BOSTON MAYOR : NATE SILVER-ING THE CONNOLLY-WALSH NUMBERS

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John Connolly — Marty Walsh ; time to prospect the numbers

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Enough polls have been taken of Boston’s Mayoral Final now that we can already conclude much about the race. By the numbers, taking the average of all five recent polls, John Connolly holds a lead of about 43.4 % to Marty Walsh’s 37.3 %. The remaining 19.7 % of voters say they’re undecided. The next ,most important statistic is how steady the two candidate’s support has been. Since the first Final polls appeared, Walsh has polled either 36 % or 37 %, with the exception of one poll that gave him 39 %; Connolly, meanwhile, has polled 44 % or 45 % since before the primary, although two of the five recent polls showed him backing to 41 and 40 % respectively. And in those two polls, his lost voters did not move to Walsh. They became undecided. Walsh’s okay performance in the first debate moved some, his endorsement by a platoon of well-known’s moved the rest — but as i said, not to him; only to undecided.

My former editor in chief at the Boston Phoenix, Peter Kadzis, says that the race is now all about Walsh; that Connolly is “holding on” — his words — and Walsh is moving ahead. I see it just the opposite. Connolly’s support seems consistent, unshakable. The question in the minds of the 55 to 60 % of voters not yet moving to Connolly is whether he really SHOULD be the next Mayor. They are either giving Walsh a second look or — more likely — just learning who he is and willing to hear more. that does not translate, in my mind, to “moving Walsh’s way.”

A closer look at the Globe poll’s numbers seems to weaken Kadzis’s argument. If the poll’s “leaners’ are added to the committeds, Connolly has 47%, Walsh 38% of the vote, with only 15% undecided. this is a significant gap. A candidate who is 9 points down with only 15% undecided practically has to win every undecided vote or else lose.

The poll also suggests that all the energy that Walsh put into winning his spate of endorsements hasn’t helped him much,. Though he gets Arroyo’s September voters by 15 to 9, and Barros voters 13 to 9, he loses Charlotte Golar-Richie voters 19 to 26. Winning his three endorsers; votes by 47 to 44 won’t cut it.

No poll yet done reflects Connolly’s commanding performance in the second debate, held two nights ago. My guess is that that debate moved a measurable chunk of the 14.7% undecideds to Connolly. Even if that is true, however, even if a new poll shows the race Connolly 46-50 and Walsh 37-40, the race is far from wrapped. This is not a presidential election, where almost every voter is sure to vote. many voters won’t bother unless they are TAKEN to the polls. Which means organization, a field army, as all pollsters take care to point out. Walsh is the field-army candidate. That his army may be mostly union activists is a problem impression for him to risk, but on election day that doesn’t matter. Even if the burliest union guy who ever snarled on a picket line shows up at your door to take you to the polls, you will go, because yes, you know it’s your duty to do so. And your almost uncast vote will count just as much as the most dedicated supporter’s.

How much is a dedicated field army worth ? In the many Boston city campaigns that I field-directed, each election day door-knocker could bring eight to ten voters to the polls, of whom maybe half would not have voted without that contact being made. The biggest precinct organization I ever worked with had about 16 people aboard. So, assuming all 16 do their job all day long, good “field’ can add about 64 votes to the total. Walsh probably can’t do much “field” in Wards 4, 5, and most of 3, but in the other 19 he can do plenty. They total 227 precincts. If all his “field people” do their job all day, they can add 227 x 64 = 14,528 votes to the total turnout. that equals about 9.5% of the likely final turnout number.

Of course his “field vote” WON’T total 14,528, for four reasons:

1.On Primary day his people already turned out almost all its vote, in walsh’s strongest precincts. There isn’t much new vote there to get.

2.Some voters whom “field people” bring to the polls don’t vote for that candidate. Not many, probably, but some.

3.All of Walsh’s field people can NOT “do their job” all day long. Traffic, missed communication, voters not answering the door — the fog of election war degrades even the finest field organization. From personal experience I can attest that if Walsh’s field works accomplish two thirds of their goal, they’ll have done well.

4.Connolly may not have a ready-made army of union activists, but he is hardly without committed, hard-working volunteers. Whatever vote Walsh people bring to the polls, Connolly can bring at least half that.

My conclusion ? Walsh can probably add about 8,000 votes to the total, Connolly 4,000. Which gives Walsh a net plus of 4,000 votes. that will likely be about 3 % of the total turnout.

in the Primary, of course, that 4,000 additional vote was good enough, with 12 candidates on the ballot and nobody having a huge number, to move Walsh past Connolly into first place. He managed slightly over 20,000 votes on that day. His field 4,000 comprised 20 % of it. No such bump will Walsh get on November 5th. If he is to win — and he well might — he will have to EARN it, not bring it.

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^ 1967 : Tony D’Arcangelo, who was John Sears’s East Boston guy in that campaign

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Melnea Cass : what Clayton Turnbull and the Black Ministers have been to John Connolly, she was to John Sears in 1967.

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^ John Sears, 1967 :much of what John Connolly is this year, he was in 1967.

POST SCRIPT : Is this 1967 again ? It seems that it is. Then we had a patrician urban reformer, John Sears — a Republican, even — running against the ultimate, South Boston Irish traditionalist, Louise Day Hicks. Sears did not win in the Primary — being a Republican hurt — but Kevin White, who did win, stepped right into Sears’s shoes. And what sort of voters did Sears command ? The young and well educated voters of Wards 3, 4, and 5; italian voters; and the black community. Does this look familiar ? Of course it does. John Connolly has John Sears’s vote, to which he has added his own Wards 19 and 20 and his mother’s home Ward 2 in Charlestown.

It almost amazes me to see how little has actually changed in Boston’s voting patterns and community alliances. The one thing that Has changed is the political party. in 1967, high-minded, education-oriented, parks and green, visionary urban reform was the hallmark of the Massachusetts Republican party — and still very much in power — as was the party’s solid connection to Italian voters and the Black Community (Melnea Cass, after whom the Boulevard was named, was a pillar of 1960s Black Boston — and was, in those days of senator Ed Brooke, a Republican state Committeewoman very active in the Sears campaign.) Today, the policy and community descendants of the 1967 Republican party are almost all Democrats : Obama Democrats, in fact. But then, is Barack Obama himself not precisely the educated, urban, high-minded reformer who would have been that kind of Republican two generations ago ?

— Micahel Freedberg / Here and Sphere

Author: hereandsphere

Here and Sphere is an online journal of news, opinion, reviews, advice, & bits n' pieces of everything else - from HERE to SPHERE...... Co-founded by Michael Freedberg, a long-time Boston Phoenix journalist, and Heather Cornell, a South Coast Massachusetts columnist and editor.

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