For Democrats, Battle In Bay State Is Fierce
NEW YORK — In past elections, Massachusetts, that bluest of blue states, has served mostly as a cash machine for Democratic presidential candidates. The state voted too late in the process to have much impact on the nomination and was so reliably Democratic that it was never in play for the general election.
But this year, Massachusetts, voting on Super Tuesday, Feb. 5, is relishing an unfamiliar role as a fiercely contested battleground in the nomination fight. The Bay State political establishment, including its traditionally deeppocketed donors, is split between Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois. Most analysts predict a close fight that could go either way, with subplots that will test the power of the old Boston machine, longtime loyalties, the efficacy of the new governor’s high-tech ground operation and the enduring impact of the Kennedy mystique.
On one side, the Clintons are well-liked in Massachusetts and enjoy a special affinity with the state. Hillary Clinton is being supported by Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who has a city organization that can get out the votes, as well as the speaker of the state’s House of Representatives.
On the other side, Obama has the support of the state’s two U.S. senators, John F. Kerry and Edward M. Kennedy, and the early and enthusiastic backing of Gov. Deval L. Patrick, who worked in Bill Clinton’s Justice Department.
Kennedy is a beloved figure in the state. But the state’s senior senator has not faced a contested election since he defeated Mitt Romney for reelection in 1994, and there are questions whether his organization has atrophied. For Kennedy, the contest becomes personal. “It would be embarrassing to Senator Kennedy if Senator Clinton won Massachusetts after he endorsed Obama,” said Daniel B. Payne, a Democratic consultant. “He’s putting his prestige on the line.”
The endorsement that may count most for Obama, in terms of a statewide ground operation, is that of Patrick, who is generally thought to have the state’s most efficient Internet- and e-mailbased political organization.
One unknown factor could impact the voting Tuesday; if the New England Patriots win the Super Bowl on Sunday, the victory parade will be Tuesday in Boston, Menino said this week, the same day a record turnout is expected for the primary.
Kerry joked, “This could cause the worst gridlock since back when the Republicans controlled Congress.” “I’ve fallen for him. I like the fact that he brings a fresh perspective to Washington. I love the idea he gives us a fresh start around the world. He just seems to be able to bring people together.”
— Ned Lamont, former Democratic Senate candidate from Connecticut, who
hosted a fundraiser for Sen. Barack Obama yesterday in Greenwich, Conn. For more on the campaign every day, go to www.washingtonpost. com/thetrail.
In Massachusetts, the endorsement that may wind up counting the most for Barack Obama is that of Gov. Deval L. Patrick, right.