My motto is: any excuse to visit a Brockton suburb, I take it. So I was in Abington this morning for the first open press availability of former US Attorney Michael Sullivan's US Senate campaign, as he dropped off signature sheets at his local town hall.
He looked very Senatorial, which has long been the case. He arrived with wife and daughter, but no entourage or handlers. He seemed comfortable, and took as many questions as the reporters could think to ask. He didn't seem like he has lost much of a step from not having campaigned for office since... well, actually I'm pretty sure he hasn't been in a contested election since his (easy) 1994 re-election as state representative; he was appointed Plymouth DA in 1995, ran unopposed for re-election in 1998, and was appointed US Attorney in 2001.
Sullivan retains the style and poise of a politician; unfortunately, he also seems to retain the Massachusetts GOP mindset from at least 20 years ago, if not more. He unapologetically calls himself pro-life, and opposed to same-sex marriage. He is also still in favor of the death penalty, and in response to my questions expressed no regret over seeking the execution of gang members, in cases that went badly awry for the prosecution. (Which I wrote about here, and here, and probably elsewhere; there's also a Phoenix editorial here, and here.)
Elsewhere in the course of the presser, Sullivan declared himself unaware of any problems the GOP faces in winning women's votes, nationally or in Massachusetts; and when asked what it means to be a Republican, he offered no policy or ideological hints, but simply cited the examples of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Reagan, and "tear down this wall." So, if the commies try to divide Germany again, we know where he stands.
All of that should ease the concerns of Democrats. Nevertheless, I consider Sullivan the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, over Gabriel Gomez and Dan Winslow.
Sullivan has genuine appeal to the state's Republican voters, who are mostly with him on the social issues and will love his tough-on-crime stance. But his seriousness, resume, and gravitas also appeals to more traditional Massachusetts Republican types; as will his solid fiscal conservatism.
My assessment comes with the caveat that Gomez doesn't yet exist as a human candidate; we are scheduled to get our first look tomorrow at what the consultants have molded.
Back to Sullivan, though -- I am curious to see how one thing plays in the primary, that did not come up at today's presser: "Fast and Furious."
In case you don't follow the movement-conservative marketplace, Fast and Furious is the greatest scandal of the whole world in the history of ever. Or so I'm led to understand. Regardless of what I think, the fact is that Sullivan was acting ATF director for the last three years of the Bush administration, when the program that became Fast and Furious was put in place (here's Wikipedia on the subject), and Sullivan has defended the legality of F&F. Oh, and Sullivan was the source, in congressional testimony, for the false claim that 90 percent of guns recovered from criminals in Mexico came from the US, which served as justification for F&F and which gun-rights enthusiasts have held up as an evil liberal lie meant to justify more gun-control laws.
Also, my understanding is that the reason Sullivan was "acting" director the whole time, and was never confirmed by the Senate, was opposition from gun-rights Republican Senators, who felt that Sullivan wasn't doing enough to dismantle ATF's gun-sale regulatory and oversight functions. I wonder if all this will come to hurt him among the small number of people likely to participate in the Republican primary.