Michael Graham is right to say, “The worst place to be a Republican in America today is Massachusetts.” As a Bay State native and someone who thought Massachusetts Republicans might be poised to make gains, I agree the results aren’t terribly impressive. But he’s wrong to suggest that things weren’t any different from normal.
Yesterday Barney Frank won with 54 percent of the vote — a point behind Nikki Tsongas, who was running in a more competitive district — to Republican Sean Bielat’s 43 percent. In 2008, Frank beat his Republican challenger 68 percent to 25 percent. In 2006, he was unopposed. In 2004, he won 78 percent of the vote. This is a district Barack Obama carried with 63 percent, John Kerry and Al Gore with 65 percent.
Democrat William Keating won William Delahunt’s House seat with 47 percent of the vote to Republican Jeff Perry’s 42 percent. Delahunt was unopposed in 2008, won 64 percent in 2006, and took 66 percent in 2004. No Republican has done as well as Perry in this district since Delahunt’s first congressional race in 1996. And Keating’s margin of victory was less than half Delahunt’s. In all, Republicans broke 40 percent in half the congressional races.
In 2006, Deval Patrick was elected governor by a 20-point margin over Republican Kerry Healey, 55 percent to 35 percent. Yesterday he was reelected over Republican Charlie Baker by 49 percent to 42 percent, with another center-right candidate taking 8 percent. Here’s where being a normal election year might have helped: the state Republican Party would have put all its resources into the governor’s race and Tim Cahill probably wouldn’t have run as an independent.
Graham is correct when he concludes, “If the unions and state workers and Democratic operatives want to win an election here – any election – they win.” That’s why most Republican victories, from Bill Weld to Scott Brown, occurred when the Democrats were taken by surprise. But it is going to take a lot of building to change that. If Republicans quit after one election cycle, despite progress, then Brown’s election will indeed be a fluke.