Friday, July 10, 2009

Not Sure I'm Buying David

David's questions yesterday were intended on finding out if Charlie Baker can win on being the anti-casino candidate. Here's what he added today, to explain himself.
CLARIFICATION: Apparently, I was less than clear about why I want to know the answer to these questions, as readers both here and elsewhere have misunderstood why I posed them. So let me be clear: I am not saying that these three issues are what is going to drive the election -- they're not. I am trying to figure out whether Charlie Baker can win. As sabutai has explained, the math is not easy for him as long as Tim Cahill stays in the race. But one possibility that occurs to me is for Baker to pick off some liberals who probably voted for Deval Patrick in the 2006 primary but who hate casinos. If Baker appears solid on hot-button social issues (liberals will not support someone suspect on those issues) but says he will oppose slot machines and casinos, all of a sudden he becomes the last best hope for the anti-casino crowd to keep casinos out of the state. That could let him cut into Deval's base, and that could change the math that sabutai correctly notes is difficult as long as Cahill is viable.
A few things -- "best, last hope?" Um, last time I checked, 3/4 of the house voted against casinos. Between the new, pro-slots speaker and the state's budget woes, that could change this time around. But, still, the pro-slots side has a long way to go.

Furthermore, the #1 reason why there probably isn't slots in this state is because there is no one slot lobby -- there are many, competing slot lobbies. There are people who want casinos, people who want racinos and people (like Cahill) who just want to give out the damn licenses to the lowest bidder. They have never been able to get on the same page. Can they now? Tough to tell.

But here's what you can take to the bank: Deval won't approve anything that doesn't include a full scale, resort casino. DeLeo won't approve anything that doesn't "save" Wonderland and Raynham Park. Senate President Murray probably won't approve anything in which the licenses aren't given out to the highest bidder -- which would mean, if Wonderland and Raynham Park were to get slots, they'd need to be the highest bidders. That's three state forces with three wildly different concepts of how this state should engage in slot machines. They may as well all be anti-slots, for all the good their differing policies will work for them. Short of legalizing everything all at once, which seems unlikely, what kind of room is there left for "compromise?"

So enough with the newest reincarnation of the inevitability argument, okay? It's not inevitable, no matter who's Governor or Speaker or Senate President. Now, let's move on to the crux of David's argument. David says that if Charlie Baker supports marriage equality and a woman's right to choose, assuming he wins the primary (a rather big assumption, IMO), he could then be free to pick up oodles of former Patrick supporters should Baker come out against casinos. Doubtfully.

People who tend to be anti-gambling are often so because of small business issues or social costs. How likely are people who are concerned about social issues to defect to the Republican HMO CEO? Not many. Moreover, I'm not so sure Patrick's going to go back to the casino well anytime soon -- it nearly killed his first term. Should a bill he like pass, he'd probably sign it, but would he ever go back to the mat for another casino bill? I doubt it -- which makes my support for him an easy decision. There's undoubtedly many more anti-slot voters who feel the same way.

If Baker's the only candidate that opposes slot machines in Massachusetts, David's probably right in that Charlie Baker will get some traction from it. However, it won't be enough traction to win the race. The only way Baker can win is if he makes a compelling argument that Deval Patrick helped cause or is incapable of fixing these economic woes (neither of which is true) -- at the same time he convinces a majority of the state that he's the only person capable of solving them. Given Baker's background with the Big Dig, good luck with that.


Quriltai said...

Eh...I think as many people voted alongside as Sal DiMasi as voted against slots. Now that he's been pushed out, I don't think we'll see a repeat of that level of support. DiMasi worked hard on anti-casino, pro-equality, pro-health care...all the legislation that progressives love. It's different with DeLeo now.

I also think you are ignoring the NIMBY factor on gambling. Large swaths of the Palmer and Middleborough areas will not vote for Deval or Cahill because of their love of large casinos.

I don't think anyone is saying that being anti-casino and/or anti-slots is enough to win the race. However, it is a great place to start appealing to voters disaffected with the governor.

Ryan said...


NIMBY applies to a prison, or a hospital, or a new school...

Not a casino. We need the former, we don't need the latter. Indeed, I think it's safe to say that if I don't want a casino in my back yard, I shouldn't want it in anyone else's, either.

I can agree that a candidate could win supporters from that lot, which is always nice to have, but the casino issue itself is not going to be an issue that will decide this election. It may be one of four or five, but that doesn't make David's calculus correct.

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