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^ polls show an absolute dead heat, but the advantage going forward is very much Baker’s

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Three new polls of the Governor campaign say the race is a dead heat. In one poll, Baker leads 48 to 46; in another, he’s behind, 41 to 39; and in today’s Boston Globe poll, he and Martha Coakley are tied at 41.

If you add the numbers in all three polls and then divide, you get Baker 43, Coakley 43, with about 6 percent choosing one of the minor candidates. That leaves eight percent — about 160,000 voters — still undecided.

Today, these voters appear to lean to Martha Coakley by about three to two : but that’s because Coakley even now has slightly better name recognition than Baker. He remains unknown by ten percent, Coakley only by three percent. By election day, that recognition gap will surely close, leaving Coakley probably no advantage at all among these 160,000 voters.

But that’s how things look right now. In fact, things won’t look like that by election day. Baker, say these polls, has recovered smartly from his bad last week and now enjoys, again, all of the favorable voter rating that he lost because of the outside, DCF-critical ad dumped on him by Children’s Defense Fund. When a candidate can recover all that he has lost, and do it so quickly — something rare in campaigns — he is in very good shape to increase his numbers a lot more.

Baker has on his side one huge positive and one equally big negative.

The negative is the multiple failures in state administration these past two years — and which the voters are very much aware of, as the new Boston Globe poll indicates. They attribute them to Deval Patrick — well meaning though he is, but, in many voters’ opinion, ineffectual.

The positive for Baker is his strong reputation for effective management — the precise reverse of how voters see the Patrick governorship. Together, these factors constitute Baker’s key argument : he can do the job and has already proven, in his business management record, that he can do it.

My feeling is that this argument will win the day unless Baker stumbles, or an outside pressure group muddies the race, as the Children’s Defense fund did, or both. Barring these disruptions, I think Baker’s “the job hasn’t been done, and I can do it” argument beats Martha Coakley’s remarkably content-free campaign.

So far, Martha Coakley’s campaign appears to rely on one task only : bringing back to her side the many Democrats who currently aren’t there. If she could do that, she would definitely win : Democrats total 36 percent of the state’s voters, much larger than the mere eleven percent that Baker can count on as a Republican. But right now, a full 25 percent of Democrats choose Baker. That too arises from a positive and a negative. the negative is that less than a quarter of activist Democrats wanted Coakley as their nominee. The positive is that Baker, like all recently successful Republican candidates for governor, isn’t really a party spokesman. Because the Massachusetts GOP is so small — because a full 82 percent of a Baker majority woUld come from voters who are not Republican, those Democrats who don’t like Coakley are quite free to vote Baker — like Bill Weld and Paul Cellucci before him (and even Mitt Romney, then), he’s a sort of non-party “Mr. Fix It” — because of what he is good at, without compromising their position as Democrats.

I’m sticking to my October 1st prediction : Baker wins by 2.5 to 3 points.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

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