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Holding his punches

The pundits think a desperate Michael Flaherty needs to throw haymakers at the mayor, but he insists steady pressure will win the fight
By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  October 21, 2009


All year, Boston’s political observers have been watching for signs of an anti-Menino tipping point in the mayoral race. The thinking has been that sentiments could change rapidly if there is a sense in the city that momentum is building, and that a challenger could actually dethrone the 16-year incumbent from City Hall. People reluctant to publicly oppose Mayor Tom Menino might then come forward, offering endorsements of and contributions to said opponent. Menino’s support — thought by some to be wide but not deep — might then erode quickly.

It has not happened. And the last hope for such a swing may have died this past Sunday, when the Boston Globe published a poll putting Menino’s lead over challenger Michael Flaherty at a whopping 20 percentage points. That’s not going to entice any timid public officials and community leaders to take sides against the mayor in the final stretch.

Flaherty’s campaign claims the Globe poll is inaccurate, and provided the Phoenix with its own internal poll showing the lead at 10 points and narrowing. (Menino has not released any of his own polling, but people close to his campaign say that their data closely resembles the Globe’s results.) Regardless, it’s not a good sign for the challenger that, with less than two weeks to the November 3 mayoral election, the liveliest discussion is over the size of Menino’s lead.

Some local political observers say that Flaherty needs to take a big gamble and throw an attention-getting Hail Mary to shake up the race. But the Flaherty campaign doesn’t appear to be in panic mode. That lack of urgency showed in Monday’s debate — the last televised forum scheduled before the election. Flaherty was critical of the mayor, but didn’t score many points. A Globe analysis said that, while viewers “might have expected [Flaherty] to go on the attack,” he instead gave a “muted performance” which “failed to put Menino on the spot.”

Perhaps Flaherty has simply given up on winning, and is trying to lose with dignity. But his campaign insists that they need no knock-out punches — that contrary to popular perception, the race is within their grasp. They seem to believe that, with a strong, targeted closing argument, they can win over enough undecided and persuadable voters to make up the difference.

Can Flaherty piece together a majority of votes without going on the offensive? The preliminary election results might suggest that he can. Flaherty’s votes, when combined with those for Sam Yoon (who now wholeheartedly supports him) and Kevin McCrea (whose voters are likely to vote against Menino), came within about 1000 votes of Menino.

But the November vote will not be quite the same as the September vote. Some 30,000 more tallies are likely to be cast. In particular, there are two demographic groups — blacks and younger professionals — who are expected to show up in much higher numbers in November. They are likely going to make the difference leading up to the final two weeks.

Menino’s firewall
Two things have been true of black Bostonians in recent years. First is that, compared with the rest of the city, they turn out in low numbers for primaries, but then show up for the general election. And second, they are stalwart supporters of Menino.

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Related: He's number three, The politics of baseball in Boston, Yoon or Flaherty, More more >
  Topics: Talking Politics , Election Campaigns, Elections and Voting, Politics,  More more >
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24 Comments / Add Comment


Everyone needs to realize that the mayor's campaign has yet to go negative at all. Yet, that has been the entirety of Flaherty's campaign. This is because Menino has a tremendous amount to be proud of, enough to campaign completely on their acomplishments. Whereas Flaherty has no accomplishments and no real policy differences with Menino. His biggest proposal is that the BRA should be abolished, but that's a half assed proposal that would never go through if Flaherty would become Mayor. 

 Flaherty's campaign can be summed up into two vague attacks on the Menino camp: He's been there too long, and there are some missing emails. The first one is the only one gaining any sort of traction, but has no visable real world implications. Menino has the real issues on his side. The serious people of Boston realize this, are working to get him elected, and that's why Menino is going to win in november. 

Posted: October 21 2009 at 6:35 PM


I believe the race is closer than the Boston Globe leads us to believe. First of all, a number of experts have pointed out methodological problems with how the poll was conducted. One problem was including a sample of people who had not expressly stated their intention to vote on election day. Secondly, internal polling by the Flaherty campaign shows Menino leading by fewer than ten percentage points with many voters still undecided.

It should also be stated that Menino campaign spent something like $1.7 million dollars to garner 50 percent of the vote during the primary, heavilly out spending his two rivals.

Lastly, it is not certain what the defining motivation for voters will be on election day. If those who are happy with the status quo come out on election day, then Menino will probably carry the day. However, if the thousands of disaffected and alienated voters who yearn for change come out on election day than Flaherty has a chance at a historic upset.

Young voters, and they include a large demographic of those who read the Phoenix, should keep in mind that the Menino political machine is counting on their apathy come election day. It is time to prove the powers that be that they are mistaken. Shake off your Ipods, put down your Iphone, ignore the dissonance of your Twitter feed and exercize your democratic right. Give Menino the big finger come election day.



Posted: October 21 2009 at 11:53 PM


A knockout punch makes for a great story, but it is not how elections are won.  Clear differentiation, command of issues and a plan for the future are what wins votes in the end.  For the first time in a long while we have a competitive mayors race.  The globe poll, in addition to methodological issues, does not make intuitive sense, as it is not much different that the primary results and many things have added to Flaherty's tally, not least of which is the addition of Yoon.

Posted: October 22 2009 at 7:24 AM


 The Globe is shilling for menino plain and simple and the poll numbers reflect that, he will do any and everything to win this election...people are tired of him and the way he does business in a city that is so progressive he is holding boston back instead of moving it forward! 

the menino campaign has spent over 1.5 million just to get 50% of the vote...he is definitely running scared this time and trying to shortcut democracy with lack of term limits, bullying and dictatorship! 

Vote him out on November 3rd! 

Posted: October 22 2009 at 8:06 AM

Boston Bertie

On the streets, this race is close - despite what the Globe wants us to think. We need to get everybody out to vote on November 3rd for the real progressive ticket of Flaherty & Yoon. Don't let the insiders and the connected decide this election - this is our city too.

Posted: October 22 2009 at 8:46 AM

Boston Bertie

On the streets, this race is close - despite what the Globe wants us to think. We need to get everybody out to vote on November 3rd for the real progressive ticket of Flaherty & Yoon. Don't let the insiders and the connected decide this election - this is our city too.

Posted: October 22 2009 at 8:46 AM

Boston Bertie

On the streets, this race is close - despite what the Globe wants us to think. We need to get everybody out to vote on November 3rd for the real progressive ticket of Flaherty & Yoon. Don't let the insiders and the connected decide this election - this is our city too.

Posted: October 22 2009 at 8:47 AM


 Flaherty has not won a single ward endorsement, and I'm quite hesitant to believe his "internal poll" hmmm, doesn't sound like it would quite be unbiased.


Flaherty, depite all his quips about African-American and Latino suport, has very little to show for it, except a few ministers who, rumor has it, have lost support of their own congregations.


Flaherty and Yoon spent last weekend disrupting services in the Black churches around Boston -- they didn't even stay for the whole service and demanded time on the mic from the pastor -- as they self-proclaimed to the audience: they were church hopping for votes.  In contrast, the Mayor regularly goes to these churches, from the day he became Mayor, to WORSHIP with the congregation, he NEVER gets on the mic, and he respectfully stays for the whole service -- that's how you make connections with communities in Boston -- not imposing on them as Flaherty and Yoon did.


And the Latino community wants nothing to do with Flaherty, especially after he TWICE tried to diminish the hard work of Puerto Rican Health Commissioner Barbara Ferrer and has been caught telling people she's not "really latina"


A white man who comes into our communities of color and chastises us by saying we have absolutely no power is way out of touch -- people of color in Boston ABSOLUTELY do have power -- we need more, but we have come so far with the support of Mayor Menino and we're not looking for some white saviour to come into our communities and tell us he's the great white hope for dark people!

Posted: October 22 2009 at 11:26 AM


Perspecitve Column. 

Flaherty is toast because in ten years as City Councillor he has not gone beyond his narrow base.  Spencer is spinning out of control and using negative push numbers to pretend there is a race is part of the dishonest way he conducts his business.  Would not be surprised to see the flacks, and hacks from both camps push out a totally whacked out charge in the last week.  Negative direct mail is their speciality.

Posted: October 22 2009 at 12:09 PM


Of course the hacks and flacks are Spencer, Romano, Perez and sorry to day, Sam Yoon, who once held promise until he took a job promise to the bank...

Posted: October 22 2009 at 12:12 PM
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