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^ Charlie Baker with Emcee Baltazar at El Mundo’s 5th Annual hispanic Heritage Breakfast in boton last week

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It isn’t over yet, not by a long shot. Polls have Charlie Baker up by one to three points. My snse is that he’s ahead by more. But I also sense that his amrgin is peaking. Martha Coakley, buoyed by Michelle Obama’s visit, Baker’s Paid Sick Leave misfire, and by the overreaching PAC ad about her fighting the Children’s Defense Fund, has a campaign now, and it’s beginning to show.

Helping her as well is that the campaign has fully dived into mudpie mode. Demagogic, misreading, even palpably false ads are being dumped into the campaign by outside interest groups — do these folks have nothing better to offer than slime and scurrility ? — and one thing you can count that such ads will do ; make the opposition angry, driving up turnout and arousing passion among supporters of the person attacked.

Beyond their stink, the mudpie ads hurt Baker more than they damage Coakley. Until they appeared, Coakley had no campaign, almost no issues; nobody but her (very few) supporters wanted any part of her side. that has changed. The charges against her have given people a reason to come aboard and help. Even a blah candidate becomes sympathetic when unfairly ambushed.

That said, it’s very late in the election for Coakley to rev things up sufficiently to catch Baker, whose campaign has moved right along doing what it has been doing, targeting city voters and communities of color with a message optimistic, reformist, inclusive and — most o the time — all in on the social basics almost all of us subscribe to. It’s a plus to be so aggressively positove. Voters want to know (1) what you stand for and (20 how passionately committed you are to it. they also want to know that your commitkehts are, for the most patm theirs as well.

Charlue baker has done all that and continues to do it. his campaign is moving fast. In Boston, he continues to knock and expand the knocking. He’s busy on the North Shore, in the Framingham to Waltham corridor and — the real surprise, perhaps — in Springfield. That’s a lot to cover — and his running mate Karyn Polito is working just as hard in Worcester and in the Italian-voting regions north of boston Harbor — but, because Baker began the effort long ago, as of now he is revisiting places already visited. that’s what you want to be able to do once the election reaches its last month. it’s way too late to depend upon first-visit outreach.

On a first visit, a candidate is usually received politely; the voters are in meeting-you mode. For most, it’s the repeat visit that wins a vote. baker and Polito are making many re-visits in places where it counts. They will keep on doing it.

Meanwhile, Martha Coakley finds herself still in the foundation stage. All summer long she had to fight off a superior, but much less well known, Steve Grossman, and she did so not by taking the bold initiative but by playing the caution card. at orums she said as little as possible. She won her primary — narrowly, only because more articulate and bold Grossman lacked her universal name recognition — without rising to any occasion but itself.

Now she has to live with the consequneces pf her caution decisilon : at a time when she needs to be sewing up votes, she is having to do the introduction visits that Baker did months ago.

Coakley also lacks a coherent message. there is no drama in her campaign except what was given to it by the twisted Children’s Fund ad and bhy Michelle Obama’s visit. Baker’s campaign has a very coherent message — unleashing the power of small business and ramping up school performance to grow the economy — and the drama in his campaign arises from him alone. it is not imported.

Baker won’t win in a landslide; there are many issues on which his position is less cogent than Coakley’s — think labor matters especially, but also immigration receptivity. But if Baker continues moving at the relentless steady speed he now commands, Coakley will find herself a week or two behind him. This is not a recipe for victory.

and what is her campaign message ? It used to be “defending women’s health care rights” and was very clear nad understood by the voters,. But Baker has made it just as clear that he is all-in on women’s health care issues too. Baker has had some success with women voters thios past month, and quite a bit of “yes” from LGBT voters as well, as it has become clear that LGBT issues are personally important to him and not just a policy matter. Right now I do not see how Coakley beats Baker to the ten or so percent of voters who remain undecided.

She had better find lightning in a debate bottle. Either that, or mistakes by Baker — and he has made a few. All yrear long I have seen no lightning from Coakley. Legalese, yes. Light, not so much. The voters know the difference. It’s Baker’s election to lose.

—- Mike Freedberg / here and Sphere

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