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Former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin comes to Massachusetts Wednesday for a rally — put on by the Tea Party political movement — on Boston Common.
Organizers say they expect thousands to turn out, but the event is also notable for who won't be there, including the state's new Republican U.S. senator, Scott Brown, and the leading Republican candidate for governor, Charles Baker.
On the other hand, another GOP gubernatorial candidate, Christy Mihos, will reportedly be there, as will Democrat-turned-independent candidate for governor Timothy Cahill.
Before the rally, WBUR's political analysts, Democrat Dan Payne and Republican Todd Domke, joined WBUR to discuss the Tea Party and whether the organization is a help or a hindrance to Massachusetts politicians.
Domke said that Palin, as the leader of the Tea Party, brings to mind some of Boston's own history.
"She reminds me actually, in the spirit of this taxpayers' revolt that they hope to launch, of a founding father born in Boston, Benjamin Franklin," Domke said. "He was the inventor of the lightning rod and she seems to be playing that role in national politics, electrifying her supporters and shocking liberal Democrats."
But Democrat Payne cautioned that the audience in Boston has a unique political intelligence.
"Sarah Palin is making her first visit to Boston, and I hope she's been told that this is not a know-nothing state. People here care if you actually know things," Payne said. "We don't confuse patriotism with flag pins."
But some observers say Palin and the Tea Party have already made their mark on Massachusetts politics, with the Tea Party taking at least partial credit for Brown's Senate win earlier this year.
Domke says Brown's 5 percent margin was too big to be credited to a single group. He suggests the Tea Party in Massachusetts is influential, but not decisive.
"If we're talking about the number of people who would tell a pollster that they're supportive of the tea party idea, of the movement, identifying their anger about federal spending, that's a real force," Domke said. "They could be a swing vote in a close election."
But actual members of the Tea Party organization, Domke says, is a small group, because they are having trouble going beyond very general principles and finding popular candidates.
That, says Payne, may be what's keeping moderate Republicans like Brown and Baker away from Wednesday's rally.
"Moderate and normal-seeming candidates don't really want to get involved with the Tea Party movement. They just don't know where it's going," Payne said.
This program aired on April 14, 2010.
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