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White House hopes always high in Massachusetts, despite size

December 24, 2017

FILE - This combination of file photos shows, from left, U.S. Reps. Joseph Kennedy III and Seth Moulton, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, and U. S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren. The four Democrats are among a handful of Bay State politicians whose names have been mentioned as possible 2020 presidential candidates. (AP Photo/File)

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts is known for many things — fanatical sports fans, a sprawling Cape Cod shoreline and an accent that has stymied generations of actors — not to mention a public water supply that sparks a Potomac fever every four years or so.

In the past half century, the state has launched the failed candidacies of a string of presidential hopefuls from Republican Mitt Romney to Democrats John Kerry, Michael Dukakis, Paul Tsongas and Edward Kennedy.

But that isn’t tamping down hopes by some in Massachusetts for a return to the Oval Office for the first time since John F. Kennedy’s 1960 election.

At the top of the list is Democratic U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has repeatedly said she’s focused on her re-election campaign next year.

Still, Warren has worked to maintain a national profile — going after President Donald Trump on a host of issues, from health care and immigration to tax reform — while proving to be a fundraising powerhouse with more than $12.8 million in her campaign account.

There are plenty of other Massachusetts names being bandied about.

One is two-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, a veteran who served four tours of duty in Iraq and a harsh critic of President Donald Trump. Moulton has tried to position himself among a class of Democratic up-and-comers in the House, bucking Nancy Pelosi’s effort to be elected Minority Leader.

Although Moulton has resisted talk of 2020, he’s also fed the chatter, including his trip last month to speak at a Democratic political rally in Iowa, home of the first-the-the-nation presidential caucuses.

In an interview with The Associated Press this month, Moulton brushed aside White House speculation — not just for himself, but for any Democrat. He said the focus should be on gaining seats in 2018.

“If we can’t figure out as a party how to win in 2018, we’re going to be in tough shape for 2020.” He said. “I think it’s a huge political mistake for Democrats to even be talking about 2020 at this point.”

Another member of state’s congressional delegation, Democratic Rep. Joe Kennedy, is also in the mix, in part because of his last name. Kennedy is a great-nephew of John F. Kennedy.

Like Moulton, Kennedy has also been hitting the road, with recent trips to Flint, Michigan, to learn about the city’s water crisis and to Cleveland, Ohio, to visit a community-based approach to behavioral health care.

Kennedy has also tried to build a reputation for reaching across the political aisle, something his great-uncle U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy cultivated during his 47 years in the Senate.

While other presidents have hailed from Massachusetts — John Adams, John Quincy Adams and Calvin Coolidge — it was John F. Kennedy’s legacy that helped entice future generations of Bay State politicians to chase the ultimate political brass ring according to Tobe Berkovitz, a Boston University professor and former political media consultant.

“JFK launched the phenomenon of Massachusetts politicians fancying themselves as presidential timber,” Berkovitz said.

It doesn’t hurt that Massachusetts neighbors New Hampshire with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary, Berkovitz added. The two states share some of the same news outlets, giving Massachusetts politicians a leg up in New Hampshire and a chance to make an early national splash.

Another Massachusetts Democrat whose name has been floated is Deval Patrick.

The former Democratic governor and confidante of Barack Obama has laid low since exiting the governor’s office in 2015, but is remembered fondly among some in the party for his thunderous “grow a backbone” speech before the Democratic National Convention in 2012.

Patrick appeared at a rally in Alabama with Democrat Doug Jones in the closing day of the U.S. Senate election against Republican Roy Moore. Patrick said the race, which Jones won, was important to the whole nation.

And while Obama fans may be cheering for Patrick, the former governor has also given no public indication that he plans to run.

Ironically one of the most popular politicians in Massachusetts seems the least likely to make a White House run: Republican Gov. Charlie Baker — also dubbed the most popular governor in the country according to one poll.

Despite that popularity, Baker has given no hint that he’d be interested in running for the White House, a task that would be made all that more difficult by Baker’s refusal last year to vote for its current occupant and his moderate-to-liberal social views on issues like abortion and gay marriage.

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