Hmm: Governor’s Race in Left-leaning Massachusetts Surprisingly Close

Posted: Sep 22, 2014 2:45 PM

Could Republicans finally wrestle control of the governorship from Democrats in Massachusetts? If these two recent polls are any indication, the answer is ‘yes.’

WBZ-TV’s Jon Keller, for his part, argues in his column today that although the odds are firmly stacked in Martha Coakley’s favor, he doesn’t necessarily rule out the possibility of an upset:

That’s two polls in a row showing the race for Governor of Massachusetts in a virtual dead heat. And while matching polls in September don’t prove much with the meat of the campaign still ahead, it wouldn’t surprise me if those results were right on target for the moment.

As the Democratic nominee in a state that has elected only three Republicans to statewide office in the last 20 years, you’d expect Martha Coakley to be a frontrunner in this race, and that may still happen. Massachusetts Democrats know how to organize and get out the vote, as does organized labor.

Add in the frustration many women feel about the state’s failure to ever elect a female governor and you’ve got a path to victory for Coakley that is easier than Charlie Baker’s.

But there are circumstances under which a Republican can win here.

There sure are. You’ll recall that many Democrats believed Coakley would be the next U.S. Senator from Massachusetts in 2010. That...didn't happen. Amazingly, after boasting an enormous early lead in the polls, she lost the “Kennedy seat” to a little-known Republican state lawmaker named Scott Brown. Some later questioned whether she was the right candidate for the job; perhaps some are even asking the same kind of questions today.

Nevertheless, Keller points out that many voters are not necessarily disenchanted with Coakley, per se, but with the Democratic Party establishment. “A solid 40% tell pollsters the state is going in the wrong direction,” he wrote in his Monday op-ed.

This gives outsider Charlie Baker some grounds for optimism. Whether he can channel that inner optimism into an effective campaign message, however, remains to be seen.