By Adam Reilly
When Paul Loscocco announced he was dropping out as Tim Cahill’s running mate at a press conference on Friday, he offered what was supposed to be an excuse for his sudden change of heart. It went something like this: Loscocco always thought he and Cahill were running in a sort of “primary” – his word – against Charlie Baker and Richard Tisei. Clearly, Loscocco said, Baker/Tisei had won that primary; ergo, his choice made complete sense.
This strikes me as a pretty bogus take. Unless Loscocco is deeply confused about the state’s electoral schedule, he knows full well that he didn’t sign on for a primary challenge. Instead, he committed to a general-election fight – and then bailed when things started looking bleak. Those are the facts, no matter how aggressively Loscocco tries to rewrite history.
Still, there’s a germ of a legitimate point buried in Loscocco’s dubious rationalizations. There was a time, not too long ago, when Cahill actually seemed capable of winning this thing. But now – with just a month left until Election Day – it’s almost impossible to imagine a scenario in which he goes from spoiler to contender to victor. Like the good representative said, Baker and Cahill made their respective cases to voters – and Baker has emerged as the best hope for those who want Patrick out of office.
The problem for Cahill, I think, is that there’s just too much tension between his biography and the identity he tried to cultivate as a candidate. It’s hard to cast yourself as an outsider when you’ve been the state treasurer for eight years. It’s hard to rail convincingly against the two-party system when you’ve been a lifelong Democrat. And it’s especially hard to ask voters to boot the incumbent in favor of you when you gave that same incumbent an enthusiastic endorsement four years ago. Running as an independent would have been a dicey proposition even if Cahill didn’t have this baggage. With it, I’m not sure how he could have succeeded.
But that political obit is still premature – because, judging from his combative presser on Friday afternoon, Cahill plans to stay in this thing to the end. That’s good news for the press, since Cahill’s presence makes the race more complex and interesting to cover. But it’s also good news – at least potentially – for the electorate. Simply put, Cahill can give voice to frustrations and aspirations of the state’s beleaguered middle- and lower-middle classes in a way his two opponents can’t.
Think back to that debate at WGBH, when Cahill slammed Baker’s calls for pension reform as the bleatings of an economic elitist. Cahill’s populism isn’t always pretty: witness his fetishization of Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, or his misguided attempt to make the governor’s meeting with Massachusetts Muslims a campaign issue. Nonetheless, a Baker-Patrick race features two guys who are very much creatures of Harvard Yard and the corporate boardroom. As long as he’s in the mix, Cahill brings a perspective they don’t.