Republicans are salivating over the possibility of a House pickup in the Bay State's coastal 10th congressional district, which runs from Quincy, just south of Boston, all the way to the tip of Cape Cod.
Republican State Representative Jeff Perry has a slight lead in the polls over former State treasurer Joe Malone for the Republican nomination. Malone has been a fixture in Massachusetts politics for two decades.
But the battle between these two runs deeper than this campaign. And involves presidential politics.
Over the years, Malone has been first to provide political jobs to a number of people who have become powerful in GOP politics. Many of those people endorsed former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in his 2008 presidential run. Most Republicans in Massachusetts backed Mitt Romney.
Joe Malone didn't.
So when Joe Malone endorsed Rudy Giuliani, a presidential wedge developed between Malone and several of his former staffers, including Beth Myers, who became Romney's national presidential campaign manager, and Eric Fehrnstrom, who was and has remained Romney's spokesperson.
Romney, most of his aides, and the Massachusetts Republican establishment are now backing Perry against Malone. Perry was also endorsed early on by Scott Brown, the Massachusetts phenom, who picked up Ted Kennedy's seat for Republicans earlier this year. Lately however, Brown has had less to say and shown less enthusiasm for Perry. Malone says its because Perry was not vetted sufficiently early on and has baggage.
"When he was with the Wareham Police he had to resign because there was a major scandal that he was involved with," Malone told Fox News, in a reference to a controversy involving strip searches of teenage girls when Perry was on the Wareham Police force. "On top of that he had a bogus degree from a college that he got in 28 days, on top of that he was rigging red lights to entrap motorists, innocent motorists, and now he's got this relationship with Venezuela dictator Hugo Chavez."
The Chavez connection refers to a Perry supporter named Ron Kaufman, the Bay State's Republican National Committeeman, who has been a fixture on the national GOP landscape for decades. Kaufman is a lobbyist in Washington, whose firm has represented oil interests from Venezuela, and therefore Chavez.
Kaufman was also a key supporter of Mitt Romney's 2008 presidential bid. Romney plans to campaign for Perry on Sept 10th, but Giuliani has scheduled an appearance two days earlier with Malone. America's Mayor will surely point out the Sept 11 anniversary that week, but the tough on crime former prosecutor will boost Malone by blasting Perry.
Giuliani has been very aggressive on the stump this year, in attacking the rivals of his preferred candidates nationwide. Two weeks ago in Florida, as part of his support for failed Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill McCollum, Giuliani cast Rick Scott (who won the nomination) as a fatally flawed, ethically and morally challenged candidate guaranteed to lose to Democrats in the fall.
Malone is counting on the same sort of rhetoric against Perry (though it didn't help McCollum). Perry accuses Malone and his supporters of desperation.
"This is a guilt by association thing," Perry told Fox News. "My closest primary opponent is throwing mud on this and a bunch of other things and fortunately for me, and unfortunate for him, people see through it. They see that he's losing in this race, he's far behind in the polls, he's far behind on money. He has no endorsements of any significance and so people understand what's going on its a negative campaign and its not gonna work."
Perry dismissed allegations of personal wrongdoing in the controversy of strip searched teenagers years ago. "One of the officers on my shift improperly searched a couple young girls." Perry said. "He was prosecuted, he was terminated, he was fired, and now my opponents try to do a guilt by association, trying to make me look bad as a supervisor."
Fox News' Sarah Courtney contributed to this report.