Direct from the very blue state of Massachusetts comes another warning to Democrats about voter discontent.
According to Secretary of State William F. Galvin, individual Republican candidates running for statewide office have collected thousands more signatures than their Democratic opponents as part of the process required to get on the ballot. It’s a signal Galvin likens to wastewater samples that show a rise in COVID-19. “There’s a rising tide of potential infection out there,” he told me. “They [Massachusetts voters] are open to these people [Republicans].”
Galvin, a Democrat who is running for what would be a historic eighth term as secretary of state, said he saw the enthusiasm gap in real time as he worked to collect the 5,000 signatures needed to get on the ballot. People lined up to sign for Republican candidates and walked away from Democrats. The signatures — which are certified by his office — back up that observation. According to the tallies he gave me, in the race for secretary of state, Republican Rayla Campbell has 11,249 certified signatures; Galvin has 7,969; and Democrat Tanisha Sullivan has 6,705.
Perhaps voters are simply tired of Galvin, a fixture on the political scene for over 40 years. What about other races? In the gubernatorial race — which requires 10,000 signatures — Republican Geoff Diehl, who has been endorsed by Donald Trump, has 16,673 certified signatures. Democrat Maura Healey, who leads all polls by wide margins, has a little over 14,000. The two other gubernatorial candidates — Democrat Sonia Chang-Díaz and Republican Chris Doughty — each have a little more than 11,000 signatures.
In the race for attorney general — which also requires 10,000 signatures — the Republican candidate, Jay McMahon, has 20,489. Democrats Andrea Campbell and Shannon Liss-Riordan each have just over 13,000. In the auditor’s race, which requires only 5,000 signatures, Republican Anthony Amore, who was endorsed by Governor Charlie Baker, has 8,187. That’s more than either Democrat who’s running for that same office.
These numbers can be easily dismissed as a meaningless show of organizational strength — except that Massachusetts Republicans have no organizational strength. They represent only 10 to 11 percent of all registered voters, and that percentage could sink even lower as the Trumpian wing asserts control over what’s left of the party apparatus. Democrats, who are highly organized, represent about 30 percent. The rest are unenrolled voters.
To Galvin, the signature tallies are a warning to Democrats everywhere about the sour mood of the electorate. “Two years ago, Donald Trump was a unifying factor,” he said. Today, he said, dissatisfaction with President Biden unites voters in a way that spells danger for Democrats. According to a recent poll, just 46 percent of Massachusetts voters say they approve of the job Biden is doing as president. For Democrats, that’s disturbing, given that Biden beat Trump by just over 33 percentage points in Massachusetts.
Elsewhere in the country, that level of discontent fuels predictions of an enormous red wave that would give Republicans control of Congress and could also influence gubernatorial races. In Massachusetts, it represents more of a wistful longing for an alternative like Baker, who’s derided by some in his own party as a “Republican in Name Only.” Now that Baker has decided not to seek a third term, the Republican options for governor are Diehl, who has embraced Trump, and Doughty, a little-known businessman who is trying to position himself as the non-Trump alternative without totally alienating the Trumpers.
Much of the signature collection happened before the leaking of a draft opinion from the Supreme Court that points to the likely overturning of Roe v. Wade. And in Massachusetts, a Supreme Court decision to end a constitutional right to abortion could certainly energize voters. Even though Massachusetts has passed laws ensuring broad access to abortion, Democrats like Healey promise to continue to fight for abortion rights. Meanwhile, Diehl has called the Massachusetts Roe Act “a radical move too far by state legislators here in our state,” but said it’s enshrined in law. Doughty told the Globe he disapproves of abortion, but also understands it’s protected in Massachusetts.
Social issues aside, there seems to be a mood out there, even in Massachusetts. Galvin said he feels it, and “like an old safecracker, my fingers start to tingle.” The signature count and the tingling tell him the mood isn’t good for Democrats.