Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Presidential Boost, Without Incumbency

See BNN News coverage and interview with the news editor of the Dorchester Reporter, Gintautus Dumcius.

Is US Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass. , 9th District) in so much trouble that he needs a lift from a President more than six weeks before a primary election? Or does Lynch’s Democratic rival Mac D’Alessandro look hopelessly overmatched by today’s show of party unity at the Ironworkers Hall in South Boston?

From one campaign season to the next, things do have a way of coming full circle, and that can be said about Lynch and the President who came to endorse him—Bill Clinton.

After being deserted last year by much of organized labor for the US senate campaign by Martha Coakley, Lynch—himself a former president of Ironworkers, Local 7--is being challenged this year by a Democrat who is a former political director for SEIU's northeast region. Under attack by D’Alessandro (see NNN interview) for a no vote on the health care reform package championed by President Obama, Lynch has fired back through his campaign by trying to depict the Democratic insurgent from the left as a tool of special interests—namely the more dogmatic supporters of health care reform in, well, organized labor. But, at today's rally, he was back in a union stronghold, where political allies were sprinkled with supporters from labor.

The D’Alessandro camp responded today by citing contributions to the Lynch campaign from the financial services sector—as in big banks that wrecked the economy and needed bailouts. Add to that the lingering fiscal consequences of Lynch's support for allowing the war in Iraq almost eight years ago.

But the voters are prone to anger and they’re worried about jobs, as in today’s and tomorrow’s. And, as Clinton put it, Lynch is the candidate who will get things done.

Lynch talked about the courage to make tough decisions, and his well-known vote on health care reform was viewed by many party regulars as bordering on the heretical, and all the more puzzling for his professed misgivings about the lack of a single-payer plan. As it turned out, Lynch’s vote played well enough on East Broadway. And health care reform has its share of critics—even among rank-and-file members of labor unions with good health coverage who fear they have something to lose.

If a Democratic member of Congress running for re-election hosts a rally in South Boston with Bill Clinton, does that mean trouble for Barack Obama? Probably no more than in January, when South Boston was carried by Coakley’s rival, Scott Brown. Though two Republicans are also running in the 9th District--Keith Lepor and Vernon Harrison--the timing of Clinton's appearance suggests more concern about the primary--if not whether Lynch can win, then by how much.

Two years before Brown's victory in the special election, in the Massachusetts presidential primary, South Boston Democrats went for Hillary Clinton, while Obama took the whole city. More importantly, Hillary Clinton carried Massachusetts, which is arguably closer to the profile of Democratic voters throughout the 9th Congressional District.

Speaking at the rally, Lynch went even further back, praising the deficit-busting years of Bill Clinton. Maybe there was too much nostalgia to mistake that for the deficit concerns of angry voters in 2010. But, sixteen years after Democrats were clobbered in the first mid-term election under Clinton, the former President could bask in the role of being, if not an insurgent, then at least a non-incumbent. And, without pitting stimulus against fiscal austerity, he could even praise Obama. After all, if 2010 really were 1994 all over again, the President would crawl out from under and stay in the White House for another six years.