BY MATT HUTCHINS
Former Governor of Massachusetts and Ambassador to Canada Paul Cellucci spoke on Monday before a combined meeting of the Harvard Republican Club and the Harvard Law Republicans about the future of Republicans on the national stage and in Massachussetts.
Cellucci spoke glowingly of John McCain and Sarah Palin, and predicted that they will manage a narrow victory in the presidential election. His remarks closely followed the McCain campaign’s main talking points, citing the candidate’s experience in the Senate and record as a maverick, as well as criticizing Obama’s voting record and lack of qualification for the White House.
Cellucci praised McCain’s choice of Palin as a brilliant tactic to energize the Republican base, and noted that the enthusiasm of crowds he speaks to has visibly risen since her selection. He expressed doubts about Obama’s selection of Biden, stating that the Democratic party would be unstoppable if he had chosen Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as his running mate.
Cellucci said that the unstable conditions in the economy and the political forces pushing for change should by all accounts make this the year of the Democrats, but noted that Sen. McCain’s record as a maverick allows him to put forth a credible promise of change. He said that McCain’s economic message should emphasize low taxes, fiscal discipline, and balanced regulation.
Cellucci noted that McCain’s success in the presidential race has been strongly influenced by a victory in New Hampshire, and that the Republican party will be pushing to make the state go red in the general election. He said that without a Huckabee win in Iowa and a McCain victory in New Hampshire, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney would probably have become the Republican nominee. Cellucci has been campaigning for McCain ever since Rudy Giuliani exited the race following the Florida primary, and his efforts today are focused on ensuring victory in the Granite State, which was won by John Kerry in 2004.
When asked about the state of the Republican party in Washington following the failure of the Bush bailout package, he said that there were no winners in the vote on Monday. He said, “This President really is a lame duck. At this point, the two candidates have the real authority.” He expressed optimism about the passage of the bill on a future vote, and predicted that the plan, which would allow the Treasury to purchase hundreds of billions of dollars in distressed mortgage-backed securities, would yield long-term gains for tax payers when the economy recovered from the current crisis.
The former Governor’s remarks about Massachusetts politics emphasized that the Republican party is alive and well in the Bay State. He said that the failure of Republican gubernatorial candidates in the 80’s and the subsequent Dukakis administration are ancient history, and the success of Governor Weld and himself ushered in a new era in Massachusetts politics.
He explained this success as resting on a base of productive bipartisan action and careful fiscal discipline. This, he says, is what allowed him to win reelection and later led to the success of Mitt Romney ’75. He described Governor Deval Patrick ’91 as a candidate who “came out of nowhere like a rocket” and was virtually unstoppable. He criticized the state’s current universal healthcare initiative as fiscally unsound, and he proposed that the next administration should reform healthcare in a way which harnesses the power of the market while controlling prices through economies of scale. He said that the state’s growing deficit will renew the call for fiscal discipline and play toward the Republicans’ strengths in the next gubernatorial election.
When asked by a Canadian member of the audience about the tension which has developed in the relationship of the United States with its northern neighbor, Celluci said, “There will always be stresses and strains in a relationship as big as the one we have.” He stressed that Americans have a bad habit of underestimating the importance of our relationship with Canada, and that we often forget that Canada is our greatest trade partner, our closest security partner, and provides us with more oil than Saudi Arabia. He criticized proposals to repeal NAFTA as unrealistic and advocated the continued development of measures along the border which would improve both security and economic facilitation. Celluci said, “This relationship is the envy of the world, and it will remain the envy of the world.”