In a blink of an eye, Massachusetts just lost two potential national candidates—Charlie Baker and Marty Walsh.
The Bay State lost Baker because the outgoing governor, as he leaves office in January, ruled himself out Sunday as a potential 2024 Republican candidate for president.
“I am not going to be a candidate in 2024,” Baker said
And Democrat Secretary of Labor Walsh, mentioned as vice presidential possibility, lost out when the anticipated railroad settlement between railroad workers and freight rail companies blew up in his face.
Both were long shots to begin with—very long shots. But presidential lightning does strike from time to time. Look at Donald Trump. Look at Joe Biden.
And it is not unusual for politicians meeting a President in the Oval Office –especially the last two—not to come away with the question, “He’s President? Why not me?”
The railroad contract that was to launch Walsh into the political stratosphere was the deal that he and President Joe Biden prematurely hailed as a victory in September when a railroad strike, for the moment, was averted.
“This is a win for America,” Biden said in September
“This had to be resolved,” Walsh, former mayor of Boston and a one- time union official added.
No sooner had the deal been struck than Walsh fans began mentioning him as national material in the far-off idea that Biden would dump Kamala Harris and look for another running mate.
Another wishful angle was that Biden would not seek re-election and a new Democrat presidential candidate would take on Walsh as a running mate and nail down the labor vote
Walsh was a labor union official before he entered elective politics and he speaks the language of labor. But the railroad union workers apparently speak a different dialect.
Biden and Walsh had worked out an agreement in September with railroad union leaders to avert a pre-November election strike that would have shut down the country.
The union bosses promised to sell the labor agreement between the union and the railroad carriers to their rank-and-file union members.
However, as of Monday, four of the 12 union voting bodies had rejected the agreement, which means that the railroad workers — unless Congress intervenes — will go on strike in December, just before Christmas.
It would be the first railroad strike in 30 years, and it would cripple the economy, creating widespread shortages and shutdowns, not to mention further hikes in food, gas and heating oil costs.
And while trucks could step up deliveries of necessities and consumer goods, they in no way could pick up the slack.
Chris Spear, CEO of the American Trucking Association, told CNN that idling 7,000 long distance daily freight trains would require thousands of additional long-haul trucks every day, “which is not possible based on equipment availability and an existing shortage of 80,000 drivers.”
All of this, it seems, would vaporize any dreams that Walsh or his followers have of turning him into a national political figure. While he was voted mayor of Boston, he was appointed to Biden’s cabinet, not elected
Charlie Baker is a different story. He was elected twice as a Republican in an overwhelmingly progressive and Democrat state. And he is leaving office as one of the most popular governors in the country.
Much of his popularity centers on his Democrat-moderate-liberal approach to issues that appealed to a cross section of voters.
Also, his emergence as an early and strong critic of Trump went over well in anti-Trump Massachusetts and elsewhere.
Baker was far ahead of the Republican curve when it came to opposing Trump, a fellow Republican. He certainly was not a come-lately to the growing GOP anti-Trump cause.
Baker opposed Trump in 2016 and 2020 and is opposing him in 2022 with Trump running for President again.
Now Baker, looking over a sea of fellow Republican governors soon to be challenging Trump for the GOP nomination for president, must be saying, “Them? Why not me?”
Peter Lucas is a veteran Massachusetts political reporter and columnist.