Rock stars they’re not, but candidates go on tour

Hey kids! Looking for rollicking summer fun? Democrat Don Berwick’s “All Means All” tour could be coming to a town near you.

The headliner: a 67-year-old former federal Medicare and Medicaid administrator known for passionate speeches about single-payer health care. Entry is free — but you may run into your grandparents or their friends.

Big progressive ideas not your jam? You missed Republican Charlie Baker’s June “Great Again Massachusetts” tour, which rolled to venues like a bakery in Fall River and a Roxbury restaurant.


And unless you’re looking for parental supervision, the recently launched “Moms for Martha” tour, led by Attorney General Martha Coakley, might not be the best place to rock out.

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These aren’t stadium-packing music tours that draw tens of thousands of adoring fans.

But the political tours that dot the landscape in this campaign season — a series of events hooked to a theme — give gubernatorial hopefuls and candidates of all stripes a way to infuse energy into old-fashioned campaign stops and frame them as part of a more pointed story about what they hope to accomplish if voters give them the nod.

The tours also help them garner media coverage for what could otherwise seem like just another event to hear from residents, give a stump speech and shake hands.

“How do you attract attention in the summertime among people before you go up on television? How do you let people know that you’re alive and well? You come up with a creative tour,” said longtime Massachusetts Democratic consultant Michael Goldman, who is unaffiliated in the governor’s race. “The more creative the tour, the more coverage you get.”


The tours can imbue a narrative into travels from Provincetown to Pittsfield, helping to reach voters outside the Boston area.

“It’s a nice little way to package visits around the state,” said Republican strategist Jason Kauppi.

The title of Berwick’s “All Means All” tour comes from his state Democratic Party convention speech, in which he referenced the final words of the Pledge of Allegiance — “with liberty and justice for all” — and told the cheering crowd that “all means all.”

Leigh Appleby, a Berwick spokesman, said the tour has brought Berwick (who often drives himself to eventsin his 2001 Subaru accompanied by a single aide) to cities and towns across the state, focusing on communities that are underrepresented.

Appleby acknowledged during Berwick’s tour “the trajectory of the message hasn’t changed markedly” from what Berwick was saying before the tour. Still, he said, “it tends to be events more centered on communities that have been left behind.”


Baker’s “Great Again Massachusetts” tour was aimed at highlighting the Republican’s economic message in the run-up to the June state Democratic Party convention.

Baker, and his running mate, Karyn Polito, made stops from Charlestown to Chicopee (alliteration in tours is a plus).

Tim Buckley, a Baker spokesman, insisted the tour stops were different from standard campaign events because they were built around a theme.

“This one had a theme to juxtapose Charlie’s moderate and job-creating message with our opponents, who were in the midst of a fistfight leading up to their convention, jostling with each other to get as far left as possible,” he said.

To a reporter with him at one of the stops though, Baker looked a whole lot like he did when not on a tour — introducing himself, sitting down with people, and listening to what they had to say.

Regardless, his spokesman indicated the tour was successful enough that there would be another. “It’s safe to say that ‘Great Again Massachusetts’ won’t be the last tour,” Buckley said with a laugh.

Coakley, a Democrat, kicked off the “Moms for Martha” tour earlier this month, and has been meeting with mothers across the state to hear about issues of importance to families. This comes after an “On Our Terms” tour, during which she discussed ways to build an economy that gives everyone a fair shot.

Coakley campaign manager Tim Foley said all campaign events were about talking to voters and listening to them speak about issues they found meaningful.

“The ‘Moms for Martha’ tour, in particular, is an opportunity for moms and women to talk about what is important is to them,” he added.

Political tours are, of course, not limited to Massachusetts — Scott Brown has made recent stops on an “Honoring Our Veterans” tour in his New Hampshire US Senate bid — and have been a part of the political firmament for many years. But in the race to succeed Governor Deval Patrick, they have proliferated.

Treasurer Steven Grossman, the third Democratic candidate for governor, (there are also three independent candidates and a second Republican), hasn’t missed the tour boat, so to speak, either. He held a recently concluded “One Commonwealth” tour, focused on job creation and economic development.

Spokeswoman Chandra Allard said the tour took Grossman to stops related to its theme, but his “message is the same regardless of where we are.”

Although it has no catchy name, Grossman has also been on something of a permanent ice cream tour since his campaign for state treasurer four years ago.

An aficionado of frozen dairy treats, Grossman began a tour of ice cream shops around the state on the first day of spring in 2010 and has not stopped, Allard said, meeting potential voters for his gubernatorial bid at assorted ice cream parlors in recent weeks and months.

“This is where people go in the summer, and you can meet voters where they are. And,” she added, “there’s ice cream there — it’s sweet.”

Joshua Miller can be reached at