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The Battle Heats Up

The Battle Heats UpIf Saturday's Democratic Party Caucuses are any indication, the governor's race in Massachusetts could be one of the most exciting in the state's recent history, say two Tufts experts.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [02.04.02] The political free-for-all in Massachusetts just got a little more interesting. With five candidates campaigning against each other to get the Democratic Party's nod for Governor, the political fervor in Massachusetts is growing quickly. And it could lead to one of the most interesting elections in the state's recent history, say two Tufts experts.

On Saturday, over 50,000 democrats from across Massachusetts picked delegates for the party's June convention. The caucuses -- held in over 500 communities around the state -- will determine which candidates get a shot at the party's nomination for governor at the upcoming Democratic convention.

According to Jeffrey Berry -- a political science professor at Tufts -- excitement over this year's race is especially high.

"Berry... said there are several reason for this year's high interest in politics," reported the North Adams Transcript, including the crowded field of candidates and the recent addition of Reich, a former labor secretary under President Clinton.

And the heavy volume at Saturday's caucuses may provide a sneak-peak of what the Democratic convention has in store.

"It's a crucial point in the governor's race," Berry told the Worcester Telegram and Gazette. "I think you'll find the sentiment detailed in the caucuses will be reflected in the vote at the convention."

In order to have a shot at the nomination in June, each of the five candidates must get the vote of at least 15 percent of the delegates. The caucuses help separate the front runners from the rest of the pack.

"Kent Portney, a political science professor at Tufts University, predicted that [State Senate President Tom] Birmingham, a favorite of liberal activists, and [State Treasurer Shannon] O'Brien -- who has already won statewide office -- would easily pass and even exceed the 15 percent mark," reported the Herald News. "The other three [Warren Tolman, Robert Reich and Steve Grossman] could have a real fight on their hands."

Sometimes it's those candidates -- not the actual front runners -- who play the most important role during the caucuses.

With a crowded field, there are already signs that some of the candidates will get just enough support to forces out their competitors, Berry told the Herald News.

"If you do the math, it is clear that two of the (five) Democrats aren't going to make the 15 percent threshold for the gubernatorial primary," the Tufts expert told the newspaper. "Reich's entry into the race has thrown a monkey wrench into Saturday's caucuses. He may fall short of the 15 percent line because of his late entry, yet do well enough to knock someone else off the primary ballot."

The official tallies haven't been released yet, but early reports in The Boston Globe show a tough fight between Reich and Grossman for the third place slot behind Birmingham and O'Brien.

"[Grossman's fight for the 15 percent count is] a tough one to call," Portney told the Herald News. "He's been in the race for a while and has good money, and he hasn't caught on at all, and there are two other progressives in the race, Reich and O'Brien."

That kind of political battling is exactly what Massachusetts Democratic Party Chairman Philip Johnston hopes the caucuses will result in.

"Politics have become such a money game in the past generation or so," he told the Telegram and Gazette. "This caucus system is important to maintain to force candidates to have personal conversations with people at the grass-roots level."

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