Meet Charlie Baker: The Man Destined to Become Our Next Governor
Such a recalibration would also allow Baker to ditch his disastrous Scott Brown impersonation. Though recent polling has found Baker closing ground on Patrick, it has also revealed that, a year into the high-profile businessman’s campaign, a surprisingly large percentage of the electorate still has no idea who he is. When Weld is told how awkward and self-conscious Baker can look on the campaign trail, the former governor says, “That’s Charlie. He’s in some ways a shy guy.” Which is to say that Howie Carr has it exactly backward when he writes that “Charlie Baker should be spending some time with Sen. Scott Brown – in the truck, on the road. And he should be taking notes.” On the contrary, Charlie Baker should be embracing his inner wonk. It’s who he is and, more to the point, there’s at least a plausible argument that what Massachusetts needs at this moment is a governor who’s going to be personally tossing and turning every night, fretting about our fluctuating disproportionate share adjustment.
Baker himself seems to get the fact that a guy with his skills could be a useful Massachusetts governor right now. What appears to have escaped his notice – and that of the people around him – is that he hasn’t actually been running as a guy with those skills. Instead, he’s been running the campaign of a…a…well, what, really? “One of the things you search for here,” he tells me, “is some way to define what you want to be about relative to your competitors.”
What’s with all this searching just a few months before election day?
It’s pretty clear what Baker is about. “What would I like people to think of as representing the Weld administration?” Weld asks. “It would be Charlie Baker’s intellectual capacity, broad approach, and seriousness of purpose.”
Those are qualities not often associated with Scott Brown. They are qualities, though, on which you can build a campaign.
THE MOTOR COACH PULLS INTO Lowell. Baker’s speech is being held in a small room in the public library. The ceilings are low, and it’s dimly lit in here. Again, not many people and not much media. But there’s undeniably more energy than in Worcester. Only some of the Had Enough! Had Enough! chanting this time is coming from campaign staff.
Baker looks much more comfortable in this setting. The small room enlarges his presence. His suit jacket is off, and his sleeves are rolled up. It’s going to be a town hall meeting this time, so his supporters are arranged all around him, meaning he actually has someone to talk to. He keeps his statements short in this less formal, more conversational format. He’s clapping his hands for emphasis. His fundamental wonkishness has him coming across as reassuringly competent instead of intolerably dull.
Someone says they’ve had enough of the Registry of Motor Vehicles, and Baker tears into the subject. Faced with budget cuts, he says, Patrick simply closed a bunch of branches. Other states have gone with low-cost ATM-type kiosks in malls and stores that allow residents to conduct registry transactions at their convenience. “Instead what we get is the closing of all the registries, longer lines, no creativity around how to deal with the lines…. That’s the wrong way to do this! We’re all about doing it the right way!” The audience explodes.
“What else have you had enough of?” he hollers.
Health insurance costs!