Baker joins flock of candidates to launch bids online

Candidates who launch their campaigns with Web videos don’t have to worry about interviews and can control their messages.
Candidates who launch their campaigns with Web videos don’t have to worry about interviews and can control their messages.

When Kerry Healey launched her campaign for governor in 2006, she went to a hotel ballroom packed with hundreds of supporters, as a four-piece jazz band played.

In 2002, Mitt Romney broke the news that he would run for governor in the driveway of his Belmont home, hours after Acting Governor Jane Swift tearfully bowed out of the race.

William F. Weld revealed his plans to run in a 1989 newspaper interview, during which he held forth on how much money he would need to raise and the issues he would focus on.


Those days, apparently, are long gone.

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On Wednesday, Charles D. Baker, a Republican who is running for governor for the second time, became the latest candidate to launch his campaign by releasing a carefully crafted Web video, with no public events or interviews with the media. Aides said he was spending the day at his home in Swamspcott, with his family.

That has become the standard approach for candidates of both parties, allowing them to bypass the media and control their messages, at least in the crucial early hours of their campaigns.

Democrat Juliette N. Kayyem, a onetime homeland security official and former Boston Globe columnist who is running for governor, announced her campaign with a Web video last month, as did Republican Gabriel E. Gomez when he ran for the Senate this year.

“If this were 1962, you would go to a rally and get drunk with a bunch of reporters, but that’s not the way politics works anymore,” said Mike Murphy, a Republican consultant who worked on Romney’s 2002 campaign. “This is a smarter model. You look at it not as an announcement, but as an announcement period. You can go several days and several news cycles long.”


A video kickoff can generate $500,000 of free advertising, because it provides the only clips initially available for the news media, Murphy said. Candidates can then hold public events “for color and optics later on,” he said.

“It’s a great way to get an unfiltered message out,” Murphy said, likening the prolonged rollout to a “three-course meal instead of a fast-food hamburger.”

The remote video launch also spares candidates who are just beginning their campaigns from having to find enough supporters to fill a hotel ballroom and then from having to contend with protesters, reporters, and other nuisances who can unsettle them just as they are entering the spotlight.

No wonder it is a strategy beloved by political consultants.

“You move past all of those considerations and, quite frankly, burdens, and you can talk directly to voters,” said Kevin Madden, a Republican political adviser.


Hillary Rodham Clinton, a Democrat, helped pioneer the intimate video announcement when she launched her presidential bid in 2007.

“I’m in,” she said, sitting on a sofa in her video, adding, “So let’s talk. Let’s chat. Let’s start a dialogue about your ideas and mine.”

Her onetime rival, Barack Obama, borrowed the technique in 2012 when he announced his reelection campaign.

His Web video, however, followed the lines of a more traditional ad, and featured voters from around the country.

Baker, who launched his first campaign for governor at Babson College, plans to speak to the media Thursday. His campaign would not say when he will hold his first encounter with voters.

For decades, candidates for governor in Massachusetts almost invariably kicked off their races at a downtown Boston hotel or restaurant, and then made stops in places like Worcester and Springfield.

But those events were free-wheeling and unpredictable.

When Governor Francis W. Sargent launched his reelection campaign in 1974, he did so at a luncheon with 43 members of the Republican State Committee at Anthony’s Pier 4 on the South Boston Waterfront.

Committee members who backed a more conservative candidate for governor reacted angrily, and newspaper coverage from that day included quotes from some of them blasting Sargent.

By relying on a two-minute Web video, Baker avoids such potential indignities.

Dressed casually in jeans and a blue shirt with no tie, he sheds the outraged tone he struck in his 2010 campaign, and describes himself as a loving family man with deep roots in Massachusetts.

“I care about being a good husband to my wife, Lauren, and a loving and responsible father to our three children,” Baker says in the clip, which is filled with warm music. “I care about our community where we’ve raised our family and being a good son and brother. And, as corny as that may sound, that’s exactly why I want to be your governor.”

Baker, who was the budget chief in the administrations of governors Weld and Paul Cellucci, never mentions that he is a Republican in the video. Instead, he says he wants to provide “bipartisan leadership focused on growing our economy,” and, if elected in 2014, will promote small businesses, and work to improve schools and public safety.

His tone marks a sharp contrast from 2010, when he ran on the slogan, “Had Enough?” and tried to tap into voter anger about scandals on Beacon Hill and a slumping economy. Aides said the hard-edge rhetoric was a stretch for Baker, a former health insurance executive known for delving into policy details and spinning out ideas.

“Last time, he felt it was a grind,” said a spokesman, Tim Buckley, who added that Baker is “excited” about his new positive, and personal message. And with his Web video, Baker gets the final word, without interruption from a curious voter or skeptical reporter.

“Let’s aim high,” he says, debuting his upbeat catchphrase. “Let’s be great, Massachusetts.”

Michael Levenson can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @mlevenson.