Despite potentially having much to lose or gain from the outcome of next year’s GOP primary for U.S. Senate, the Republican governor of Massachusetts will stay out of the fray, at least until after next September’s primary is over.
Republicans across the country have made Sen. Elizabeth Warren a frequent and top target ahead of the 2018 mid-terms as outside groups prepare to spend heavily to take out a darling of the left and a potential 2020 presidential contender.
Baker, who almost certainly will share the ballot with the GOP nominee as he runs for a second term, has said very little about Warren in his two-plus years in office, and indicated Monday that he’s not inclined to get involved in his party’s primary when more conservative voters could play an outsized role in choosing a nominee.
“My big wish for anybody who does that is that they enjoy it. They take advantage of the opportunity it gives them to get to know the people in their community, however it’s defined, and that they believe by the time it’s all done they had a chance to get their message out and to speak their piece,” Baker said in Brighton when asked about Beth Lindstrom running for the Senate seat.
“But I don’t get involved in primaries as a general rule and I certainly won’t get involved in that one,” he said.
Lindstrom, one of four Republicans engaged in the early stage primary fight, is a former Romney administration official who managed Scott Brown’s campaign during his upset U.S. Senate win in 2010.
Like wealthy Winchester businessman John Kingston, who is also running and expected to make a formal announcement later this year, Lindstrom has distanced herself from President Donald Trump as she prepares for a campaign against two other Republicans who have been vocal supporters of Trump.
Baker has found little common ground with the president since he took office in January after not voting in the November election because he didn’t think Trump was fit to hold the office.
However, the possibility of a Trump backer like state Rep. Geoff Diehl, R-Whitman, or entrepreneur Shiva Ayyadurai winning the U.S. Senate primary could serve to highlight the disconnect between Baker and the right wing of the Massachusetts Republican Party.
Politicians of both parties in Massachusetts have, in recent years, been reluctant to choose sides in primaries, and doing so carries its own risk. By letting the primary race play out without him publicly playing a role, the governor can avoid an embarrassment should his chosen candidate wind up losing.
Baker has also shown a general reluctance to getting heavily involved in political contests that don’t involve him being on the ballot, two notable exceptions being his efforts in 2016 to campaign for some legislative Republicans and his push to remake the Republican State Committee with more moderates.
Baker waited until after the Iowa caucuses and a month before the Massachusetts primary to endorse fellow governor Chris Christie for president in 2016, and did not endorse again after Christie dropped out of the race, eventually choosing to blank his ballot for president rather than choose between Trump or Hillary Clinton.
Baker is expected to run again in 2018, but has said he and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito will make a decision this fall.
Baker and Polito edged Martha Coakley and Steve Kerrigan in 2014. In a state where Republicans are vastly outnumbered, Baker and Polito in the next cycle would again need to ring up strong support levels among Democrats and independents.