WASHINGTON — Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, standing with several other Democratic governors Saturday, was fired up about her party’s prospects for winning gubernatorial races around the country this November.
“We expect the Democrats to have one of the best years we’ve had in a long time,” said Raimondo, vice chairwoman of the national group focused on electing Democratic governors, the Democratic Governors Association.
But asked a few minutes later whether she thought Republican Governor Charlie Baker’s perch is ripe for taking and whether she’d like to see him defeated, Raimondo sang a different tune.
“Charlie, I think, is very popular and is doing a good job,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed working with him, and we have a good bipartisan, collaborative relationship.”
As the nation’s governors gather in Washington this weekend, Democrats expressed excitement about their prospects for winning a good number of the 36 gubernatorial races this year. But in blue Massachusetts, not so much.
While it’s still more than eight months before the general election, comments on Friday and Saturday from leaders of the Democratic Governors Association, also known as the DGA, appeared to dim the prospect that the group might plow money into this fall’s gubernatorial race on behalf of Democrats.
Governor Jay Inslee of Washington state, who leads the DGA, indicated that antipathy toward President Trump could boost the Democratic nominee in Massachusetts.
“I think that any governor who has to respond and answer to the fact that his president is causing such devastation and chaos — if he has not stood up to that adequately, that could be a difficulty,” he said Friday at the group’s Washington headquarters. “So that remains a possibility in Massachusetts.”
Inslee said there “could be” a path to unseating Baker through Trump, but “it’s not of our making. . . . Stay tuned.”
The campaign of Democratic candidate Setti Warren, the former mayor of Newton, blasted the tepid support, in particular Raimondo’s assertion that Baker is doing a good job.
“People who are paying attention to Massachusetts know that our public transportation systems are melting down and there’s gridlock traffic everywhere,” said Warren spokesman Kevin Franck “People who are paying attention know that every single school in the Commonwealth is underfunded because of the outdated [public school funding] formula. And people who are paying attention know that Charlie Baker was just caught trying to cover up a massive tax data breach,” he said. (The Baker administration has repeatedly changed its story about a Department of Revenue blunder during which private information from thousands of business taxpayers was inadvertently made visible to other companies, potentially including competitors.)
“That shouldn’t be anyone’s definition of ‘doing a good job,’” Franck said in his statement, adding that “we’ll beat Charlie Baker” with or without the help of the DGA.
Baker, for his part, repeated a common refrain — that his job is to represent Massachusetts — when asked about Inslee’s proposition that not pushing back hard enough against Trump could cause him trouble.
“Whether you’re talking about immigration policy, or you’re talking about guns, or you’re talking about a whole host of other issues,” he said, “I’ve made my point of view quite clear when I believe the federal government, or the administration, is pursuing policies that I don’t believe are in the best interests of the Commonwealth.”
Baker pointed to his efforts with other governors in opposing the White House’s push to kill the Affordable Care Act.
“But there are many issues on which we have found common ground with the administration,” said Baker as he walked into a fund-raiser for his reelection bid in downtown Washington Friday afternoon. (The invitation called for a contribution of $1,000 per person, the maximum yearly limit.)
The Democratic Governors Association and its GOP counterpart, the Republican Governors Association, can help swing a race by spending millions on TV ads, usually ones attacking the opposing party’s candidate. The RGA, for instance, spent more than $11 million to boost Baker in 2014.
That year, the DGA spent considerably less helping the Democratic nominee, Martha Coakley, who lost by the narrowest gubernatorial margin in Massachusetts in 50 years.
This year, two other Democrats besides Warren are running for their party’s nomination, hoping to take on Baker in November.
They are environmentalist and entrepreneur Bob Massie and onetime Deval Patrick budget chief Jay Gonzalez.