After dominating the political landscape the past few months, the fight over the bill to expand gambling in Massachusetts may stretch into the fall’s gubernatorial race.
To talk about the impact the stalled gambling bill will have on the upcoming election cycle, WBUR turned to its political analysts, Republican Todd Domke and Democrat Dan Payne.
Todd Domke (R): For the final 90 days of this campaign, I think Republican candidate Charles Baker will cite this casino failure in arguing that Gov. Deval Patrick has not been an effective leader. Baker will continue to say that “Patrick, Cahill and the Legislature pinned their hopes on casinos to produce jobs, but they couldn’t even get a casino bill through in three years time.” That is a good message strategy because it puts Patrick, independent candidate Timothy Cahill and the unpopular Legislature in the same bag: failing to deliver on the one thing voters care most about — creating jobs.
Cahill pounced on this issue, as he’s pounced on other issues, because he is desperate to get attention. I’m surprised he didn’t crash Chelsea Clinton’s wedding. But it’s not as if he speaks with any credibility on this. He can say that the governor failed to collaborate with the leaders in the Legislature, but he is hardly a role model for collaboration since he left the Democratic Party because he didn’t think he could win a primary contest.
The specific issue about casinos may fade by Election Day, but the impression left — that there’s something dysfunctional about the governor and Legislature — will probably stick.
The specific casino issue may fade by Election Day, but the dysfunctional impression left will probably stick.Todd Domke (R)
If Patrick’s goal was to keep from alienating two constituencies in his own party — those who oppose legalized gambling if it isn’t the Lottery and union members who want new jobs — maybe he won by failing. Liberals opposed to gambling can feel relieved that it won’t pass this year and union members hoping for new jobs can feel that he at least tried to get something passed. The old saying is that “nothing succeeds like success,” but sometimes failure isn’t all bad. Maybe that’s Patrick’s new motto: Failure is an option.
I don’t think the failure to pass the casino bill changes the reality that the governor and Legislature usually agree on taxes, spending and most other issues. It doesn’t undermine Baker’s message that if we are going to turn around state government and the state economy, we need new leadership — not someone who is part of the State House gang.
Patrick and House Speaker Robert DeLeo couldn’t agree on whether there should be one or two slot machine parlors. That’s a big difference to them, but to people in the real world, that’s not a big deal. It’s like arguing whether you want the thermostat at 72 or 71. Voters had big questions about the gambling legislation: whether the state could really have three thriving casinos in competition with the two already in Connecticut; how much it would hurt the poor and those with gambling addictions; how would it change the reputation and economy of Massachusetts. But no, Patrick and DeLeo fought over two slot machine parlors and each gambled that if they bluffed long enough, the other would fold his hand. They both lost that bet. And maybe it’s for the best.
Now DeLeo’s pride is hurt. Asked whether he’d campaign with Patrick around his district, he said they’d have to talk about that. Obviously he resents the governor using him as a foil in this. He thinks Patrick should be able to win reelection without campaigning, in effect, against the Legislature. So DeLeo will probably wait for an opportunity to teach the governor a lesson about being more respectful of “the process.” Apparently he follows the old political maxim: Don’t get mad, get even.
I don’t see how Patrick can run against the Legislature for the next 90 days. After all, Democrats comprise about 85 percent of the Legislature. It’s not as if he can plausibly tell voters, “Send more Democrats to the Legislature, I need 90 percent so we can create one slots parlor instead of two.” No, if the Legislature goes along with him on keeping taxes and spending high, it’s not as if he can run against them, credibly, just because they can’t agree on casinos. Besides, a lot of voters are relieved they can’t agree. It’s not as if a huge number of voters want Massachusetts to become Las Vegas East.
Dan Payne (D): For years, Republicans have won the governor's office by saying we need a Republican to keep the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate in check. By rejecting the Legislature’s plan, Patrick has undercut Baker's best argument. He showed that he is willing to take on Beacon Hill on a matter of principle. He said no slots and that's what he got.
It wasn’t that long ago — 2002 — when Shannon O’Brien lost the chance to be the first woman governor when former Gov. Mitt Romney’s campaign put her into the "Gang of Three" in advertising in the final days, connecting her to then-Speaker Thomas Finneran and then-Senate President Robert Travaglini.
Baker said that Patrick’s rejecting the Legislature’s plan makes him an “ineffective leader.” But Baker’s railed against one-party rule on Beacon Hill. So, which is it? Should Patrick cave in and be part of a Democratic monopoly or should he take on the Legislature and be called “ineffective?”
When Cahill ran for treasurer in 2002, he said he didn’t want any form of gambling that might divert revenue from the Lottery, which the treasurer runs. Once he got the job, he said he was for casinos but not slots. He was against privatizing the state Lottery before he was for it, two years later. Now he’s for casinos and slots.
The governor stuck to his guns and the electorate likes that, even if they don’t like your guns.Dan Payne (D)
Cahill recently said if the governor’s actions led to no casino or slots, he “owns this recession.” I thought the recession began in 2008; what a relief this must be to President Bush. By Cahill’s logic, I wonder if he thinks the governor owns the BP oil spill?
The governor stuck to his guns and the electorate likes that, even if they don't like your guns.
Patrick won last time with precious little support from labor unions. It’s not like he won’t get blue-collar votes without labor leaders’ support. Labor officials can read polls, too. They see that the governor enjoys a lead and refusing to back him is like getting mad at your barber in the middle of a haircut and walking out. It doesn’t do either party any good.
Patrick also scored points with his once-solid liberal base, which has been disappointed by his mistake-prone governorship. By rejecting the plan, he warms the hearts of those in his reform-minded base who believe casinos and slot machines exploit the poor and foster gambling addiction.
The speaker said that he is "disappointed" with Patrick, and said he would continue to support Patrick. But he showed little enthusiasm. And who can blame him? He wanted to deliver jobs to his district and he was thisclose to getting them.
In scuttling DeLeo's racinos the governor gets a short-term gain in the upcoming election. But he may wind up with long-term pain if he wins reelection but can’t get action on his bills in the next session.
This program aired on August 4, 2010.