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When being the Bay State meant something

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

Remember when Massachusetts had a presidential primary that almost mattered? The importance of the election in our neighbor to the north is the significant one for New England, but I do recall that some candidates actually made a point of swinging through the Bay State what seems to be a long, long time ago.

As a kid in high school and college, the news coverage of the primary basically started with the Iowa caucuses and ended with the "gavel-to-gavel" coverage of the conventions.

More and more, though, the primaries have been merged together so just several states seem to hold the key to the nomination. During the last race, I honestly thought that much of the democracy had been drained out of the primary process. The election seemed so cut and dried.

This time, while both parties have a long list of candidates, I see a national press that focuses on just several while ignoring the rest. It doesn't do this country any good.

And what the press likes to talk about are subjects that seem to stray away from what I think are issues. I don't care if Oprah is backing Barack Obama. I don't care about Mitt Romney's faith or Mike Huckabee's faith. I don't care if Hillary Clinton is going to employ her husband in some capacity if she is elected. I even don't care that Rudy Giuliani clearly has a big ethical problem.

I actually get angry when I see candidates wasting their time as Obama did dancing on "Ellen."

For us in Massachusetts it's very frustrating to see the national press cover Romney. How many reports have actually been about his record here as governor and how many have been about his religion or his flip-flopping. Granted, changing your mind as a politician can readily appear as political expediency rather than enlightenment, but what about reporting about what he has done or not done?

What I care about right now are the records of accomplishment for the candidates and how are they going to solve problems.

If I was on the campaign trail or if any of the candidates were here in Western Massachusetts, these are the topics I would ask about:

What would you do to re-build manufacturing jobs that helped create the middle class in the 1950s and '60s? Would you work to repeal or amend NAFTA? Would you support any other international treaties that would make it easy for jobs to leave this nation?

Would you support a revision of the federal tax codes that would allow all Americans to pay their fair share?

How would you end the war in Iraq and how would you secure our citizens against acts of terrorism?

What is your idea to solve the health care crisis in this country?

What would you do to stop global warming?

Tell me five ideas you personally started and saw through to implementation in government and how these relate to the experience needed for the presidency.

That's what I would do and I promise I wouldn't ask any of them to dance.


I would be remiss if I didn't publicly thank Charles Ryan for his extraordinary service to Springfield.

As a resident he gave me hope that Springfield can indeed turn around to become a better place to live and work.

Ryan may never have been always right, but he was always direct. And his track record of making hard decisions served the city very well.

It's tough for reporters to have political heroes. Governing is frequently the art of compromise and compromise is the stuff of heroics.

Ryan showed though that through an artful combination of hard stands and compromise a mayor could reverse the trends of years of abuse and neglect.

I learned a lot from covering Ryan and it was all good life lessons.

There is plenty of work to be done in the city and my hope is that Domenic Sarno will take advantage of the solid foundation he has inherited.

This column represents the opinions of its author. Send your comments online to or to 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, Mass. 01028.