Meet the New Massachusetts Democratic Party

Tuesday's primaries pushed forward a changing face in statewide politics.

Photo via AP

Photo via AP

Wednesday morning’s Democratic Party Unity Breakfast can accurately be described as an opportunity for a room full of straight men to pledge fealty to their gay and/or female leaders. The straight men who went 0-for-7 in the four contested statewide primaries were there, along with the straight male current and former state party chairmen, and the mostly straight male consultants and operatives who ran the campaigns or head supportive organizations.

The day before, the party’s voters selected two straight women (Martha Coakley and Deb Goldberg), a gay man (Steve Kerrigan), and a gay woman (Maura Healey) to run for Governor, Treasurer, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General, respectively. Make of that what you will.

Elected officials also fared poorly Tuesday, both as candidates and supporters. Aside from the Governor’s race, which was a special circumstance, the three winners collectively had only one elected office on their resume: Goldberg is a former Brookline Selectman. She soundly defeated a current state senator and state representative; a former state senator and current Cambridge City Councilor are also among the defeated. Seth Moulton, the other big winner of the day, is a first-time candidate who ousted a guy with the word “Congressman” in front of his name, John Tierney.

And the two statewide candidates who most dominated in elected-official endorsements—Steve Grossman for Governor and Warren Tolman for Attorney General—both fell short. Again, make your own interpretations of all that.

You’ll hear a lot about Coakley’s relatively narrow margin of victory, but I wouldn’t make too much of it. The campaign came out of the June convention with a solid base of around 45 percent of the primary vote in hand (a little less with lower turnout, a little more with higher turnout, due to the anti-Coakley sentiment among the most diehard Democrats), which was sure to win the three-way race. She chose to ride that out with a very safe campaign that, had there been any doubt of victory, she would have changed.

She didn’t have to. She avoided strong stands that might hurt her in the general election. She spent very little money on TV advertising at around just $450,000 or so, spread over a month. She launched virtually no attacks on her primary opponents, whose supporters she wants to inherit. And she signaled to outside groups not to spend funds during the primary that they could dedicate to the general election.

That added up to a pretty lackluster, uninspiring campaign, which kept her from running up the score. It also likely contributed to the low turnout which, combined with Grossman’s very strong final stretch of campaigning and a couple million dollars worth of ads attacking Coakley, made for a final score that was fairly close but never in doubt.

Things will change now. Most immediately, you will soon notice that those evil outside PACs Coakley denounced for the past year are already up with advertising on her behalf. The Democratic Governors Association launched an ad attacking Republican nominee Charlie Baker today, and I’m told that people have already seen one from the Massachusetts Teachers Association.

The big thing that the powerful straight men of the party can do now is funnel large wads of money to those outside groups. Some of them, resistant to Coakley’s charms as I mentioned above, might view the single-digit win with concern and use it as an excuse not to pony up, but I suspect some persuasion from Deval Patrick, Elizabeth Warren, and others will loosen those cash spigots.

Then it will be a matter of whether Coakley and those outside groups can win the battle to define Baker as either a cruel-hearted Republican or a warm-hearted independent. Baker’s first on-air volley also came out today, and it’s good, if perhaps a bit awkward. I’ll leave you to watch the launch of the new Charlie Baker, aka the Last Straight Man Standing: