Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Fitchburg: Too Much Fun

For those who still love the "Fitchburg sucks, has always sucked, and will always suck" feeling -- and I know you're out there -- the news just gets worse.

The Boston Globe continues its love affair with our fair town today with a travel section rundown on all the fun times the city has to offer. If you didn't know any better, you'd think the city has a lot to offer. Or maybe you already know better, and know that it does.

Anyway, yet another nice hit for the city.



Sadly, It's All Over

For the last three or four months, in particular, this presidential primary season has been gripping to watch. Last night, however, pretty much finishes things off.

Hillary Clinton gave another performance that didn't really make people want to run out and vote for her, and it seems more and more obvious she isn't going to win Texas and Ohio next Tuesday. Not only does she have zero momentum, but has been the case throughout the primary season (except New Hampshire) Barack Obama is coming on late in the polls. Clinton may end up squeaking one out next Tuesday, but it won't be enough.

This primary season was so much fun because it wasn't over very early. A year ago, some folks wondered if there'd be any drama in Super Tuesday. Of course there was, and on the Democrat side we got an extra month or so to enjoy. It was nice to see things drag on for a while, and the nation got a bit of an education in delegates and conventions.

However, there were still things about it that weren't so hot. Like the sudden decision that Obama was the guy. He was behind Clinton in delegates for months, got a small lead, and suddenly had her on the ropes. Of course, Clinton's campaign struggled as a frontrunner, and was never built to come from behind, and its gaping holes showed in the last month. But how much is one influenced by the other?

Anyway, barring something crazy, we have a nice presidential matchup in McCain vs. Obama. A heroic war veteran who is attractive to independents takes on a young, black agent of hope who is attractive to independents. Is this country ready to elect a black man to the highest office in the land? Very much a possibility. If Obama wins this election, you won't be able to underestimate what it means.

But will he win? Time to round up the usual suspects (hello Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvannia and friends). But in the meantime, it's time to turn toward the state Senate race and get back to presidential politics later.



Tuesday, February 26, 2008

For the Ward 4 Councilor

For months, Kevin Starr has been on me to write about the Celtics. Here you go. If you don't care, we'll see you later.

After last night's beating of the Clippers, the Celts are 43-12. Good lord. I was a pretty strong advocate of the over (50.5) going into the season, but I didn't expect 43-12 after the West Coast trip (2-3).

Obviously, the Celts got off to a ridiculous start. Ridiculous enough that local fans still full of Red Sox glory and obsessing over the unbeaten Pats took just enough time to realize the Cs were playing crazy ball. Contrast that with the Bruins, who are giving away Montreal tickets (!), and at least local fans realize something's up with the Celtics. Not enough to, you know, actually watch some games and realize the NBA is significantly better and more watchable than its been in 20 years, but whatever.

We've learned a few things this year: Garnett, Pierce and Ray Allen meant it when they said they weren't in it for themselves, they just want to win a championship. Rajon Rondo was well worth keeping. Glen Davis is a very good seventh or eighth guy on a very good team. Posey, House and the rest of Ainge's reject pickups have been very savvy moves. Tony Allen is getting better, and is absolutely a very good player. In short, this is a very good team.

What we haven't learned is, how good, or can they win a title? I'm leaning toward "no," but I have a lot of hope.

Consider: Games with the Pistons have been all-out wars, and both teams won on the road. That portends to a fantastic potential playoff series, but not one you'd be very confident in the Celtics winning. In the meantime, the Cavs are starting to put it together, and LeBron James is just ridiculous. Look at what he did last spring, and you have to think he can will the Cavs to the Finals again, no? The East playoffs are no cakewalk for the Celts, but they are winnable.

It's tough to see the Celts winning the Finals, although you'd have to give them a punchers' chance. The West is so, so good. The Spurs are the Spurs, Phoenix is looking for harmony, and the Lakers are very tough after getting Gasol (and you'd have to think Kobe would be super-human if he could drag the Lakers back to the Finals).

There are teams in the West 10 games over .500 who might not make the playoffs. There teams in the East that might get in 10 games under .500. That shows just how much better the West is. The Celts recovered to go 2-3 on the western swing, which is merely OK. Losing three in a row didn't do them any favors, and shows they are mortal. But they did go 2-3 in a five-games-in-seven-days stretch, and won the last two, which shows they are good and mentally pretty tough.

If the Celts can survive Detroit/Cleveland/both, you'd have to think at the very least they're going to get a chance to win. They haven't been blown out this year (absolutely amazing), so you'd have to think they'd have a chance to win every game. The biggest problem with Garnett would probably making sure he didn't get too excited. You'd have to think after sucking for long, Pierce would be out of his mind in the Finals. I don't like Rondo against a number of West points (Nash, Parker in particular) in terms of talent and experience, and while Davis has been very good, can he handle the big stage? How about Tony Allen? And they have to get a real all-star performance from Ray Allen, who has been good/very good but rarely great this year.

But here we are at the end of February, and we're talking about whether or not the Celtics can win the NBA Finals. I still think they're a year away, but this year is most certainly not out of the question. Nice.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

10 or So Enter, 2 Leave

It looks like the state Senate race is down to Brian Knuuttila and Jen Flanagan after Dean Mazzarella said today he's out (as first reported at the Fitchburg Pride/Leominster Champion websites this morning). There are still a few folks out there -- namely Dean Tran and Gregg Lisciotti, but this might just about be the field.

In some ways, it's not surprising that what was once a consideration field of about 10 is down to two. I'm only surprised it's not three or four. Some folks, like Steve DiNatale, would obviously have been sticking their necks waaaay out there, and did the smart thing. Others, like Mazz and maybe Hank Naughton, were really torn.

It will be interesting to see what happens in the next few months before nomination papers are due. She won't talk about it, and shouldn't, but Flanagan has to at least consider backing out at some point if things are rolling her way early. Knuuttila has nothing to lose. Flanagan loses this, she's out her House seat, to boot, unless she can pull off some kind of unlikely sticker/write-in campaign.

Flanagan has showed some intestinal fortitude in all this. She was the first one absolutely in, and she pulled the Antonioni endorsement card as a way to get the inside rail out of the gate. It probably led to some candidates having second thoughts. While others were thinking about it, she acted, swift and certain. You have to like that.

But there's going to be days soon when Flanagan at least has that passing thought ... "should I, or shouldn't I." It's so easy to take the easy way out. But Knuuttila is no dinosaur. If it doesn't happen for her now, when will it?

I hate to speculate on Flanagan bailing (yes, I know, I just spent three paragraphs on it), because she has given no indication she's going to. But now that the field is just about set, it's worth mentioning. And really, who hasn't thought it?

Here's hoping she stays in. I think Knuuttila and Flanagan are pretty even. They have good bases, good experience, and will likely run good, energized campaigns. It's going to be fun to watch.



Thursday, February 21, 2008

Wong's Big Decision

Sometime in the next few weeks, Mayor Lisa Wong is going to announce her choice for police chief, and it will likely tell quite about how Wong is going to operate as mayor.

Of course, we heard plenty from Wong before and after the campaign, and she appears to be settling into the job. But this chief decision will be a big insight into how she is going to operate just two months into her tenure. She's not saying how she's feeling about her choice, so much of this is speculation, but isn't that what the Internet is for?

On paper, Lowell Police Supt. Robert DeMoura would appear to be her guy. He has a strong management approach, a clear plan of action, and strongly favors community policing. Fitchburg Lt. Paul Bozicas has a strong background, and would certainly make a good chief. But think of it this way -- his main argument at the public forum a couple of weeks ago was based on his history of community service. Wasn't that the argument Tom Donnelly made last year -- and Wong ran against -- in the mayor's race?

DeMoura and Bozicas are pretty evenly matched. They have different philosophies and different ways of doing things. Knowing Wong a little bit, and from what we've seen and heard from DeMoura, it would seem he'd be a better match for Wong and her management background.

However, let's throw in this: Pressure and politics say Wong should go with Bozicas. If Wong picks Bozicas, a handful of folks will grumble quietly, but Wong will make the politically safe move. If she picks DeMoura, the union will throw an absolute hissy-fit, based on its recent public squawking over Phil Kearns being knocked off the finalist list.

So, how much does that play in Wong's decision? If she picks Bozicas, she can stand up and say he's the best choice, and no one will argue otherwise. If she picks DeMoura, she can expect a ton of backlash. How much does she care about that? If she picks DeMoura, we'll know the answer is "not much."

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Dean Tran Better Get a Move On

If City Councilor Dean Tran -- or anyone else for that matter -- wants to run for state Senate out of Fitchburg, they better get moving, pronto.

Former Gardner Rep. Brian Knuuttila announced today he's running, and at Fitchburg City Hall for the announcement were five city councilors and a former state rep who are backing Knuuttila, with another councilor and a former mayor leaning his way (to find out here, click here).

Knuuttila was born and raised in Fitchburg, so he has deep roots in the city. An open Fitchburg is a good Fitchburg for Knuuttila. He appears to be quickly gathering support in the city, so if Tran or someone else wants to battle him for Fitchburg supremacy, they'd better step in soon, or there won't be much left to fight over -- at least in term of endorsements and support.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Knuuttila for Senate

Absolutely no surprise: Brian Knuuttila is running for state Senate. Official announcement comes Monday. Reset the field, and find out when Knuuttila is in Fitchburg, by going here. You know where it is.



Thursday, February 14, 2008

Here Comes 'Chronicle'

Channel 5's legendary newsmagazine, "Chronicle," is coming to town next week. Just another big-media outlet checking out the city and its rebound. Good times. Read more at the Fitchburg Pride website.

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Of Senate and Congress

First, the senate seat.

The field is starting to firm a little bit. Your contender list probably looks something like this: Brian Knuuttila, Dean Mazzarella, Jennifer Flanagan, and Harold Naughton. Will all four get in? Maybe. Flanagan is in. Knuuttila is all but there. Most folks expect Mazzarella to jump in, but I wouldn't put his name in ink. Naughton needs watching, but why wouldn't he jump in at least for a little while? There will be some more names, and maybe, somewhere, somehow, a Lisa Wong surprise (not Wong herself, but a candidate similar to Wong).

Notice something? No one from Fitchburg. Dean Tran is kicking the tires, and he's trying out a "conservative Democrat" message. But Tran has two little kids and has said in the past he feels a little time-strapped (remember the mayor rumors?). He might not have the desire to give up a year of his life to campaign. But he might. I'm not banking on a run out of Tran. Who's left? There's a "Draft Jody" effort that has popped up here, but he's not making any (public) noises about a run. Former Mayor Dan Mylott took a pass, and someone else who was looking at it -- but never publicly staked a claim -- also took a pass.

So that leaves Fitchburg kind of the outside looking in, which is fine, but not great. It would be nice to have a strong candidate from the city, who could win the race and represent the city at the State House. Instead, as it has been for ages, someone else will likely represent Fitchburg in the Senate. It worked fine with Antonioni, but there would be a nice shot of civic pride if a Fitchburg resident could win the seat.

But the good news is that Fitchburg will be some decidedly fought-over territory. Candidates will need to run hard in an open Fitchburg, which is voter heavy (and recent history points to some active voters). Knuuttila can claim strong ties, and Naughton will try to stake a claim. Flanagan, her critics say, has been running for this Senate seat for four years, and will point to her successes at FSC, the commuter rail project, and elsewhere. Everyone and their mother knows Mazzarella (and has mayoral envy of Fitchburg's southern neighbor), but he'll need to make some self-introductions to what he is all about.

Now, on to Congress.

I missed Watergate, so the three best Congressional hearings I've seen were the Bulger hearings in Boston a few years back, the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, and yesterday's Roger Clemens hearing. Yesterday's to-do was gripping, entertaining, and laughable all at once. We heard about Clemens bleeding through his pants (ew), his butt abcesses (double ew), and way too much about lunch at Jose Canseco's house.

I'm not gonna lie (which is rare for the rest of the players in this little play), I want to see Clemens ruined by this, and I think he's lying his pants off. I don't believe him, and part of it is because I don't want to believe him. And Brian McNamee is nobody's hero. Rep. Elijah Cummings? I love that guy. And locally, John Tierney was excellent yesterday, and Steve Lynch was good, too.

But Andy Pettitte, whooo-weee. The worst part of yesterday for Clemens was Pettitte's deposition, which details conversations that were particularly bad for Clemens. Pettitte is Clemens' downfall in the end. Additionally, you can't think Mrs. Clemens was particularly happy with the last few days. And how did McNamee get hooked up with old Debbie without Roger knowing?

In the end, Clemens didn't answer the one question he has faced more than once, and knew would be coming: Why would McNamee lie about Clemens, but tell (some of) the truth about Pettitte? Why? Clemens has hemmed, hawed, stammered and blown that answer every single time he's given it. He also now has to answer Pettitte's deposition about HGH conversations, and he finally, something as seemingly as trivial as who was and wasn't at Canseco's house is a problem. What was Team Clemens thinking going after the nanny before giving her to Congress? Stupid.

Anyway, you went into yesterday's hearing on one side or the other, and nothing yesterday changed your mind. Today, you're either cheering Tierney and Cummings, or applauding Dan Burton (who, it should be noted, totally booted the Bulger hearings). But yesterday, the best (enhanced) pitcher of a generation -- one of the greats of all time -- was forced to sit before Congress and (likely) lie in an effort to save his reputation, his ticket to the Hall of Fame, and whatever goodwill he has remaining. It was a sight to see, all right.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

No DiNatale for Senate

State Rep. Steve DiNatale said today he won't be running for state Senate this fall. You can read about it a little bit at the Fitchburg Pride website.

Who's going to run from Fitchburg?

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Add Another Name to the List

Here's a bit of an interesting name that's being sort of kicked around in the Senate race: developer Gregg Lisciotti.

While Lisciotti has plenty of dough in his bank account, he is a major, major fundraiser on the state and national levels, and probably wouldn't have to dip into his piggy bank to make a run. He could raise it bundles with minimal effort. He also has pretty good name recognition all over through his business, which has also allow him to grow deep connections throughout the region.

Lisciotti is also a Republican, and they are few and far between in this race so far. Would Lisciotti run? Seems sort of unlikely. He's a pretty big behind-the-scenes player already and lawmaking can be a tiresome gig. But he could be a formidable candidate for a Democrat if he's waiting for them after the primary, and as you try to put together a Big List of potential candidates, it's silly not to at least listen to the rumor mill.



There's Still Good TV

No, this isn't another pitch to watch "Friday Night Lights" (although it probably should be), or a manifesto on the greatness of "Lost" (although that would be acceptible, too).

Instead, it's a head's up that I'm on TV tonight, making electronic greatness on "Politically Speaking," with new host Donna DesChaines. The game plan was to discuss the presidential primaries and what happens next, but I would think maybe the term "state Senate" might come up.

Now that you mentioned it, a few words on the Senate situation:

This, of course, is the time when everyone "takes a look" at the seat. Some of them are serious, and aren't going to bail. Some will take a look, consider the situation, and take a pass. How can not look at it, though? The seat hasn't been open in 16 years, and chances are the winner will lock it up for fairly long time. So if you're interested at some point in the next, say, 10 years, it's now or never.

Jen Flanagan is in, in, in. She has Antonioni's support, which is no small thing. She was viable before Antonioni took the rather rare step of endorsing someone from the get-go, but his help will be invaluable to her. She'll lose some (much?) of that edge if Dean Mazzarella jumps in. He's one of those considering. And Mazz doesn't have a re-election campaign this year, so he has nothing to lose. It will be an interesting situation if Mazz gets in.

Steve DiNatale is considering, but has a one-year House member and one without Antonioni's blessing, he could be facing an uphill climb. But if no other Democrats from Fitchburg run, and both Mazz and Flanagan are in and split their Leominster base, there might be room for DiNatale. But he'll have to be pretty sure. He'd hate to lose that House seat after one term. It'll be interesting to see what he does. The conservative move -- and maybe the smart move -- is to take a pass. But there's no shame in going for it if it's a crowded field with two big names in Leominster.

Hank Naughton, the Clinton rep, sure sounded like a guy who was in the other night. Will the Flanagan/Antonioni situation scare him off? He's been in the House for a while, and it's no secret he's been doing some fairly seriously job hunting of late, so it might be an up-or-out reason to move on from the House for him. He has the southern end of the district perhaps to himself, and Gardner Rep. Robert Rice has said he supports Naughton, so he might be strong on the western flank. He has a decision to make, though.

Steve Kerrigan of Lancaster is considering, but he might have some options if Naughton stays in. Kerrigan's smart, knows how the building works, and is a good guy and very hard worker. He doesn't have the base of the others, but shouldn't be ignored. Former Gardner Rep. Brian Knuuttila is considering, and he has nothing to lose, so he might stay it out for one shot at glory. He's currently counsel to Worcester Sheriff Guy Glodis, who might be the most powerful politician in the (former) county. If he has the Glodis machine working for him, he is a very good candidate.

Finally, there's former Mayor Dan Mylott. His tenure as mayor is currently not well-received. Can he overcome that? Here's the thing: He might get a pretty free pass to the general election. What other Republicans are out there? Mazz is unenrolled, would he run as a Republican? The GOP roster is short, so Mylott might by default be the best R-candidate out there. Suddenly, he's raising a ton of dough, maybe getting some state party support (for whatever that's worth), and if it's not DiNatale on the other side, he's the only Fitchburg candidate on the ballot (barring as surprise candidate from here on the Democrat side, of course). He has nothing to lose, and if the Republican field is pretty much non-existent, why wouldn't he take a stab at it?

More to come, that's for sure.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

More Suspects

Go to the Fitchburg Pride website, and see who is considering running for Bob Antonioni's Senate seat. And say hello to an old friend who is on the list of potentials.

UPDATE, 7:12 P.M.: The names keep trickling in. You can add Dean Mazzarella and former Rep. Brian Knuuttila to the mix. They'll continue to trickle in, too, one would imagine.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

It Really Is a Busy Day

OK, on top of everything else, Sen. Robert Antonioni said today he's not running for re-election this fall. Holy crap, what a day.

So, who's running this fall? It's going to be a crowded field, for sure. It's been 16 years since the seat was open. Put on your best "Casablanca" voice, and round up the usual suspects. To get some names, go to the Fitchburg Pride website (which includes quotes from at least two of the potential suspects, and we're working on more this evening, so look again later. And yes, this is a tease to get you over there).

More on this tomorrow, but for now, we're wicked busy. Again.

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It's a Busy Night Out There

Maybe Jay Cruz and his troops should get back out there tonight.

I just voted at Ward 3, and it was kind of a madhouse. I was #867 to vote, and there was no letting up. I think precinct 1 will hit 1,000, easy, and a couple hundred extra to boot, from the looks of it. I drove by Ward 1 on my way, and it looked busy there, too. Appears everyone was waiting for the rain to stop.

If you're voting tonight, be prepared for at least a short line. Drop us a note about your voting experiencing. Crowded? What number were you? You seeing a lot of red or blue ballots (I was surprised at how many Republican ballots I saw being picked up, to be honest)? Info, please.



Friends in High Places

It's a little blurry, but there you go: Lisa Wong on stage with U.S. Sen John Kerry, Gov. Deval Patrick, and Caroline Kennedy during Barack Obama's Boston appearance last night. Ted Kennedy is just off the left edge of the screen.

And that's it on stage. Three senators, a governor, a daughter of a former president, and the mayor of Fitchburg. Say what you want about Wong, and some people already are, but that's pretty stinking amazing. How can that be bad for Fitchburg? I do not know.

Wong spoke to the crowd first last night.

"In 2007 I fought against claims that I did not have enough experience, that the city of Fitchburg was not ready to elect a young asian woman, that I was too academic and that I should wait my turn. That tactic did not work in 2007 and it certainly will not work in 2008," Wong said. "I am proud to be the new Mayor of the city of Fitchburg, just as I will be proud when Barack Obama is the new President of the United States."

Wong is a member of Obama's New England steering committee, and said (half-jokingly, but half not) that she'll try to get him to Fitchburg when he's president.

Will Barack Obama remember Lisa Wong on Jan. 20, 2009, if he's taking the oath of office? Who knows. But someone in the Obama campaign is paying attention and will remember her, and there's nothing wrong with that at all.

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Busy, Busy Day

Three things:

First, five people were sitting right behind Barack Obama last night during his appearance at the World Trade Center in Boston: Ted and Caroline Kennedy, Deval Patrick, John Kerry, and Lisa Wong. How does this happen? We're working on it, and we're also working on getting a screen grab, to prove we're not crazy. More on this later, I think.

Second, today, of course, is primary day. Go vote. Throw on your raincoat and do your civic duty. And don't forget to sign the petition for charter review. It's your duty.

Third, a federal agency today is recommending funding for commuter rail improvements. You can read a little bit more, and get a link to the agency's report, at the Fitchburg Pride website.

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Note to Self: Big Day Tomorrow

In case you've forgotten (or if you need a little extra nudge to get out there), tomorrow is primary election day in the great commonwealth of Massachusetts.

First, don't forget to sign the charter review petition at your polling place. Look for person holding a clipboard and wearing a "please, please, please, help me" look on their face. There can be no process until the signatures are collected. Just do it. We can argue the details later. Thank you.

Second, we get to vote for president, and it really matters. It looks like Mitt Romney will be hanging on here on the Republican front, but who really knows at this point? Romney needs wins where he can find him, so he'll gladly take it.

On the Democratic front, things get dicier. Obama and Clinton are in one of their tighter races (one poll today has Obama up by two points). Throw in the non-winner take all deal, and your vote kind of counts double. There will be that "X wins Massachusetts" buzz, and then the Congressional district delegates get decided. I'd explain it all, but I don't think I really can. Just know that it's not winner-take-all, and you'll be OK at the office water cooler.

In fact, there's a thinking out there that the Democratic side is going to be just as even on Wednesday as it is today. Check out this fantastic Globe story from the other day for the details.

So, you have all kinds of reasons to get out tomorrow: Two captivating races, and getting your name on a charter review petition form. There some expectation that turnout could reach 50 percent tomorrow. That's 11,000 voters in Fitchburg. If one-third of those people sign the form, the charter review process can pretty much start moving forward ASAP. More details? Read here.

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Friday, February 01, 2008

See, We Are Important*

*-- apparently for Democrats only.

In the last few days -- really yesterday -- it's clear that Massachusetts won't be left completely behind in the swarm of Super Tuesday.

TV ads for both Clinton and Obama are up during news times. Obama apparently is dropping $250,000 on a Super Bowl ad. It had better be good. I've seen at least two Obama ads. One is a basic issues ad, one all but changes his last name to "Kennedy." Clinton's appear to be simply issue ads.

Clinton is also doing some smaller work, as if she was running for state rep or governor. Save Fitchburg Mansion has received two robocalls from Camp Clinton, and a mailer yesterday. From what I can remember, it's the first mailer ever from a presidential candidate I've gotten. Ever.

Anyway, this all leads back to the whole Massachusetts in Super Tuesday thing, and it's nice to be getting attention. I'm not sure it will hit the ad saturation of New Hampshire, although there are significantly fewer candidates. That said, an Obama ad just popped up on "The Price Is Right," so maybe we'll be tired of ads by Tuesday.

Clearly, while the Democratic race is up for grabs -- and is the fifth-biggest Dem primary of the day (I read that somewhere, but I forget where. That's we get for electing so many Democrats) -- the Republican race is generating little energy here. I haven't seen any ads in the last few days from either candidate.

It makes sense. The Democratic race seems to be the Main Event, and will likely not only bring in a lot of Dems, but will also draw heavy unenrolled numbers. That probably leaves a core of Republicans in that primary, and you have to think they are going to vote for Romney. Right? Polls last week had him firmly ahead, and with other big fish in the sea next Tuesday, it would be silly for McCain to devote (precious) resources to a state he probably won't win.