Boston Phoenix: DeLeo and Baker were bested in Beacon Hill’s gaming showdown, not so Cahill

(The alternative title of this post could be, “Cahill makes play for union support by placating them.”

Thanks for the reminder Brent – promoted by Rob “EaBo Clipper” Eno)

David Bernstein has a fascinating piece in this week’s Phoenix on the politics behind the failure of the casino bill.

And its yet another article detailing the “Not Ready for Prime Time” aspect of Charlie Baker.…

Governor Deval Patrick and Senate President Therese Murray, by now at ease with the intensity of the pressure, came away with most of their agendas fulfilled.

Experience showed in the gubernatorial candidates as well. Tim Cahill, who as treasurer since 2002 has tussled in plenty of these types of backroom Beacon Hill battles, emerged as the clear champion of casino and racino supporters; there is even speculation now that he could win some key trade-union endorsements because of it.

By contrast, Republican Charles Baker has been outside the State House for over a decade, and never led a strategic political fight there. His position on gaming hewed too closely to Patrick’s – supporting limited expansion, but opposing the house proposal as excessive. That left him poorly positioned, compared with Cahill, to make hay out of Patrick’s failure to get a casino bill passed.

Cahill, who has been arduously courting unions – both for endorsements and the kind of member-level support that helped Scott Brown win a seat in the US Senate earlier this year – has supported casinos and race-track slots, and has been pounding Patrick for not signing the bill.

By contrast, Baker, who has been struggling to breathe life into his gubernatorial campaign, failed to position himself to gain from last week’s shenanigans.

Baker has favored one full casino and a limited number of standalone slot parlors. He reiterated that position as the session was winding down, even implying that he would not sign the compromise bill.

That’s certainly not an unreasonable position. But it left him trying to criticize Patrick for doing the same thing he would have done. And Patrick’s defiance of the legislature, and the unions, undermined Baker’s attempts to portray the governor as a part of the Beacon Hill system, and a tool of the special interests.

Some observers suggest that Baker should have found a way, starting much earlier, to put pressure and attention on one or two other measures in the final spate of bills – issues where he differed strongly from Patrick – rather than letting all the focus be on the issue where the two substantively agree.

Indeed, it’s the kind of rookie mistake Patrick might have made a few years ago.

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