Meet Charlie Baker: The Man Destined to Become Our Next Governor
The poll in April that showed Baker in third place made it clear that something was going to have to change fast. From the day he got in the race, Baker has been highly successful at raising money, bringing in more than $2.5 million by February (about 10 percent of it from people with connections to the healthcare industry), which left him with significantly more cash than Patrick. And since announcing his candidacy in the summer of 2009, he’s done approximately 500 events – reportedly spending nearly $200,000 on catering and room rentals alone.
Yet no one seems to know who he is. And he keeps making the kind of silly political blunders that lead you to wonder about the advice he’s getting. One example: In March, he stunned observers by announcing that he would skip the annual St. Patrick’s Day breakfast in South Boston. Even if you accepted his explanation – that months earlier he’d committed to attend a different St. Patrick’s Day event – you had to question how much of a threat any politician for statewide office could be if he wasn’t prepared to mix it up at the annual Southie roast.
Baker often touts his talent for turning around troubled organizations. After his dismal showing in the polls, it was his own foundering campaign that was in need of remaking. In typical Baker fashion, he acted quickly. The overhaul started a week after the poll was released in April. Baker fired his campaign manager and made the curious decision to replace him with Tim O’Brien, the man who had overseen Kerry Healey’s run against Patrick in 2006.
After taking over, O’Brien called a series of meetings with the campaign’s leadership team. Out of those meetings came the Baker’s Dozen list of 13 proposals to get the economy moving again, generally by cutting taxes, lowering spending, and eliminating waste. The centerpiece of the new effort, though, was the “Had Enough?” tour. Baker’s media office was sending out real-time press releases after every event, and had set up a kind of social-media war room right on the WiFi-enabled bus, blasting out updates every few minutes via Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and the like.
As the bus hits the highway, the media team is hammering away at laptops and cell phones in the back. The goal of this frenzied effort is to fill the Twitterverse with the campaign’s talking points about Patrick and his tax-and-spend soul. The team has just discovered that Lowell’s Pollard Memorial Library, where Baker is going to deliver his speech, is the same spot where Patrick once proposed raising the Massachusetts gas tax to generate revenue for the state’s crumbling bridges and roads.
“Do you want me to tweet something about the gas tax?” asks Jay Altschuler, a campaign social-media specialist. “It says here that’s why we’re going to Lowell. We can retweet the hell out of that for the next hour.”