Swift Faces Tough Challenge in Mass. Gubernatorial Battle

When Massachusetts State Treasurer Shannon O'Brien jumped into the race for governor this week, she took on an opponent much like herself — a well-known working mother.

O'Brien, a Democrat, is running against the Republican Acting Governor Jane Swift, the state's first female governor — and the only one in the country ever to give birth while in office — to twins no less. Appointed after former Gov. Paul Cellucci was tapped to be U.S. ambassador to Canada, Swift enjoyed 75 percent approval ratings following the birth of her twins. But since then, it's been downhill.

"Jane Swift's made every possible mistake. She's picked fights instead of fixing problems. And as a result, her poll numbers have gone right down the chute," said Mary Anne Marsh, a Democratic consultant.

State GOP insiders are reported to be considering asking Swift to back out of the race to make room for more popular Republicans like Olympic organizer Mitt Romney.

"Swift is literally on the wrong side of every issue people in Massachusetts care about," Marsh said.

A case in point was when Swift, an opponent of gay civil unions, chose an openly gay supporter of unions as her running mate. She backed a tax cut that a majority in the state voted against, followed by an unpopular hike in turnpike tolls for commuters — many of whom constitute her Republican base.

Howie Carr regularly publicizes Swift's activities on his national radio show — everything from her using state employees as babysitters to taking a state helicopter to avoid Thanksgiving traffic.

"I fear she'll continue to run for Governor and she'll be crushed in November, probably by a margin of 2 - 1," Carr said.

Carr said voters think Shannon O'Brien is a safer bet. As the state treasurer, O'Brien is anything but a political rookie.

"Shannon, although she's — you'll excuse the expression — a girl, she's one of the good old boys."

There are two men in the governor's race also — former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich and State Senate President Tom Birmingham. But political analysts say its Swift and O'Brien who make it most newsworthy. If one of them wins it will be another state first — the highest elected office ever held by a woman.