It may be optimism borne of desperation. The numbers, along with tradition, go against them, showing that only 12 percent of the state's 3 million registered voters are Republicans. So does the fact that the state GOP has so far failed to capitalize on President Reagan's coattails at the height of his popularity; and that it is losing another chance to win over traditional Democratic voters with former Gov. [Edward J. Markey]. King's decision not to run as a Republican against [Michael Dukakis].
"Because we have no constitutional offices, the symbolic role of the Republican Party falls even heavier on the shoulders of Republican legislators. I don't know how seriously they take it," says one Republican activist who did not want to be named. The state GOP is also still fighting its image as an exclusive club for the Yankee Brahmin. However, with [Ray Shamie]'s 1984 primary defeat of Elliot Richardson, that picture is fading, and now Republicans talk about being the party for the ethnics. State Rep. Richard Tisei (R- Wakefield), who at age 23 is the youngest Republican ever elected to the House and another Republican who defeated a Democrat for an open legislative seat, says that voters were shocked to learn his age, the fact that he is Italian and that he is a Republican.
There are indications that the national GOP is paying some attention to Massachusetts, long the GOP'S stepchild. The national committee poured money into Shamie's campaign, as well as giving help to Methuen lawyer Greg Hyatt, who ran a strong but losing race against US Rep. Chester G. Atkins (D-Mass). "Massachusetts is just a great area for us. They state Republicans are facing the soldiers of liberalism, marching down the way. We're getting young Republican minutemen involved," says Brian Berry, press spokesman for the Young Republican National Federation in Washington.