's just get it out in the open, decide what we're going to run on, and go campaign.

Let's face it. There are a multitude of beliefs among members of our party. We're not going to say who is right and wrong, because none of them are "right" or "wrong." People believe what they believe, whether it's because of religious reasons, personal experiences, or just because. Candidates claiming they've "evolved" on issues doesn't help the cause. Aren't they effectively saying those who still believe what they used to believe are "unevolved?" They aren't cavemen, they just don't agree with you.

On the Democratic side, Barack Obama was allowed to lead the party even though he didn't support gay marriage. When he had his "evolution" -- his words, not ours -- his party accepted that, too.

Let's stop with the litmus tests. Let's stop trying to figure out who the "real" Republicans are. There are tons of things we all can agree on -- things like smaller, more efficient government. For now, while we're trying to win in 2014, can we just focus on those things we can all get behind and accept that for now, we're not going to find consensus on every single issue?

Why would any independent voter consider coming over to our side when they see how we treat our own family?

Guys, we are not going to win like this. Voters don't want to hear about our internal fighting, they want to know why they should entrust the Corner Office to someone with an R after their name. If we don't start articulating that right this minute, we can kiss another four years goodbye.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Are Massachusetts politicians on the naughty list?

As the Boston Globe reports today, Massachusetts gubernatorial candidates are not high on anyone's gift-giving list this holiday season. Donations are drying up, and even candidates who went gang-busters on fundraising the last time around are not pulling it off again this year.

Is it possible that, in general, politicians have found themselves on the naughty list?

Unless you're a lobbyist or corporate bigwig, donating to political candidates is something most people do sparingly, if at all. It takes a lot to convince the average person to peel off cash for a political candidate. Just ask the candidates, who have to spend hours and hours "dialing for dollars." With today's news that the Massachusetts unemployment rate is now higher than the national average for the first time since 2007, there's a good chance the person who takes their call doesn't have a paycheck, let alone cash to make a donation.

People work hard for their money, and after they've spent it on necessities like mortgages or rent, health insurance, groceries and child care, there isn't much left. Convincing them to give the leftovers--if there are any--to a candidate is no easy sell. 

You've got to be able to convince potential donors that they are going to get some kind of return on their investment. Candidates need to give voters something to buy into, some reason why their hard-earned money will eventually improve the quality of their day-to-day lives. Politicians call it a "donation," but in reality, donors give because they see it as an investment in the future for themselves and their families. 

In a year when Congress' approval rating has sunk to historic lows, Obamacare has been a complete trainwreck and the federal government actually shut down, is it possible that people can't bring themselves to donate another dollar to facilitating bad behavior? 

Is it possible voters are tired of nasty campaigns that spiral into negativity and away from positive visions for the future, and the incessant TV ads and robocalls that come with all that? Perhaps they feel candidates should be able to campaign for an office on the six figures they already have in their war chests. 

We don't think voters are pessimistic. Not by a long shot. We think Massachusetts residents are actually optimistic. They know it can be better, and they are looking for a candidate who matches their hope for the future and who they can trust to lead the state in that direction.

The next Massachusetts governor will be the candidate who can lay out a grander vision for Massachusetts with concrete plans for how to make it happen. Donations are a manifestation of people's inspiration around a candidate.

So far, voters aren't seeing it. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Worthy Opposition

Confession #1: We two Republicans called in to the Juliette Kayyem Tele-Town Hall last night.

(Hey, they weren't checking party registration at the "door." So, we figured we should hear what she had to say. Market research, I guess you could call it.)

Confession #2: We were impressed.

Before we get to the specifics, we want to set the record straight. We are firmly Republican. We vote Republican, and our views fall pretty solidly in the GOP column. And, with all due respect, we definitely won't be caucusing with the Democrats in 2014.

But we also aren't beyond admitting when a candidate -- of any stripe -- is doing something cool.

So, we're not at all ashamed to say that, as far as we're concerned, if Kayyem's performance on her Tele-Town Hall last night is an indication of how she'll run, Martha Coakley and Steve Grossman had better get their game faces on.

Kayyem started the call with what seems to be her stump speech, a story about how her grandmother would carry her immigration papers in a Ziploc baggie wherever she went. It's a nice story (although I'm admittedly a sucker for grandmother stories) and it appears it wasn't written just for the campaign trail. She mentions the Ziploc baggie in this Boston Globe column from 2006.

After her intro, the Tele-Town Hall host (sounded like a campaign staffer) said Juliette would take questions and said they would be conducting a poll asking whether callers would be caucusing for Kayyem (a "press one" or "press two" deal). Maybe we're just wide-eyed Tele-Town Hall newbies, but this struck us a pretty good way for candidates to get some intel on how they're doing and interact with likely votes in a pretty controlled manner (we're guessing that the questions were screened pretty well before they got to Kayyem).

She fielded questions on the environment, standardized testing, and how she differed from the other Democratic candidates she's running against. It came across as unscripted, and whether it was or it wasn't, they pulled it off pretty well.

Here's the thing: Kayyem is usually labeled as a progressive, and we were expecting to hear a lot of that on the call last night, complete with the typical Republican-bashing you hear from people like recently-elected Congresswoman Katherine Clark. But it didn't happen.

In fact, she said the word "Republican" only two or three times, even though she was on a call geared at Democratic primary voters. She didn't pander. When asked by a retired teacher about the problems with MCAS testing and standardized testing in general, Kayyem said she thought some form of standardized testing is necessary.

Kayyem found a way to embrace the Democratic platform, while highlighting her strengths on issues typically embraced by the Republican Party, such as public safety. She spoke about her experience as Massachusetts homeland security chief under Deval Patrick, and specifically her role overseeing the Massachusetts National Guard. For Massachusetts voters used to seeing their governor giving press conferences from The Bunker in Framingham, Kayyem is smart is to get people envisioning her in her winter parka advising drivers to stay off the road.

Kayyem's background allows her to speak credibly on public safety issues, and the fact that she feels comfortable addressing them could be helpful in a state where security weighs heavily on our minds these days. In a recent speech at the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association lunch, she supported a commission to review the Boston Marathon bombing intelligence and response and said Democrats give “short shrift” to growing the state’s defense industry (typically Republican territory.)

Her apparent ability to walk the line on issues without sounding unbearably partisan or like she doesn't have any true positions at all makes her dangerous to her political opponents in a state where unenrolled voters make up the bulk of the registered population.

When you throw in the fact that she is female, is proving to be a proficient fundraiser, knows how to work social media, and has never run before makes us think she could be a real threat to the perceived Democratic primary frontrunners, despite what the most recent polls say. She's new and different, and that counts for something. Just ask Deval 2006. 

And if she makes it through the primary, she will be a very solid and worthy opponent for us Republicans.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Even Obama Doesn't Want Obamacare Anymore

America, let's get honest about Obamacare.

First, let's admit that Obamacare is a miserable failure. No matter the benchmark or metric, the result is the same. When it comes to expanding access and affordability of health insurance for Americans, Obamacare expands government into the private market too much, and it's too expensive. And it is totally unacceptable for the law to deprive millions of Americans of health insurance they chose and paid for, even though they were told that if they liked their doctor and their health plan, they could keep them.

Second, let's get real. Obamacare might be a failure, but we think it's no accident. We're as cynical as the day is long, but even we don't think the government is capable of bungling a rollout of a major program so badly. Heck, if there's anything the Obama Administration is usually good at, it's making untested, bad ideas seem like they're fantastic (like they did with Obama's own candidacy in 2008).

No, Obamacare is no accident. Rather, it is a deliberate attempt to shift public opinion away from confidence in the private marketplace and toward the policy Democrats revere as the Holy Grail of politics -- single payer health care. Such a move was unthinkable in one bold step; just ask Hillary Clinton, who tried it and failed. Instead, Democrats realize the wisdom of convincing people first that there is a need for expanded coverage and access (hence Obamacare), then convincing people that a single-payer system is the last resort to fix the broken system without retreating back to doing nothing, especially if insurance companies can't be trusted to handle the market privately (according to the President). We predict you will see Democrats start floating single-payer health care proposals in earnest right after the mid-term elections -- particularly if they pick up seats in Congress. And, the process of pivoting started today, with the President starting to admit problems with Obamacare's implementation but pinning them on insurance companies and the private market, not the law itself.

Third, and most important, we think the health care debate needs to focus on something nobody seems to be talking about anymore. The best way to fix health care in America is to improve the American economy. It seems simple, but the truth is that if more Americans had jobs and if companies had more money, health insurance would be more accessible to more people in the private marketplace. That's what America needs most right now .

So, if you're like us and you want to see real improvement in health care without either Obamacare or a single-payer system, stand up! It's time to fix our economy. It's time to get people back to work. It's time to make money and help people afford insurance in their own right, with plans they choose and doctors they select. That's the American way.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Obama Knows Best

When you walk up to the cooler full of milk at the grocery store, you have a choice to make.

Should you pay more for the fancy organic milk because experts say regular milk is bad for you, or do you save money and grab the regular milk because, well, you always drank it, it's more economical, and it's just fine for you and your kids?

Imagine for a moment that you were deprived of your ability to choose. Imagine the grocery store manager showing up and removing the regular milk from the shelves right in front of your face, telling you it's fancy organic milk or nothing. Pay up.

This is the essence of what President Obama is telling millions of Americans who, up until now, were allowed to make individual decisions about what kind of health insurance was just right for themselves and their children.

After promising again and again to the American public that his health care plan would allow you to keep buying your favorite health insurance plan, President Obama has been caught in a lie. Millions of Americans are receiving cancellation notices from their health insurers telling them that their plan is no longer available for purchase and they have to pick a new one. (The fact that they actually can't do that because the website is a disaster is another story.)

Yes, every program has winners and losers. We all expect that. But isn't it ironic that a program that supposedly preaches that people should be insured, disproportionately whacks those who already knew that and were already buying their own insurance?

Obamacare makes losers out of people who took personal responsibility for their health care. These are people who understand better than most the cost of health care because they actually have to write out a check each month to pay their premium rather than having an employer automatically deduct it from their pay check. And trust us, writing that check makes you think a LOT about how much you spend on health care.

Consumers in the individual market, which includes many entrepreneurs, small business owners, and other self-employed people, had to shop through their options, read the fine print, and choose a plan and price that covered their personal needs. And in some cases, it was the regular milk equivalent that worked. Others sprung for organic. But the point was, they got to choose. Obamacare eliminates that choice.

As Americans, we traditionally pride ourselves with living in a land of plenty. Living in such a land inherently requires one to make choices, which is as much a personal freedom as it is a requirement for all citizens to exercise personal responsibility.

Obamacare changes that. It is like a wolf in sheep's clothing. It's a law that is promoted as improving access to health care, but it actually limits the option individuals have about their health care coverage, thereby limiting the practical choices many Americans can make. And, sadly, it's precisely those same Americans who prized choice the most, because they were in a position to exercise that choice.

Is this a mistake? Was there a miscalculation by the authors of Obamacare?

Not at all.

President Obama -- and many of his Democratic brethren -- disdain personal responsibility. They don't like it when people are independent and make individual choices. They think the government is better equipped than you are to make decisions about your own health care. In fact, if they truly had their way, they would go beyond Obamacare and put the government in charge of all of your health care decisions by instituting a single payer system nationwide.

This logic is readily apparent in the way the Obama Administration defends the millions of cancellation letters being sent to those who buy in the individual market.

"It's OK," they say. "Your old plan, which you picked yourself, was terrible. So we went ahead and picked some new plans for you, and yeah, you gotta pay more, but trust us: we are protecting you from your own crappy judgment." In fact, they have the audacity to claim that those letters aren't, in fact, cancellations, they're just "transitions" to the better, more sensible approach to health care they set up for all of us.

And while Obama and Co. can't stand those who are personally responsible, they exploit that responsibility by using individual purchasers' money to foot the bill for the entire Obamacare program. For those who became entrepreneurs as a result of losing their job in the recent recession, and who thereby became responsible for buying their own health insurance at huge rates, this is a special form of insult after injury.

Over and over, our Democratic friends try to convince us that Obamacare is going to save millions and millions of uninsured people from dying because they don't have health insurance. Perhaps; perhaps not. But what they refuse to talk about is the hundreds of billions of dollars it will cost us to accomplish that goal, all on top of our already eye-popping $17 trillion national debt. They refuse to talk about the two to seven million Americans who are being forced to give up health care plans they selected, and purchased, and paid for, in exchange for plans they don't want. They refuse to talk about the much-higher premiums these people will be forced to pay for the health care plans they don't want. And that's before they refuse to talk about all of the glitches and privacy bugs with the website they created to accomplish the feat.

The plain and simple truth isn't just that the federal health care website is broken (even though it is). It isn't just that Obamacare is bad, even though it is. President Obama and his ilk actually have a different vision for America than the model we all learned in civics class. Their model isn't about personal responsibility and choice. It's about big government imposing its will and depriving the American public of individual choice while punishing individual responsibility and accomplishment.

And, that's the real worry with Obamacare. It's just the tip of the iceberg.

Van Magness on NECN

Fred Van Magness was a guest on NECN's Morning Show this morning to discuss President Obama's visit to Boston today and the status of the Affordable Care Act.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

With friends like US...

If you watch any classic American television series, there's bound to be an episode where a child sneaks into their sibling's bedroom and reads secret passages written in their diary.

And, of course, by the end of the show, they inevitably get caught, they get in big trouble, and their relationship with their sibling is forever ruined. (Or, at least, they hate each other until the next episode.)

There's a reason why this time-tested sitcom formula works. Whether it's an old-fashioned diary or a modern-age smartphone or email account, everybody knows it's just not cool to spy on your friends.

Everyone, that is, except apparently the President of the United States.

Alas, in the most recent episode of "Scandal - White House Edition" (a scary new reality series), the NSA has been caught snooping on dozens of foreign leaders' phone calls, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel's private cell phone conversations.

You don't have to be a sitcom fan to know that's just not cool.

If you ask us, there would seem to be three simple rules for nations to follow when it comes to espionage, especially spying on friendly nations. Rule Number One – it's wrong to spy on your friends. Rule Number Two – if you do spy on your friends, don't get caught. Rule Number Three – If you do get caught, deny it so as to protect your world relationships, reputation and the sanctity of your intelligence programs.

Unfortunately, it looks like the US broke all three rules faster than you can say "wiretap". And, unfortunately, this isn't just a television show.

So, what is Mr. President of Global Love, Peace and Happiness going to do about this little mess?

For years, the President has been telling us how other nations don't like us and we need to do something to fix it. Well, pardon us for hazarding a guess, but we're willing to bet that listening in on foreign leaders like there's some kind of international foreign policy party line at play isn't going to help matters a whole bunch.

Remember the international uproar when European media organizations were accused of hacking into voicemails of prominent politicians and celebrities? Well, isn't this the same thing -- except even worse?

Once something like this happens, whether it's a matter of sibling rivalry or an international crisis, it's a breach of trust and it's difficult to repair. Frankly, we don't really know how this situation could possibly be repaired, save for a change in leadership the next time Americans go to the ballot box. For Americans, that is the democratic equivalent of our next "episode".

More important questions remain.

First of all, why did the US feel the need to spy on its friends in the first place? Has our relationship with historically-friendly countries deteriorated so much that we don't talk with them anymore, and now we need to spy on them just to know what's going on? What kind of diplomacy is that?

Who can we turn to the next time the US needs a friend? Our international friend list is running perilously thin these days, and that's a big problem for a global superpower up to its eyeballs in debt and facing threats around the world.

Did the President really know about this? (He claims he didn't, but more recent reports suggest he was briefed on the situation and approved of it.) If he did know, why did he allow it? If he didn't, who's running the show?

What exactly is the role of the NSA? Up until this point, we thought it was essentially a domestic intelligence organization, as opposed to the CIA and its international role. Did someone authorize the NSA to go international, and what does that mean? Where does it all end, or does it?

How come the US government can figure out how to hack into international cell phone calls of foreign dignitaries but we can't figure out how to launch a simple health care Web site?

Stay tuned....

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Meredith Warren on NECN's Morning Show

Meredith Warren joined Democratic analyst Mara Dolan and NECN's Steve Aveson on The Morning Show today to discuss the end of the government shutdown and the decision to increase the nation's debt ceiling. Here is the video:

[Video Link]

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Van Magness on NECN

Fred Van Magness joined George Bachrach on NECN's Morning Show today to discuss the pending government shutdown and the results of the 5th Congressional District primary and the 1st Mayoral Debate in Boston. Here are the videos:

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Van Magness on NECN's Broadside

Fred Van Magness was a guest on NECN's Broadside with Jim Braude last night to discuss the government shutdown:

Monday, September 16, 2013

Warren and Van Magness on NECN

Lyric Consulting's partners, Meredith Warren and Fred Van Magness, both had something to say about the race for Governor of Massachusetts during The Morning Show on NECN today.

Meredith Warren was quoted as a Republican political analyst in the news story about Martha Coakley's impending announcement, saying, "I think we're going to see a pretty nasty primary fight between Martha Coakley and Steve Grossman on the Democratic side and that gives the Republican candidate Charlie Baker the opportunity to stay positive about how he'll lead the state while the Democrats slug it out." Here's the video with her quote:

Later, Fred Van Magness went live on-air with Democratic analyst George Bachrach to discuss the race. Here is the video:

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

"Yes We 'CAN'" – House Republicans use procedure to make an important point

News has been bubbling up recently about a group of Republican legislators who have decided to stand up and use the House Rules to make a point about… well, House Rules.

The tactic is simple and effective. The Constitution requires the Legislature to meet in session every few days. But when the House does not have supposedly controversial business before it, it holds "informal sessions" (normally twice a week) to fulfill the requirement and transact routine matters.

Informal sessions are mostly the same as any other session, and legislators can transact most necessary business during them. However, informal sessions proceed with a wink and a nod, on the tacit agreement that business will proceed without anyone objecting to the fact that there is no quorum of members on-hand, and without anyone making a floor speech or calling for a roll call vote. As former legislative staffers ourselves, we saw it happen all the time without a problem.

That whole process works well enough until a member stands up, calls the bluff and doubts the presence of a quorum, at which point the session grinds to a halt.

That's what Republicans are doing, and they're doing it to protest access to something known in legislative circles as "The Can".

"The Can" is literally a small, metal box for filing papers toted around by the House Clerk. It's decidedly banal in appearance, something that would not look out-of-place in any private office setting.

The purpose of "The Can" is to serve as a file folder for the Clerk of the House to store neatly tri-folded papers which contain the actual text of bills, resolutions, amendments, and the like which are up for consideration by the House that day. During session, the Clerk pulls papers out of "The Can" one-by-one and passes them to the presiding officer for the consideration of the House, going through the day's business until everything is done.

A small but vocal collective of Republicans in the House are objecting to a rule recently announced by the Speaker that only legislative leaders (and not rank-and-file members) will be allowed to look in "The Can" during session.

The Republicans argue that forbidding them access to "The Can" undermines transparency and accountability in the House. And, under the current system, they're right. But, we think all Republican members need to band together and think outside-the-box (pun intended) for their argument to be long-lasting. They need to go beyond physical access to "The Can" and talk more about the House in general.

The Speaker reportedly says the rule is necessary to preserve order in the House, so as to prevent a flurry of 160 members from rifling through "The Can" all the time. The Republican Leader agrees, saying members have ample opportunity to consult him or the House Clerk before session to find out what's going to be in "The Can" and therefore up for consideration that day.

If the Speaker wants to restrict access to "The Can" to preserve decorum, it's somewhat understandable… mostly from an organizational perspective. Trust us; about the only thing most legislators flock to faster than "The Can" during session is free food in the Hall of Flags. There is a legitimate need for order.

But, what this group of Republicans is essentially arguing is that it's not just about preserving decorum, it's about control. After all, let's face it – no one would be arguing for the right to look in "The Can" in the first place if they were confident they already knew what was in there. It's an issue of a lack of trust in a system where one party rules and can impose its will without notice or accountability. And, it's also worth noting that by restricting access to rank-and-file GOP members, he's also restricting access to his Democratic brethren.

The fact is, what's in "The Can" during session isn't always... well... shall we say... exactly as advertised. And, while when that happens it can be the honest result of logistics or just poor communication, it's more often than not the result of the Democratic majority abusing its dominating power to ram through legislation without proper vetting or notice.

Whatever the cause, it's not uncommon for documents to appear in "The Can" out of thin air, or for wording to get changed at the last-minute. As a result, it's also not uncommon for rank-and-file members to have absolutely no clue what it is they're actually voting on when bills come up for approval. That's not fair to lawmakers themselves or to the voters they represent. And, if lawmakers can't see what's in "The Can," they have no ability to know when and if there's a problem – without blindly trusting legislative leaders.

In a system where bills are kept on paper and committee markups sometimes aren't posted online in final form prior to session, members don't have a hard copy to look at and the public doesn't have access to the process. And, while that could be as innocuous as not knowing about the placement of a comma or something, it could also mean not knowing the contents of an entire bill that could affect every Massachusetts resident.

So, Republicans have a right to be mad, and we applaud them for using procedure to make the point. The Democrats do it all the time. But, if they want their protest to be long-lasting, the message has to evolve beyond "The Can" and be more about procedure in the House as a whole. It should be more about the untrustworthiness of a system where one party is in complete and unchecked control. And, that's a message all Republicans should be able to get behind in unison.

Perhaps members also should look into some sort of "virtual can" where the actual text of legislation is posted online and available to all members at their desks or on a portable device. That way, no one would have to rely on leaders of either party to let them know what it is they're actually voting on, and the public would be in on the decision too. After all, that's the way it's supposed to work in the first place. There would be a cost associated with that technology, but even as penny-conscious conservatives, we think it would be a small price to pay to make sure every lawmaker (and every constituent through them) gets a seat at the table.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Monday, August 26, 2013

"Tech tax? What tech tax?"

"Tech tax? What tech tax?"

What do you bet, that's what every Massachusetts Democrat is going to say leading up to the 2014 elections next year?

The reason is simple. We predict Massachusetts Democrats will repeal the tax next year – right around the time signature papers are due, and in plenty of time to take (bogus) credit for "cutting taxes" right before the general election.

Can't you see the headline in the Boston Globe right now:

"Legislature votes to cut taxes."

Now, let's be honest here. Massachusetts Democrats are absolutely the ones to blame for the tax in the first place. And, the tax is a really bad idea; it's a job-killer. Some Democratic legislators have already gone on-record saying they're against it, which is like a canary in the mine.

Here's what will happen:

GOP leaders are already talking about a tax-repeal campaign, which would require a large expenditure of money and resources to get going. While the GOP prints up signs protesting the tech tax, Mass. Dems will be waiting in the background, counting the tax dollars as they come in.

Then, magically, Dems on Beacon Hill will have an epiphany next spring. First, they will try to convince voters that the economy isn't doing too bad. This is a good election year message for the party in control by itself, but it also will serve as the basis for Dems to claim they can repeal the tax.

And, so – alacazaam, alacazoom.... Some lucky Dem who's facing a tough race will propose an amendment, and the tax will suddenly go "poof" with the blessing of leaders, who have been planning that all along. Democrats will claim they cut taxes and get credit for it, albeit improperly. The GOP, meanwhile, will be stuck with an obsolete initiative as the cornerstone of its campaign... and a bunch of useless signs.

Don't get us wrong. The GOP is absolutely right to call out Democrats for enacting the tax; we support them 100%. The Democrats badly over-reached on this one. But, even so, this may not be the Holy Grail for 2014 the GOP is making it out to be. And, it's no surrogate for having a much bigger, bolder, broader vision to serve as the basis for a reform campaign next year. The GOP should be careful not to put all of its eggs in one tax basket.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

How taxes and open road tolls could become an EZ-Pass for GOP candidates in 2014

What if your local cable provider jacked your monthly bill, telling you that they needed the money to provide you better service? And, what if just a few weeks later, you found out that they were actually spending half of the money to make it easier for them to bill you, instead of doing anything to improve your cable service?

We're guessing you'd be upset. But, then again, if there wasn't another cable company in town, or if there was one but you didn't think they offered a better option, would you switch or stay?

In a nutshell, that's exactly the conundrum facing Massachusetts voters these days. And, if Massachusetts Republicans don't see this as a terrific opportunity to show voters how they could run the state better, it will be a huge wasted opportunity.

Just a few weeks ago, Democratic state lawmakers enacted a $500 million tax increase allegedly aimed at fixing certain transportation problems here in Massachusetts.

The transportation finance package included a hefty increase in the state's gas tax, now 24 cents a gallon. Making matters worse, Democratic lawmakers also for the first time added automatic escalators to the gas tax so it would rise each year along with the rate of inflation starting in 2015. It also included a highly-controversial move to levy a sales tax on certain technology services, and it increased the state excise on the sale of cigarettes by $1 to $3.51 per pack. And, as usual, we were told this money was needed to "fix our state's crumbling infrastructure" and to forestall MBTA fair hikes.

Just days later, the Turnpike announced that it's reinstating the tolls on the Western Turnpike. And now, today, the Turnpike is announcing that it's going to spend $250 million constructing open road tolling apparatus along the Turnpike.

So, let's put this all together and boil it down to its simplest form: The state is going to collect an additional $500 million from Massachusetts taxpayers, half of which is going to be spent building a new system to allow the state to collect even more money from Massachusetts drivers at the speed of light and track your travels with precision.

This sort of nightmare could only happen in a state like Massachusetts. These taxes and tolls aren't just bad, they're truly obnoxious and offensive. It's literally highway robbery. What's worse, it's exactly the sort of "Beacon Hill shell game" Governor Patrick led Democrats to campaign against when he first took office.

Yet, the very same people who levy these higher taxes keep getting returned to office, while the GOP (as the party offering an anti-tax message) sees its numbers dwindling.


Running for office is essentially a job interview where the voters are the employer and the candidate is the recruit.

Any successful applicant for any job needs three basic things to land the position – you need to show you're qualified, you need to be likable, and you need to convince your employer you could do a better job than anyone else could.

Individual candidates stumble for many different reasons, some personal, but generally it's the third part of that test that Massachusetts Republicans mess up. Republicans consistently fail to convince Massachusetts voters that they could do a better job actually running Massachusetts (that is, solving the problems that actually confront us) than the Democrats could – even if Democrats mess up, and even if Republican candidates seem highly-qualified and if the conservative principles they expound seem logical and ring true with taxpayers.

Let's face it. Nobody actually likes paying higher taxes. But, people also don't want crumbling roads any more than they want under-performing schools or ineffective health care. As misguided as we think Democrats may be by trying to raise taxes to solve every problem, Republicans will not beat them unless they offer opposing conservative plans that are credible, viable and sufficient, or unless they convince voters that the solutions to certain problems simply should not be found in the public sector. Voters will always vote for an expensive solution over no solution at all – and when the GOP fails to offer real solutions to problems, that's how you end up with a blue state like Massachusetts.

Trust us. Even in this supposedly true-blue state, Massachusetts voters will support a tax-cutting GOP reformer over a tax-and-spend liberal Democrat any day of the week – but ONLY if they think the GOP candidate is qualified, likable, and that they can actually get the job done. And, GOP candidates can only prove the last element by proving that they have conservative plans which are credible, viable, and sufficient to address the problems on voters minds, or that voters would actually be better off by having problems addressed outside of government instead of by the government itself. For example, instead of just (rightfully) trashing the gas tax, Republicans need to come forward with a real plan for addressing all of our state's transportation needs. There are lots of smart people in the Republican Party, and we have no doubt that plan is sitting out there somewhere. It just needs to be brought forward to the voters.

So, if you're a GOP candidate thinking about running for office in 2014, here's our advice. Put on your thinking cap. And don't just trash the other side. Sure, talk about how they're wrong, but offer good ideas and a real alternative in the process. Massachusetts needs a strong Republican Party again. Stand up. Be a leader. Get the job done.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fed up with the gas tax increase? We have your talking points.

The three-cent-a-gallon increase to the Massachusetts gas tax which went into effect today is giving a lot of Bay Staters, well, gas.

As well it should. Three cents a gallon adds up to a lot of money for beleaguered consumers who are already paying a lot at the pump to drive to work and school. Not to mention the fact that the price of that so-called "stay-cation" (you know, the term politicians use to make us feel better about taking a short road trip instead of spending money on an expensive family vacation, since we have no money) just went up.

But, beyond the obvious objections to raising the gas tax, there are several under-reported facts about the gas tax increase which you should know about, particularly if you're thinking about running for office next year against an incumbent Beacon Hill pol. Or, maybe you're just a Republican activist who needs some talking points for your next debate at the water cooler.

Here are your talking points:

1. If someone says to you, "It's only three cents a gallon...":

It's true, the gas tax went up from 21.5 to 24 cents a gallon today. But the real pinch could come starting in January 1, 2015. For the first time in history, the gas tax will be indexed to inflation. It remains to be seen what those increases will be, but at current rates, it's entirely possible that additional increases of two to three cents a gallon will be reality ANNUALLY. And, there's more bad news… while politicians did include a floor for the tax (it can never dip back below 21.5 cents a gallon, if it goes down at all – and by our reading of the language, it will never go down), there is no cap on how high the tax can go.

2. When they say, "Don't worry, we'll fight 'em on the next increase instead...":

With regard to the automatic increase, there are two procedural points to note. First, because of the indexing used, it won't take a subsequent act or recorded vote of the legislature anymore to increase the gas tax in the future. Those increases will be automatic. This is similar to the way Beacon Hill decided to vote itself pay raises every year. Second, the automatic increases are slated to take effect starting on January 1, 2015 – curiously, just a few weeks after the next statewide and legislative elections take place. As Beacon Hill power plays go, this is a pure act of genius. It's also an unfortunate trend that Beacon Hill pols are using to avoid responsibility while at the same time punishing Massachusetts residents for economic progress. Put that in your gas tank and pump it.

3. When people tell you, "At least cities and towns are exempt from paying the tax on police and fire vehicles... They need all the money they can get to keep us safe...":

Au contraire. As noted by DOR on its Web site, "Very few entities are exempt from the excise due on fuel used on MA highways. Exempt entities include: the Federal Government, the Regional Transit Authorities and three state agencies exempted by their enabling statutes (the Water Resources Authority, the Port Authority and the MBTA)." Noticeably absent from this list: city and town vehicles. So, where will cities and towns get the money to pay for this tax increases? One guess – taxpayers.

LATE ADDITION - Here's one more little tidbit for you... At current MA gas prices of about $3.71 a gallon, the state gas tax works out to about 7.3% (24 cents out of a price of $3.286, which does not include the state tax or the federal $0.184 tax), which is a full percentage point more than the state sales tax.

Friday, June 28, 2013

As our identity slips away, we long for leadership to turn things around

This week, most everyone in and around Boston sat glued to their televisions, watching as ex-Patriot Aaron Hernandez was led away in handcuffs and arraigned on murder charges.

This surreal event marked the latest in a series of insults to the psyche of Bostonians -- a final punch in the gut after a series of disappointing and tragic events over the past year that cut at the very heart of our identity as a community.

How will we get Boston back? What will it take, and who will get us there?

Boston has always been revered as the 'Hub of the Universe', a city with a robust heart and soul. We pride ourselves on our revolutionary underpinnings, which make the Freedom Trail more than just bricks on a sidewalk. And we have adopted this patriotic spirit to carve out for ourselves a unique identity, a set of common bonds and experiences that define us and make us all quintessentially Bostonian, whether we live inside city limits or not.

Consider what it means to be from Boston.

We start every year with a boisterous First Night celebration, which thaws Old Man Winter's frosty bite with the warmth of community and the arts. For the next few months, we watch the snow fall outside as we follow the fortunes of the Bruins and Celtics, hoping this will be the year to hoist a new banner. We mark the time left until Spring by counting down the days until Spring Training and Opening Day. Then, it's Marathon Monday, a day when we're reminded of our patriotic roots at Lexington and Concord, and a day when virtually every one of us knows someone who's running or volunteering, whether it's for athleticism or charity. A few more weeks of swatting mosquitoes and dusting off the barbecue, and it's time to take in a few fireworks and the Pops on the Esplanade. We hit the beach for a few weeks, then it's time for every Bostonian to know one critical number -- how many games separate the Sox and Yankees in the race for the pennant. Soon, the kids are back to school, and it's time to rake leaves, pick apples, and grab a warm cider or two as we watch the Pats and prepare for Columbus Day in the North End, Plymouth-inspired Thanksgiving, and the Enchanted Village at the holidays. And then, as we prepare for another First Night, the cycle continues.

We love Boston, and these events make us who we are. They define us as a community, uniquely. Nowhere else in the world will you find a similar cycle. It's what makes our city special.

And, lately, it feels like it's all slipping away.

The Boston we encounter on January 1, 2014 will be fundamentally different from the city we have grown to know and love.

The Marathon is forever changed due to tragedy. Our Fourth of July won't be telecast nationwide, and First Night is on financial thin ice. Sports are tainted by too much chicken and beer in the bullpen and athletes behaving badly (and, in the case of Hernandez, perhaps even very badly), not to mention the fact that Rivers, Pierce and Garnett are gone and the Bruins lost the Cup.

Then, there are the changes coming to our other favorite sport - politics. For the first time in decades, there won't be a Menino in City Hall. Together with the absence of Ted Kennedy and John Kerry in the Senate, this makes our legendary political state culture look a lot less dynastic. Tim Murray's already gone, and Deval Patrick will soon start his last year in office.

Our roads and bridges continue to crumble away. Meanwhile, Beacon Hill keeps spinning its wheels over the state budget, taxes hikes and reforms to programs like welfare and probation.

Maybe our newest Patriot, Tim Tebow, isn't the only one who should spend time on bended knee this year. It seems like all of us Bostonians have a lot to worry about.

The truth is that Boston is, and forever will be, the Hub of the Universe. We will get through these tough times and shine again. We have no doubt; we refuse to lose faith in this city and its people. But, we also believe in the need for strong political leadership to keep us going and help us get there.

Who will be our next bold leader in a state where bold political leadership is historically almost as commonplace as 'lobstah and buttah in the summahtime'?

Who will fix it all? Who will step into the breach and lead us? Who will be our next Mayor? Governor? Will people challenge our incumbent congressmen, who with their colleagues share an approval rate of about ten percent, or will voters accept the status quo as good enough? (That's what they did this week by electing Ed Markey.) Will new leaders flock to Beacon Hill, or will they sit on the sidelines and watch?

Next year will mark a new beginning for Boston. As old traditions change or fade away, it will be a fresh identity as the City tries to pick itself up, dust itself off, and try to redefine itself. For Boston and the rest of Massachusetts to stop crumbling and succeed, we need dynamic, capable leaders to help us move forward.

And, so, we begin our search for new leadership in 2014.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Murray's out. What happens if Patrick follows?

Call us crazy, but in our humble opinion, Lt. Gov. Tim Murray's sudden resignation to take a $200K job with the Worcester Chamber of Commerce just doesn't pass the sniff test.

Why would the Chamber shell out so much cash for someone who is known more for his driving record than his ability to get things done on Beacon Hill? More to the point, why would the Chamber appoint someone as its Executive Director when that person will specifically be barred by law from lobbying the administration until after his "cooling off period" is done?

Something's up. And, just letting our imaginations run wild, we think it must have something to do with the future of the current administration and its head, Governor Patrick.

Which leads us to this important question: What happens if Patrick were to leave, too? After all, he himself has been widely rumored to be under serious consideration for a post with the Obama Administration, including perhaps filling Attorney General Holder's shoes at some point.

Massachusetts law has no provision for the appointment of a Lieutenant Governor when that office is vacant, which means both offices would be unfilled and the top job would pass to Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin until January 2015.

Here's our prediction – Odds are that Patrick will leave, but Galvin won't be Governor.

Let's face it. The Legislature can't help itself in these situations. Beacon Hill politicians love to fill vacancies. It's a great way for connected people to get a job. Heck, the only thing they seem to love more is getting people a job over at Probation (and we all know how that goes...).

We predict some intrepid legislator who's willing to "take one for the team," or perhaps even the Governor himself, will introduce legislation in the next few days to allow for the appointment of a Lieutenant Governor in the case of a vacancy in that office. And, despite the fact we're not even sure that would be constitutional, we expect it will probably sail right through. After all, it would make sense to have the seat filled, right?

Playing all of this through to its logical conclusion, there is a real possibility Massachusetts Democrats will be able to pave the way for someone – someone who most likely doesn't already hold statewide office and who was not selected by voters for an executive job – to be appointed acting Lieutenant Governor, and then acting Governor, and to thereby be the favorite for the job heading into the 2014 election cycle. Our guess is that Tim Murray didn't work for Massachusetts Democrats in this scenario, so he was ushered somewhere safe to open up the way for someone else.

Sound far-fetched? Perhaps. But, at least give us this much – as of this time yesterday, who really would have predicted that Tim Murray would start next week pulling down $200K a year at the Worcester Chamber of Commerce? In Massachusetts politics, expect the unexpected.

No matter what, if we were Republicans on Beacon Hill, we'd want to read this year's final budget very carefully to make sure an appointment provision doesn't magically appear. Republicans should vigorously oppose any such plan.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Meredith Warren talks about the GOP Senate Primary on NECN

Meredith Warren was a guest on The Morning Show on New England Cable News this morning, discussing today's Massachusetts GOP primary to fill a vacancy in the United States Senate.

According to Warren, the race essentially boils down to a contest between Michael Sullivan and Gabriel Gomez, with the candidate sporting the best get-out-the-vote operation likely to emerge as a winner.

Check out the video below:

Full story:

Friday, April 26, 2013

Meredith Warren quoted in National Review Online

Meredith Warren is quoted today in the National Review Online, talking about the special election to fill a vacancy in the United States Senate in Massachusetts.

Warren notes that, until lately, the race has been largely overshadowed by attention focused on the Boston Marathon bombing and on Boston Mayor Tom Menino's announcement that he will not seek another term in office.

You can read the full story here.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Yesterday's elections: a mixed bag

Is it a coincidence that political newbie and conservative Leah Cole won her special election in Peabody on the same day Massachusetts Democrats pitched a plan to raise $500 million in new revenues, including a 3-cent increase in the gas tax?

We think not.

Yesterday, we posed an open question whether Massachusetts residents had a “tipping point” where they would vote based on their wallet rather than on their party affiliation or any other competing motivation.

North Shore residents answered up by electing a fiscally conservative Republican to replace Democrat Joyce Spiliotis (who sadly passed away last year.) We think her win, while well-deserved and hard-earned, also represents a message to Beacon Hill that raising taxes yet again is not going to over well.

(Quick side note: Massachusetts voters seem to have an easier time voting for the fiscal conservatives in special elections. Think Lakeville's Keiko Orrall in 2011 and Wrentham's Scott Brown in both 2004 and 2010. Democrats have used this as a way to leverage super-support among their ranks in the following election.)

However, yesterday's election proved that tipping points are not universal throughout the state.

In Reading, residents voted overwhelmingly for a $15 million library renovation project, estimated to cost the average taxpayer in Reading $140 a year for ten years. Go figure.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Taxpayers: Still in a giving mood, or had enough?

When we Republicans got our you-know-whats handed to us in November's election, many of us were shell-shocked and pretty damn confused.

Here we were, just coming out of a recession that left people with less of everything -- less jobs, less of a paycheck and less money for groceries and other living expenses. Our unemployment rate was a whopping 8 percent, and getting gas meant emptying your wallet or loading up your credit card with close to what it costs to feed your family for a week.

We looked at the political landscape last fall thinking there was no way Republicans could possibly lose. And, then, it happened. We were wrong. Really wrong. Republicans lost, and lost badly.

Then, we started to second-guess ourselves. How on Earth could a majority of voters cast their ballots for people who wanted to make life more expensive for everyone in the form of taxes and health insurance mandates? Was it that those who voted Democratic were wealthier than they were letting on, so the sting didn't hit them? Did they understand that they had a choice, that they could vote for people who wanted to keep money in citizens' wallets, rather than asking them to hand it over to the government?

Or was this a Republican problem? Had our party become so undesirable that taxpayers turned their noses up at us despite our fervent desire to keep their taxes and cost-of-living low? Did people choose candidates who think exactly the opposite just because of the “D” after their name?

Analysis showed us that while many Americans were thinking of their wallets when they voted, that wasn't what ultimately made up their minds when they stepped into the voting booth. Instead, they were thinking about issues like abortion. Same-sex marriage. Immigration. Contraception. Those awful comments about rape uttered by Republican Todd Akin were ringing in their ears much louder than any conservative fiscal argument made by presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

While these social issues absolutely affect the world and get at the heart of how people believe we should treat others in society, basic pocketbook issues affect whether people can provide for their family. Everyone has a bottom line. Everyone has to buy groceries at some point. Pretty much everyone needs to use some sort of transportation to get to work or school or wherever they spend their day. Most have to pay some sort of tax or fee to the government.

Perhaps you could argue that a majority of voters were thinking unselfishly by voting based on social issues rather than the health of their own wallet. But is there a tipping point? Is there a point where people simply do not have the money to pay the rising bill the government issues for just existing as a citizen and change their vote accordingly? Will 2014 be the year when voters finally say they've had “enough?”

Charlie Baker asked people the same question in 2010 with his slogan "Had Enough?", and voters responded by essentially saying, "no." They wanted more, and since then, they've gotten it.

Just after Obama won re-election, the payroll tax increased, taking a 2 percent -- or $700 annual -- chunk out of the average worker's paycheck. Perhaps $700 over an entire year doesn't sound like a lot to some people, but it would likely cover the bill for that damage your car sustained after hitting that gaping pothole on 93.

Then you have the expected increases coming in your healthcare premium, courtesy of Obamacare. Some are saying the increases could be as much as double what you're paying now, particularly if you are a small-business or individual paying for your own health insurance. We don't know how that affects you personally, but for one of us here, that would mean our health insurance would cost more than our rent.

It is almost certain that if premiums increase by this much, more Massachusetts residents will have to rely on MassHealth to cover their health costs. And that will require more revenue from everyone else to pay for that influx of new enrollees.

Now today, Massachusetts Democrats are announcing a new transportation plan that, yes, is going to mean raising revenue, a/k/a, taxes.

How will the average resident afford all these increases? Especially those who are perhaps just getting their feet back under themselves after a job loss? Is there some point -- some tipping point -- where they say, “Enough is enough, I have no more to give, I will no longer vote for candidates who want to raise taxes?”

Yes, Massachusetts is a liberal state and increasing taxes to grow government is obviously more accepted here than other places. But residents simply cannot have bottomless wallets, even if they have strongly charitable feelings for the government.

It seems maybe Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo seems to think voters do have that tipping point.

According to a recent State House News Service story, DeLeo called together Democratic House members at the Omni Parker House to talk to them about the need to raise taxes in the coming year. In the same meeting, he talked about the need to raise money for next year's election.

We're guessing, and we think DeLeo is, too, that major tax increases will mean a new crop of Republican candidates challenging Democratic members. And, we're guessing, that most of these Republicans will use affordability (or the lack thereof) as the main part of their platform. But, the question is, unless voters have reached the tipping point and are willing to vote based on affordability, will enough people be listening to make a difference?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Premium increases coming from Obamacare are enough to make you sick

Don't expect any birthday cake and candles (because of the sequester, of course), but Saturday, March 23 marks the three-year anniversary for The Affordable Care Act (a/k/a "Obamacare") in the United States.

While the Obama Administration wants you to think this is cause for celebration, for many Americans, it is actually cause for alarm as it signals sharp increases in health insurance costs in coming years.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius recently commented that Obamacare is giving consumers “a better bang for their buck,” despite steep rate hikes in some states. Her logic is that, “We have seen far fewer double-digit increases in the last three years than in the previous decade…. And more insurance commissioners, like in California, are really reviewing those rates carefully, are rejecting the double-digit increases.” (Read more in Politico.)

But, looking backwards doesn't tell the whole story. Looking forward, as Obamacare continues to mature, costs are nearly universally projected to keep going up -- sharply. And, according to many experts, the real sticker shock looms not far away on the horizon, coming as early as 2014.

Officials at Aetna have warned that many health care consumers could soon see premium increases of fifty percent or more. That's a bitter pill for middle class families to swallow; as it is, health care costs account for a large portion of many families' monthly expenses. Experts are also warning that premium rate increases of almost one hundred percent could disproportionately hit individuals, small businesses and the young and healthy. (Read more in the Washington Post.)

In Massachusetts, experts warn that new federal rules will make it more difficult for small businesses to get discounts on health insurance purchases, despite efforts here in Massachusetts to help those businesses afford plans for employees. (Read more in the Boston Globe.)

It looks more and more as if Obamacare's carrots and incentives were all up-front and that the bitter consequences of the legislation are just now starting to kick in, all to the distinct disadvantage of health care consumers. Even more troubling, it looks like it's less and less likely that individual states will be able to remedy the situation in the face of strong federal mandates.

Many Americans won't even know that these sharp increases in health insurance expenses are coming until it hits them in the wallet. Recent surveys show that 40% of people from ages 18 to 34 are not even aware that there is a penalty for not having health insurance. (Read more in Fox News.) But, when these rate hikes hit, they are likely to hit hard, making access to quality health care more difficult for millions of Americans, and placing untold additional strain on household budgets nationwide.

The bottom line is that, now, three years after the passage of landmark health insurance reform here in the United States, the health care problems faced by most Americans continue to get more complicated, and more expensive, by the day. And, that is the tragic consequence of Obamacare, which was marketed to the American people as a health care solution, and which now is turning out to be more of a symptom of what ails us than a cure.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Rand Paul: Delivering the Drama

Apparently, if you ask the political gods for drama (see our previous post), ye shall receive...

I don't know about you, but we were glued to C-Span last night watching Rand Paul deliver what would end up being a 13-hour filibuster on the U.S. Senate floor. It was riveting. And judging by the conversation on Twitter throughout the afternoon and into the night, I know we were not the only ones.

THIS is how Washington is supposed to work. Paul used a time-tested legislative procedure to hold up the nomination of President Obama's CIA chief pick, John Brennan. Filibustering basically requires a lawmaker to maintain control of the floor by continuously speaking and standing for as long as they want to hold court. It's the legislative equivalent of an Ironman. (I guess we'd have to fact-check that with Scott Brown.)

What we liked about the way Paul delivered this drama, was that it wasn't just drama for drama's sake. If it was technically a legislative gimmick, it wasn't gimmicky. He drew attention to an issue that we bet many Americans had no idea even existed.

Instead of reading the phone book or a cookbook for hours on end, Paul actually spoke about an issue he cares about: the use of unmanned drones by the federal government on United States soil. Whether or not you agree with everything he said, he made clear, cogent arguments as the minutes and hours ticked by.

For the past few months, we've been hearing about "fiscal cliffs" and "sequestration," but the possibility of the United States government using unmanned drones to kill Americans on United States soil without due process? Not so much. The very idea sounds almost made-up, or at least far-fetched, but to paraphrase Rand Paul, why couldn't the White House just say so last night? That no, they would not use drones in that way?

Paul was able to inspire some of his fellow GOP senators to take part in the filibuster, although his support was thin early in the day. As the conversation on Twitter picked up (#standwithrand), more senators started showing up, some fresh from a dinner with Obama. Some GOP House members reportedly showed up for moral support. One Democrat even joined the filibuster, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon. It was clear he was there, not for the drama, but because he has serious, serious concerns about the use of drones.

We would have been just as impressed had a Democrat taken to the floor the same way Paul did last night to sincerely talk about their desire to raise taxes.

Can you imagine something like this happening in Massachusetts these days? The legislative rules are different here, of course, but can you imagine someone being ballsy enough to do anything even similar? And then there's Washington. While Rand Paul was snacking on some sort of candy to keep his strength up, GOP members of the House and Senate were dining with Obama. Some of them did show up to support Paul post-dinner, but many more did not.

We actually felt guilty turning off the TV last night while Paul was still speaking, so how could his actual colleagues feel comfortable leaving him out there on the floor?

And finally, can we talk about Paul's apparently super-human strength when it comes to “holding it?” The man went 13 hours without a bathroom break. Who will be the first reporter to break the story of Paul's secret method?

You know you want to know.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Mass political campaigns on re-runs

More than once this week, we've been involved in a conversation with someone who says they just can't get interested in the Massachusetts Senate special election.

These are political people, mind you, people who are as nutty about following races as we are, people who'd rather watch the umpteenth political debate in a series than the regular primetime line-up.

Yeah, it's possible that we here in Massachusetts are just weather-beaten by the seemingly continuous string of Massachusetts political campaigns beginning with Scott Brown putting his hat in the ring against Martha Coakley for the Senate special back in 2010. Even Scott admitted to being weary of the constant campaign when he took a pass this time around.

But is it possible that it's not the continuous campaign season that is causing ennui, and rather it's that all of the campaigns (both sides) that have launched, and won, and lost in the past few years are starting to feel utterly the same?

The same Web site. The same online petition to collect e-mail addresses. The same head shot of the candidate on their Web site header that looks more like they're going for sainthood rather than a political seat. The same TV ads. The same palm cards. Even the same slogans seem to be repeating themselves, even across party lines. The tech-savvy stuff of three years ago almost seems archaic now. "Text XYZPZ" for updates, anyone? Calling for ethics investigations into something your opponent did is another favorite.

It's possible there are only so many ways to skin a cat. But in a state where practically everyone considers themselves a political junkie, isn't it strange that there isn't more innovation in political campaigning? Haven't we kind of seen it all at this point?

Take Ted Yoho, for example. He's a freshman Congressman from Florida who ran the ad below. Why don't we see stuff like this in Massachusetts? Wouldn't voters here eat this up?

In 2010, now Rep. Shaunna O'Connell's race got interesting with a creative mailer that opened to an actual recording of her opponent during a floor speech saying some pretty nasty stuff about children testifying on court. It worked brilliantly, and Shaunna was able to oust a long-time incumbent from his seat. It was creative, and it also made a very good point about why it was time for new blood in that district.

Is it that Massachusetts, while almost completely liberal, is also still entirely traditional and candidates are afraid to shock the senses with out-of-the-box methods? Maybe it should come as no surprise that the new political thriller, "House of Cards," is so popular, and that Netflix is also featuring re-runs of "The West Wing." People like political drama, they just don't find it in actual politics these days.

Are we the only ones who feel this way? If you agree, what would you like to see in some of these races?