Mayor Menino Did Not Win The Race for Elizabeth Warren

Boston's impact on the election is only part of the story, and people who say otherwise are wrong.

During the slideshow that preceded Mayor Tom Menino’s announcement that he would not run again for mayor, the video seemed to pause for an extra beat on a picture of Menino and Elizabeth Warren at a rally for her senate campaign, their hands clasped and raised in triumph. It was a not-so-subtle reminder of who knows how to get the votes around here. And indeed, over the last few days of Menino romanticizing, it’s threatened to become a truism that our departing mayor won Elizabeth Warren her election over Scott Brown last fall—or at least played a deciding role in it. For instance, the Globe reported over the weekend that the Menino machine “helped tip statewide races for Governor Deval Patrick and US Senator Elizabeth Warren.”

This has gotten under the skin of our friend, Paul McMorrow (an occasional contributor to this magazine, as well as a writer for Commonwealth Magazine and the Globe opinion pages). Over the weekend, he tweeted:



McMorrow has good reason to be agitated—he’s right. The day after the election, I wrote here about how high turnout in all of Massachusetts’ minority heavy cities and towns—not just Boston—helped boost Warren. For instance, while statewide turnout in November’s election increased 37 percent from Scott Brown’s contest with Martha Coakley, in Lawrence, where Warren won 79 percent of the vote, turnout increased 200 percent (!) from the Coakley-Brown election. Meanwhile, in the heavily pro-Warren cities of Lowell, Lynn, and New Bedford, turnout was up 64, 70, and 57 percent respectively.

This isn’t to say Boston didn’t have a healthy impact on the race—turnout increased in the city by 60 percent. But that was only part of the story. Focusing in on the state’s emerging, so-called gateway cities, McMorrow wrote the week after the election:

Whereas Coakley won the Gateway Cities by 10 points, Warren won them by 32. This dramatic swing put far more votes between Warren and Brown than Boston’s increased turnout did. Menino’s vaunted turnout operation in Boston allowed Warren a meatier margin of victory than Coakley had enjoyed, as Democrats’ margin of victory in Boston swelled by 61,000 votes; the Gateway Cities went from favoring Coakley by 21,000 votes to backing Warren by 109,000, adding a meaty 88,000 votes to the Democratic column.

There’s no harm in acknowledging out that Boston turned out big for Elizabeth Warren and that Menino’s machine helped out. But let’s be clear: Warren won 54 percent of the electorate and beat Brown by 230,000 votes. Menino played a role in that. But not by a long-shot did he win the race for her.