Wendy's asked, "Where's the beef?" The dairy industry posed the question, "Got milk?" And now, Charles D. Baker, Republican gubernatorial candidate, is hoping to coin a slogan of his own, asking voters, "Had enough?"
Baker, in an attempt to re-brand his campaign, today rolled out the simple catchphrase in a new website and online ad, new bumper stickers, Twitter messages, and in the start of a 10-community tour promoting the notion that voters have "had enough" of Governor Deval Patrick and state Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill.
Coming on a day of back-and-forth about negative campaigning, Baker's new slogan is an attempt by the former state budget chief to tap into the perceived anti-incumbent fervor percolating among voters this year. Baker has also faced criticism that he has thus far failed to establish a cohesive theme around which he can rally support for his candidacy.
Baker said he developed the new motif after months of talking to voters across Massachusetts.
"It eventually crystallized around the notion of 'had enough,'" he said, adding that voters, local officials, and business owners have told him they are fed up with tax increases, local aid cuts, and "the lack of imagination" in state government.
"With one vote, you can replace half the senior management on Beacon Hill," Baker says in his new web ad, which seeks to tie Patrick and Cahill together as State House powers.
Patrick scheduled his own press conference to try to upstage Baker's new effort. At his campaign headquarters in Charlestown, the governor called on Baker to denounce a barrage of negative ads launched weeks ago by the Republican Governors Association that attack Cahill and take swipes at Patrick for their fiscal management.
"I am calling on Charlie Baker to cut it out, and to come back to a serious, adult conversation with the voters and with each other as candidates," Patrick said at the press conference, where he was surrounded by volunteers, some appearing to work intently on computers. "We've got to set a tone that is respectful of the voters, and doesn't underestimate the voters, as candidates so often do."
Baker, by law, has nothing to do with the RGA ads. And Patrick was helped by similar ads funded by unions and the Democratic Governors Association in the 2006 governor's race. Those ads attacked Patrick's Republican opponent that year, Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, comparing her to the unpopular president at the time, George W. Bush, and suggesting she "abused the power of her office."
Patrick at the time distanced himself from the ads, saying, "This is, I think, a robust enough race without [outside groups] participating, and I'd wish they'd stay out." But today, the governor made a strange assertion about the group that ran the ads, the Patriot Majority Fund, saying, "They did not run negative attack ads." Asked to explain Patrick's characterization, his campaign later issued a statement acknowleding that the ads were negative.
"In 2006, a negative pre-primary ad was run by a third party and was denounced by the governor and his campaign," the statement said. "That is exactly what the governor was calling on Charles Baker to do today."
The Republican ads this year, according to a poll last week, appear to have given Baker a significant boost by eroding support for Cahill, Baker's chief competitor on the right, and giving Baker the opportunity to focus more squarely on challenging Patrick. Baker today said he didn't like the ads but stopped short of calling for them to be taken down.
"If it were up to me, I wouldn't want any of them in Massachusetts," Baker said in a telephone interview.
Still, he said, "I can't control what the RGA does any more than he can control what the Democratic Governors Association or the Patriot Majority Fund does."
Patrick said the GOP ads, which last week intensified with the launching of a second wave of attacks, "are going to be poisonous," six months before Election Day.
Baker said the governor was merely trying to distract from his record.
"If I were him and I were against all of the common-sense reforms we're proposing, I'd try to change the subject, too," said Baker, who after stops today in Framingham and Chicopee, plans to continue his "Had Enough?" tour today in Worcester and Lowell, with additional stops on Wednesday and Thursday.
Cahill, a former Democrat turned independent, meanwhile, sought to rise above the fray, even though he, too, has already put out a negative web ad targeting Baker.
"This back-and-forth between the governor and Charlie Baker is a perfect example of what's wrong with the two-party system," Cahill's spokeswoman, Amy Birmingham, said in a statement. "These two bicker back and forth about who went negative first, and all the while, middle class families are still out of work."
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