Charles Baker should be a formidable Republican candidate for governor in 2014 -- but he should have been a formidable Republican candidate for governor in 2010. Three years ago, Mr. Baker tried to be something he was not, a mistake he is not likely to make again.
Mr. Baker had a tough challenge in running against a popular Democratic incumbent in Deval Patrick who is also a gifted campaigner, and he made his task harder by trying to tap into the Tea Party-style anger and outrage in fashion among Republicans. Whether that strategy was his or the product of a Washington-bred campaign honcho it was doomed to fail and it did. Mr. Baker, known for his low-key and affable manner as a top official in the administrations of Governors William Weld and Paul Cellucci, didn't do anger well and came across as strident. Anger doesn't play well in Massachusetts politics anyway, as voters traditionally prefer the more positive approach offered by Mr. Patrick.
In a video posted online announcing his candidacy Wednesday, Mr. Baker was sunny and optimistic. He has a mentor to learn from in Mr. Weld, an economic conservative and social liberal with considerable personal charm who was elected governor twice. That recipe is proven.
With former Republican Senator Scott Brown still debating his political future -- or whether he even wants one -- the GOP field should be wide open for Mr. Baker. In contrast, the Democratic field already consists of state Treasurer Steven Grossman, former Obama administration health care official Don Berwick, former federal homeland security official Juliette Kayyem and former Wellesley Selectman Joseph Avellone, with state Senator Dan Wolf discussing his ownership stake in Cape Air with the state Ethics Commission before going forward. Attorney General Martha Coakley, U.S. Representative Michael Capuano and Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone are all thought to be considering a run for governor as well.
With the post-Mitt Romney Republican Party all but irrelevant in Massachusetts, Mr. Baker will need to win the majority of unenrolled voters and steal some Democratic votes as well to get elected, a strategy that worked for Mr. Brown in a special Senate election. If Mr. Baker campaigns as himself, and if a half-dozen or more Democrats carve each other up in a preliminary campaign, he just might pull off the victory next year he couldn't in 2010.