Tim Murray, a Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor, comes from a decidedly middle-working class background. His entire family is a product of public education and from Worcester. On the outside, he seems very similar to Attorney General Tom Reilly, who is a Watertown native and - as if anyone hasn't heard it a thousand times - lives on the second floor of a two-story apartment. In short, both Murray and Reilly appear to be regular folk.
Then Reilly opens his mouth. Part of Reilly's problem is, of course, his propensity to be a campaign drag: he's negative, "twerpy," and focuses much too much on the other candidates instead of his own ideas. However, even if he wasn't a political nightmare, his regular folk still wouldn't
Tim Murray's man-of-the-people concept works because - get this - he doesn't shove it down your throat. He doesn't make an emphasis of the fact that he's a man of the people because (and here's a novel concept) he is a man of the people. In fact, he gets the point across by the way he speaks and acts. He's polite, friendly, sharp and addresses issues that regular folk - such as myself - care about.
Contrast that to Tom Reilly, who has almost no ideas and loves to talk about how he's one of the regular guys, but doesn't really talk about things regular people care about. If Reilly supporters haven't understood why more bread-and-butter voters haven't supported Tom Reilly, it isn't because either Deval Patrick or Chris Gabrieli is more liberal. It's because Deval Patrick talks about the issues bread-and-butter voters care about. Deval Patrick went to UMASS Dartmouth and talked to us about the high costs of college; he talked about the need to link the South East Coast to Greater Boston through a rail extension. In short, he talked about the things Tom Reilly should be talking about all along (and, ironically, has already come out in support for).
Last night I asked Tim Murray and Andrea Silbert a question at the forum - as a student of UMASS Dartmouth, I have about $20,000 of college debt and student fees are rising fast. I asked how the candidates would address cost issues when there's been a Democratic Super-Majority on Beacon Hill for years. Andrea Silbert answered by saying 'she'd go to bat for me.' It was a great answer and, with her focus on jobs, I believe her. Tim Murray, however, did even better on the question. Quite simply, he's a product of public education. His wife and children are products of public education. He cares about public education. It works, it's simple and it may have even won Murray a vote or two at the event. He managed to pull off man-of-the-people without saying, explicitly, he was a man of the people. Because, when you say it, it just loses its effect. Being regular isn't about rhetoric, it's about actions and the way you conduct yourself.