Full apologies to former President Bush on the title of this posting...
With five months remaining to the November fireworks, here is some some unsolicited advice for each of the campaigns. All of this is strategic - I will offer tactical advice closer to election day.
Governor Patrick, you have nailed down your base of liberals in the leafy suburbs, Cambridge, and the Happy Valley. The trouble is that around 55% of voters wish that there would be a governor without the surname of Patrick taking the corner office in January of 2011. Your unwavering voter base is probably 30-35% of the electorate and that is too close for comfort in a three way race. You need to bump your totals into the low to mid 40s (all of this assumes that Cahill remains in the race of course) to win with enough of a margin for comfort and any claim of a mandate (mandate will be a stretch for any of these candidates) to take into your second term.
You need to do three things:
Actuate the minority vote in the cities of Boston, Lowell, Brockton, Fall River, Worcester, Springfield, etc. Call you friend Barrack to do a campaign swing at the end of October (it didn't help Martha Coakley, but should help Patrick).
Try to persuade some moderate Democrats and suburban independents - many of these folks voted for Scott Brown, but Charlie Baker does not (at least not yet) have the charisma or appeal that Brown had for these folks. Cahill may have some appeal as a perceived outsider (who is really an insider) with this group, but Patrick may be able to get some of these folks to (grudgingly) vote for him - if only for the D next to his name.
Define Charlie Baker as an elite and out of touch health insurance executive (already well underway). A prime benefit of all the contention with insurance premium capping for small group employers is that it doubly serves Patrick as a political cudgel to beat Baker along with portraying the Governor as fighting for the little guy. This has been and continues to be a smart strategy. Baker is still not known by half of the electorate. Patrick will be happy to introduce Baker by slamming him in the press at every opportunity and creating a negative perception for those who do not know Baker. Negative campaigning works folks, otherwise candidates would not spend gobs of money to produce negative ads. Instill enough doubt about Baker so that he does not become a reasonable alternative...
Oh yes, hope and pray that the economy improves so you can claim credit!
Charlie Baker, you start with the advantage of having a lot of money banked to counter Patrick's anticipated negative campaign and have a window to define yourself. Additionally you have the advantage of having experience in both the government and private sectors. Also, you can be personally engaging and the Republican voters in the state seem to like you and will show up in November. The trouble is that you have been stuck around 30% in the polls and need to start moving before Patrick defines you. This is what the Prof suggests you ought to do:
Define yourself - now! I am mystified by the seeming passivity of the Baker campaign thus far. Baker needs to tell his story and become known to the voters if he has a hope of winning this. Of course he is going to do this, but I am puzzled by why the campaign is waiting to do this in earnest. If he waits too long, he will lose the opportunity.
Show some fight. Voters who are upset with the status of the state (a majority) will respond much better to a candidate who shows outward passion and grit. I think Baker is concerned about being portrayed as negative, but he can show some fight without being negative or "unbecoming" (apologies to Governor Romney). Give voters a reason to support you - you have to show some fight to also demonstrate that you will stand up to the state legislature.
Go after Patrick - ignore Cahill. Taking him down was a smart strategy, but you need to start wooing his voters (ironically the former Democrat is running to your right). Go after the support of conservative Democrats who have been flirting with Cahill, but if he is not seen as viable these folks may be up for grabs.
Tim Cahill, you have the toughest job of the three candidates. The attack ads form the Republican Governors Association and some negative press in the Globe has cut your poll numbers nearly in half. Worse yet, while you have a couple of million dollars in the bank, raising more funds is going to be next to impossible unless you can show some viability immediately.
Make some buzz now! Traditionally third party candidates fade and actually draw fewer votes than they poll (the wasted vote syndrome). Cahill needs to get back in the game right now and can do so by creating buzz of some sort that will get him press attention. Announce something big that would radically reform state government - maybe pension reform as many voters can see this problem with the current pension system in pretty stark terms.
Go after Governor Patrick, ignore Baker. If Patrick can be taken down to 35% and this becomes a three-way race again you have a fighting chance to claw your way back in. Let Patrick and Baker destroy each other with attack ads - stay above the fray. If you can get back into this race and raise money there is a path to victory, albeit a very tenuous one.
Hopefully my advice is sage (at least it is free!)