To be or not to be for fellow Democrat Elizabeth Warren and her effort to unseat Republican Senator Scott Brown? That is the question for the Hamlet of City Hall.
Mayor Menino has yet to endorse a candidate in this nationally watched political blockbuster, and has been sending mixed signals ever since Warren got into the race. A year ago, Menino was calling Brown unbeatable and publicly questioned whether Warren would be marketable. A year later, he is now telling reporters that his endorsement decision will come very shortly; he is just waiting for the proper time. He remained noncommittal in Charlotte, where he and Warren both addressed delegates to the Democratic National Convention.
The mayor has a history of embracing select Republicans who go on to win elections in Massachusetts. Menino’s late and grudging endorsement of Democrat Scott Harshbarger in 1998 helped Republican Paul Cellucci, whom many believed Menino favored all along, win a close election. Menino also stayed out of Brown’s race against Attorney General Martha Coakley, with whom Menino was feuding, helping the Republican to score an upset.
Menino seems to genuinely like Brown, who shares his passion for retail politics. So is an endorsement in the offing? Actually, the mayor is now sending signals that he will support Warren instead. At the recent Labor Day breakfast, Menino reminded reporters of Brown’s vote against extending unemployment benefits, and told them, “I mean, let’s get real about this, guys. You know, he’s a nice guy, but I mean, you’ve got to be with the people, the working people of Massachusetts. . . When they’re unemployed, they need unemployment benefits. They need health care. . . I mean, he’s a nice guy, but I need a consistency.”
Speaking of consistency, Menino’s waiting act is growing a little tired. It serves to diminish both candidates, as he hems and haws about their flaws. Menino is respected both for his authenticity and his shrewd political instincts. In this case he should act on the former — by coming out for whichever Senate candidate he sincerely prefers — and put an end to the political gamesmanship.