BOSTON (CBS) – What can we expect from Gov. Charlie Baker as he takes the oath Thursday for a second four-year term?
It might make for better click bait if we told you to expect the unexpected, that anything can happen, if we listed the SEVEN SURPRISING REASONS WHY BAKER 2.0 WILL SHOCK YOU!
But the truth is, you can expect more of the same.
Baker won landslide re-election last year amid a Democratic wave based on a formula that both reflects who he is and perfectly meshes with the public mood – steady, wonky attention to policy details, collaboration with stakeholders, and an aversion to unnecessary drama.
The same man whose failing 2010 gubernatorial campaign included a press conference denouncing welfare fraud that featured an enlarged photo of our state’s first African-American governor has spent the past four years cultivating support among communities of color, and distancing himself from the racism marbling recent White House policies.
Our no-new-taxes governor (who refused to sign a pledge to that effect) has presided over new broad-based tax hikes on businesses to help pay for health care and signed new taxes into law on short-term rental properties.
And I still can’t get over the sight of a Republican, pro-privatization governor giving a shout-out during a State of the Commonwealth address to the vehemently anti-privatization head of the MBTA Carmen’s Union for their joint efforts to fix the T.
Baker’s first term was testament to his self-discipline and political skill, but also to his good luck. The eye-popping soap opera in DC made it easy for Baker and his occasional missteps to fly under the radar. The booming state economy gave him ample resources to spend. And House Speaker Robert DeLeo has been a reliable Baker ally against the legislature’s occasional leftward impulses.
That run of luck might be about to tap out. A softening US economy and downturns abroad will hurt us here. Public education and transit will require more investment, not less. The Democratic establishment was happy to blow off Jay Gonzalez; a budding Maura Healey or Marty Walsh candidacy in a couple of years might not be so easily dismissed.
So look for the same-old same-old from the governor Thursday at his inauguration. His speech will feature the same degree of soaring rhetoric and memorable lines as all his past speeches, which is to say none at all.
But that’s Charlie Baker’s secret sauce. He isn’t an ideologue, isn’t auditioning for some other job, and certainly isn’t running for president, a fool’s errand for a Republican of his ilk even if he wanted to.
He’s just a bright-but-dull, wonky-but-regular, well-trained and thoughtful guy who turns out to be, the odd wart notwithstanding, just about perfect for this job at this time. Like those ubiquitous window ads on the radio say, he’s the chicken parm of politicians. You know what you’re getting, and you get what you pay for.
And so far, precious few voters here seem to have lost their appetite for him.