A bit of last minute political analysis here to ease us into election day. Let me echo the words of many readers of the Belmont Citizen Herald and Belmont Patch and state the obvious: Willard Mitt Romney is the Republican candidate for President of the United States, and he’s going to cast his vote right here at the Beech Street Center in Belmont tomorrow morning at 8:30 AM and that’s just a Big Deal and something we should all be proud of and also tickled over. Let’s all enjoy it. Also – per the Belmont PD – don’t even think of going anywhere near Beech Street tomorrow around 8:30 AM unless you’re on foot – it’s going to be a zoo!
It’s exciting stuff. The race at the top of the ballot is tight and its outcome will likely hinge on what happens in Ohio and Iowa and Virginia and a couple other swing states. Mr. Romney has between a 20% and 50% chance of winning the election (depending on whether you’re a Fox News person or a Nate Silver person). In short: it’s close.
That said: I think Mr. Romney faces long odds of winning here in his hometown of Belmont. Romney’s chances in the Town of Homes are longer even than his chance of winning Massachusetts as a whole – and I’ll note that he has almost no chance of winning Massachusetts. This, despite the fact that he’s a longtime resident of the town and that Belmont is still home to three generations of Romneys.
What proof do I have? Actually – there’s not much hard data. Obviously, there aren’t tracking polls for the Belmont vote. I note a small, informal poll taken among readers of the well trafficked (and very useful) Belmont_MA listserv on Yahoo. Of 33 votes cast, President Obama captured 27 – or 81 percent -and Mr Romney 6 (or 18 percent). Again – not scientific, by any stretch, but non-partisan and interesting.
The more reliable evidence comes from looking at Belmont’s voting behavior in recent elections. In 2008, for example, Belmontonians voted for Barack Obama by a margin of more than 2:1 over John McCain. Sure – it was a wave election. I get it. But in January, 2010, we also voted for a punchless Martha Coakley over Scott Brown in the special election to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat by almost 20 percentage points. That November, Deval Patrick and Tim Murray captured 59% of the vote over Charlie Baker. This election cycle: Belmont’s been in the news again – as one of the top sources of funding for progressive icon Elizabeth Warren. In fact: as of mid-summer, Belmont was right behind the city of San Francisco as a source of campaign donations to Warren for Senate, with more than $44,000 raised. San Franciso…then Belmont.
What it means is that Belmont’s not just a little bit left leaning. When the town comes out to vote it’s quite liberal – and that doesn’t bode well for Mr. Romney’s chances of winning his home town. Its also worth noting that Mr. Romney’s political career was a direct offshoot of his successful business career, not a long slow slog up from the nether regions of town government. Mitt never coveted a Warrant Committee appointment (it’s not too late Mitt – we need you!!) nor did he run for the Board of Selectmen or state office. The result: there’s no Romney machine in town, nor even the remnants of one to turn out the vote for him tomorrow.
I’d contrast Mitt’s path to the top of the ticket with a candidate like Will Brownsberger who (though raised in Watertown) is a much beloved figure who has successful stints as a Selectman, State Representative and State Senator under his belt. Should Will ever, like Mitt, make it to the top of the ticket, my bet is that he’d win Belmont walking away, and do so with both Republican and Democratic support.
I’m not writing this to stick a thumb in Mr. Romney’s eye. Far from it. What will really happen tomorrow is anyone’s guess, and Mitt Romney certainly stands a good chance of coming out on top. I wish him luck.
The real moral of this story, I think, is for Belmont to finally become the town that it really is. What I mean to say is that it’s hard to reconcile Mitt Romney’s tough path to victory here, or the way we vote in state-wide and national elections with our current political leadership, which skews conservative, and with the stilted conversation on matters affecting our town coming from our elected and appointed bodies like the Board of Selectman, Warrant Committee or Capital Budget Committee. Belmont -onetime home of the John Birch Society – is, in 2012, True Blue. Now its time for us to start acting that way!