No, Charlie Baker’s Not the Future of Republican Politics

At the very end of Molly Ball’s long, affectionate profile of Massachusetts’ new Republican governor, Charlie Baker, she notes that Mitt Romney’s similarly positive image in the state went sour when he began exhibiting presidential ambitions and saying and doing things regular old Republicans in less liberal areas took for granted. And so, she solemnly pushes Baker, who has been in statewide office for about five minutes, to make a Sherman Statement:

Would we soon be seeing Baker in Iowa?, I asked. “I love this state, and I really want to do everything I can to make it great,” he said. “That is going to be my plan, my objective, and my mission.” He wasn’t answering the question, and I began to think I was getting a politician’s suggestive nondenial denial. But then Baker’s tone turned serious, and he looked me in the eye. “You will not,” he said emphatically, “see me in Iowa.”

Well, praise the Lord for a shrinkage, however small, in the potential Republican presidential field. But I do have to wonder if Ball’s question reflects a hope, however tiny, that GOPers like Baker will soon be welcome on the presidential campaign trail. I don’t know about her personally, but Lord knows a lot of MSM types seem deeply invested in believing and projecting that the rightward lurch of the GOP just has to come to an end, giving us two national parties of “grownups” who agree on the important stuff like fiscal discipline and trade policy and American Global Leadership (defined as keeping the defense budget larger than the rest of the world’s combined) and no longer fight over those silly cultural issues that emanate from embarrassing metaphysical superstitions.

Well, dream on. Charlie Baker’s views on abortion alone are enough to get him hooted off the stage not only in Iowa but in most places where the conservative activists who share operational control of the GOP with billionaires and K Street sit vigilantly waiting to hold an auto da fe for heretics. It takes a state as “blue” as Massachusetts to produce a Republican like Baker these days, and mistaking him for the future of Republican politics makes precisely as much sense as treating Paul LePage as the future of New England governance.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.