Yet the Republican Governors Association’s target isn’t really Tim Cahill

The RGA released a new ad today targeting Tim Cahill, in an attack that seems to be long term and coordinated. Starting about a week ago the RGA began a campaign blitz of television and internet advertising critical of Cahill.

The ads are now everywhere, and the internet buzz seems to be increasing. Looking at the view counts on Vimeo, where the ads are hosted, I’m seeing the number of daily views increasing, probably driven by the RGA’s now ubiquitous internet advertising on political and news web sites. They have been buying large vertical banners all over the place. Sources tell me traffic on The Cahill Report is trending up nicely.

The new ad focuses on Cahill’s flip flopping on a number of issues. A few years ago, when he was running as a progressive Democrat, Cahill was taking all the right positions: a strong supporter of Cape Wind, and of Massachusett’s new health insurance law.

Now that he is trying to run to the right of Baker, Cahill has become a fierce critic of the Health Care law, saying it will bankrupt the nation, and a critic of Cape Wind. When asked why he didn’t oppose these things before, Cahill’s answer is very weak indeed – nobody asked him.

He hass been a top official in the Patrick administration, and never thought to take initiative on either of these issues. If all this time he thought Massachusett’s Health Care law would bankrupt the state, one would think a sitting State Treasurer, who markets himself as a diligent fiscal steward, would have been vocal on the issue well before deciding to run for Governor.

Cahill’s positions on these issues are starting to look very self-serving, and likely to satisfy neither the progressive voters he so recently abandoned, nor fiscally conservative voters to whom his new positions look a lot like political expediency.

The new RGA ad has a classic format for attack advertizing: simply juxtaposing Cahill’s statements today against those from his last run for office. The contrast is stark and damning.

Who is the RGA Really Targeting?

It’s unlikely Cahill can really win the governor’s race. Patrick has a lock on about 35% of the vote. These are hardcore Democratic voters who will not abandon a Democratic governor for a Republican under any circumstances. They are Patrick’s baseline, and they aren’t about to switch to a candidate who so quickly took an expedient sharp turn to the far right in order to run for Governor.

And while Cahill may yet do significant damage to Baker, it’s not likely he’s going to take away enough of Baker’s votes to make a winning conservative constituency for himself. It’s hard enough for a single conservative candidate to get a quorum in Massachusetts – never mind two of them. Besides, enough Republican voters will see  Cahill as a phony – a carpet bagger who has never been in support of conservative issues until it served his political ambitions.

As soon as he’s in office he will throw away his Republican supporters as quickly has he has trashed his Democratic supporters. Cahill’s campaign is so convenient for Patrick, it makes one wonder if it isn’t by design.

The RGA’s real target of course is Deval Patrick. Patrick can count on a Democratic baseline of 35% – but with negatives in the 60’s and the state facing huge budget problems, which will result in deeply unpopular budget compromises –  he is unlikely to get more popular.

Patrick’s winning strategy is to syphon off enough of Baker’s voters, and squeak by with 40% of the electorate. The RGA’s strategy is simple – remove Cahill. Short of a complete meltdown – Baker wins for sure. This strategy worked in New Jersey last year – and will likely work here in Massachusetts.

The Ironic Consequences of a Democratic Schism

There is no political advantage for Patrick to attack Cahill, so we have been seeing two candidates who campaign at polar opposites on policy and yet are on amazingly cordial terms. While we enjoy this love fest between Patrick and Cahill, the governor’s race takes on another ironic twist: the growing popularity of Green Party Gubernatorial candidate Jill Stein.

A battle is brewing between mainstream Democrats and Progressive Democrats. We’ve seen this starkly illustrated in the race between Peter Smulowitz and Richard Ross. Smulowitz, a favorite of progressives, defeated Lida Harkins, a long serving Democratic party insider. Stunninly, Harkins has refused to endorse Smulowitz, and Needham’s 5 selectmen have followed suit making progressives wonder if they really are part of the same party.

This is  causing the leftmost part of the electorate to seriously consider alternatives – like the Green Party.  I haven’t covered Stein on the blog yet,  but I’ve definitely been hearing from more and more of her supporters. Jill Stein has delivered enough signatures to make on the ballot as the Green Party candidate for governor. It’s still and open question if Grace Ross will draw enough progressive delegates to get on the Democratic ballot.

So it will be ironic indeed if we see Patrick promoting a phony conservative Cahill on the far right, while attacking Stein’s progressive platform, all while Baker cynically promotes Jill Stein to take Patrick’s more progressive voters. If so, we will see the Democratic party schism deepen yet again.

Updated: I was a little confused about Ross and Stein’s ballot status.