The Topline: To go or not to go: the White House question

Yesterday, Politico reported that President Trump still wants his good friend Robert Kraft to join his New England Patriots when they visit the White House to celebrate their 6th Super Bowl victory in 17 years. Kraft, of course, has recently been charged with soliciting prostitution at a day spa in Florida. (He has denied the charges and rejected a reported plea deal.) The charges against Kraft, and Trump’s reaction, have added another wrinkle to the Trump-Patriots nexus that many fans find uncomfortably close. Here in Massachusetts, dislike of Trump may only be matched by its reverie for the Patriots.

That tension is reflected in new MassINC Polling results, showing just a quarter of Massachusetts residents think the team should not go to the White House. Fewer (20 percent) think the team should go, and the plurality (49 percent) think it should be up to each individual player. (Note: this survey fielded before news broke of the charges against Kraft.)

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Perhaps unsurprisingly, there’s a partisan split to the results. A majority of Republicans (56 percent) think the team should go, while a majority of Democrats (52 percent) think it should be up to each individual player.

While Massachusetts is often called a deep blue state, there are pockets of it that vote red. A number of towns in Southeast Massachusetts, for instance, voted for Trump in 2016. When it comes to football, residents of this region are more likely to say the Patriots should visit the White House - 38 percent say so, compared with roughly 23-24 percent of residents in other regions.

Interestingly, the numbers look different in Central Massachusetts, the other conservative band of the state that voted for Trump. Roughly a quarter of residents think the team should go, 22 percent think the team should not go, and half say it should be up to each player. These splits are more similar to results in Boston and its suburbs, a region of the state that is deeply and reliably blue.

And what about that “all-important” sports demographic of men ages 18-44? Roughly a quarter of them (23%) think the team should not go. That figure ticks up to 30 percent when looking at men ages 18-29. But overall, regardless of age breaks, nearly half of men (and roughly half of women) think it should be up to each individual player.

Trump is upping the controversy even as he hopes to avoid another very public snub by a professional sports champion. Last year, enough players on the Philadelphia Eagles said they would not visit the White House that Trump cancelled the appearance hours before it was scheduled to happen. Earlier in 2018, the Golden State Warriors refused to celebrate their NBA Championship with Trump for the second year in a row. And back in 2017, the Patriots’ White House visit set off a media spectacle when fans pointed out how many fewer players seemed to be in the picture with Trump compared with Obama in 2015.

Thus far, three Patriots players - Duron Harmon, Devin McCourty, and Jason McCourty - have said they would not attend the White House if invited. Tom Brady, who skipped the 2017 visit but otherwise seems friendly with Trump, has refused to say whether he would attend this year or not.

Massachusetts residents, meanwhile, seem content to let each player decide for themselves. With spring training in full swing and both the Bruins and Celtics still in the running for playoffs, perhaps Bay State sports fans have turned their attention elsewhere. Besides, was the parade not enough?

by Maeve Duggan

Warren, Baker and the Electoral College

Closer to home, Senator Elizabeth Warren may be behind in some presidential primary polls, but she is leading the pack in proposing substantive policy. This week to threw her support behind abolishing the Electoral College. When asked about the idea, Governor Charlie Baker repeated his previous defense of the current arrangement: that deciding the election by the popular vote would lead to candidates only focusing on a few, populous states. MPG’s Steve Koczela wrote a critique of that argument when Baker first made it, just weeks after Trump was elected in 2016.  

The Horse Race keeps trotting

Both of the Electoral College and the Patriots White House invite feature prominently at the top of this week’s Horse Race podcast. This week we also have on Vicki McGrane of the Boston Globe to talk about a potential primary challenger for Senator Ed Markey, and CommonWealth’s Sarah Betancourt to explains the new immigration bill working its way through the Democratic Congressional caucus. Plus our newest segment: the Pony Express mail bag. Check out the latest episode and get caught up past weeks at Soundcloud.

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