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Though the new Boston Globe poll has Charlie Baker slightly behind Martha Coakley, at 39 percent to 36 percent, an examination of its details actually forecasts a Baker victory by a very narrow margin.

i say this not because I am supporting Baker — though I am — but because that’s how I see it. By almost any of the poll’s measures — and it offers plenty — the two major candidates stand almost even, but Baker slightly more favorably viewed. Let’s look at the poll particulars :

Agrees with me on the issues; Baker and Coakley both at 36 percent.

On the issues viewed as “very important” by most voters, creating jobs and fiscal responsibility, Baker beats Coakley 42 to 27 and 45 to 27.

On the two issues viewed as “very important’; by a smaller number of voters — improving education in public schools and ensuring high quality health care, coakley beats Baker 40 to 25 and 41 to 26.

On standing up to the legislature, Baker beats Coakley 37 to 31.

These measures project Baker to a narrow win, and so do the poll’s measures of favorability. On “bringing fresh ideas and perspective, Baker beats Coakley 44 to 27; and on personal likeability, Baker is viewed favorably by 44 perceht, unfavorably by 25, while Coakley is viwed favorably by 38 percent but unfavorably by 41 percent.

There is very little time for Coakley to change the way voters see this election, and she has much less money to do it than Baker has on hand to keep the story going. As of September 15th, Baker enjoyed a six to one cash on hand advantage.

19 percent of our state’s voters remain undecided. To get the narrow victory projected, Baker will have to win those undecideds by four points : 11.5 to 7.5. Can he do it ? About 20 percent of these identify as Democrats. Coakley currently loses one-quarter of Democrats to Baker, so I will award her 2.8 of these voters and Baker 1. The rest are “independents.” Baker is winning these voters by about two to one, so of that 15.2 percent I award him a 10.1 to 5.1 win.

These allocations give election day to Baker by 47.1 to 46.9.

Will the election really be THAT close ? A margin of only 4,00 votes ? I expect an actual margin a bit larger : because of Baker’s money advantage and the vast number of his individual donors — a number that continues to grow stronhly, and because he can press his precarious advantage for six more weeks. Here his lead on “standing up to the legislature;” and on “fresh ideas and perspective’ should make a difference. Massachusetts usuallly elects non-Democratic governors because the legislature is so overwhelmingly Democratic that the only way we can have a discussion of policy and administration is to have a non-Democrat in the governor’s office. It’s why we elected Bill Weld, Paul Cellucci, and even Mitt Romney (whom we tend to forget achieved the nation’s first universal health care law). The state simply works more effectively when that’s how things break at the State House.

It’s a point that, in the debates, baker’s forceful confidence and voiced perspective can fully command. That, plus Baker’s dogged campaigning in the city of Boston, almost as intense, precinct to precinct, as the mayoral campaigns of last year. If Baker does win by two points, his hoped-for 40 percent share of Boston’s 175,000 votes could well be that difference. (And what if Baker even does better than 40 in Boston ? What then for Coakley ?)

My guess is that Baker’s Boston campaign and the governance issue are worth every bit of two points on election day. Yet even a one point shift gives Baker a 48.1 to 45.9 win, a margin of 44,000 votes. That is a small margin indeed with two million voters voting, but it’s hardly unprecedented in our recent governor elections.

The Coakley campaign intends to blanket the state with late advertising whichy will probably remind voters that in 2010, Baker ran a very negative campaign that he has, fortunately, completely cast aside this time. My guess : this ad blast won’t change things much. Those voters who remember the 2010 campaign are more active politically than those who don’t, and politically active people have already made up their minds about who should be governor. Meanwhile, Baker began this campaign unknown by a full 30 oercent of this year’s voters. His 2010 campaign means nothing to them.

And let us not forget that Coakley also has a political past, one that activists have not liked at all and which is at least partly responsible for her favorability weakness today. Coakley brings up the political past at great risk to herself.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

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