Top of Mind: Charlie Baker, Extended Version

Going back to a Globe piece from 1998…

That was a long time ago!

Let’s see if you remember this, from the subhead: “Charlie Baker may be the smartest man in state government. Could that be why he turned down the chance to run for lieutenant governor?” You said in the same piece that “if I didn’t bite now, why would I ever?” So what are we to make of the speculation that has you considering a run for governor next year?

CB: By the way, there are a lot of women who worked with me in state government who pointed out that the story said I was the smartest man in state government.

Fundamentally what it comes down to is: Do you actually think you can make a difference? … We’re a state that’s been losing population for a long time. We’re a very expensive place to live and do business. We’ve got all kinds of issues and problems that look a lot like other states only more so, because of our cost structure and our cost of housing and a few other things like that. So the question I’ve always struggled with is, Can I bring something to the table that’s going to help with any of that? Before you even get to the question of, you know, could you actually win, you gotta start with whether you think you could actually get anything done. And in some ways, that’s a hard question to answer. Because it’s not obvious. It’s not clear.

JB: How many times do you think you could consider running before actually running becomes problematic?

CB: The way I think about it is a little different, which is, if you get into a race, the quality of your ideas and your commitment to the race are going to demonstrate to people, whenever you do it, whether you’re serious about it or not. And I think that’s not time-bound.

JB: So it’s not a now-or-never calculation, for you.

CB: I don’t think so. Let’s put it this way: I cannot think of an industry in which more people have been down, out, gone, then come back and succeeded than politics. I just finished reading A Prayer for the City, which is this unbelievably cool book about the first term of Ed Rendell, who was basically viewed as a has-been when he decided to run for mayor of Philadelphia, back in late ’80s, maybe. Honest to God, it’s one of those books, if you pick it up and start it, don’t plan to put it down, because it’s beautifully written.

 JB: What’s your decision-making process like?

CB: I’m a talk-to-a-lot-of-people-and-go-with-my-gut person.

JB: Is there a timeline on when you need to have the “do I think I can make a difference” question answered?

CB: Yeah.

JB: I ask because this issue comes out in April.

CB: You won’t be behind the news.

JB: So your decision is still months away.

CB: Yep.