Sunday, June 27, 2010 poll shows race tightening

Hot of the presses...the Boston Globe through the UNH Survey Center released a poll showing better news for Charlie Baker, caution for Deval Patrick, and troubling results for Tim Cahill.
Baker is holding in the low thirties which is not bad for a candidate with nearly half of the public still not knowing who he is (message to Charlie, keep spending on those ad buys). Being a relatively unknown commodity can cut both ways. The danger for Baker as I have been stating all along is that if Patrick succeeds in defining him and driving up his negatives than he will lose. Amazingly, 40% of registered Republicans said they did not know enough about him to form a favorable opinion.

Baker's best news is the steep drop for Cahill. This is also reflected in the Rasmussen polling and many of these anti-establishment voters will more likely than not turn to Baker. Cahill's support is cratering and is approaching what third party candidates typically garner come election time which is less than 10% of the vote. Evidently, the barrage of negative ads targeting Cahill had an effect (yes, negative ads are very effective if done the right way). I don't see how Cahill can recover as his negatives are heading up and his loss of support will enforce the perception that he can't win and that a vote for him will be a wasted vote. He needs to act immediately to counter this - waiting until September will be too late!

MA is on the:
Right Track 40%
Wrong Track 49%

Deval Patrick continues to rely on committed Democrats and liberals to maintain a base in the high 30s/low 40s. He needs Cahill to rebound, otherwise he will likely lose if this becomes a two person race. Any incumbent with negatives outweighing approval has to have some outside factors intervening if they hope to win. If this is an up or down referendum on Patrick, he is more likely than not to come out on the losing end of this. The right track/wrong track numbers are scary indeed for Patrick supporters.

Independents, the KEY swing voter bloc in Massachusetts are currently breaking 35% to Baker, 30% to Patrick, and 12% to Cahill. Baker needs to garner at least 50% of these voters. Patrick has to continue to pull in liberal voters who consider themselves to be independents.

Regionally, Baker is showing strength in the areas of the state where Republicans typically have a base of support in the outer suburbs, Central, and Southeastern pats of Massachusetts. As expected, Patrick is doing well in the Metro Boston area and in Western Massachusetts.

I don't expect either candidate to win by more than a few points. Patrick can't get to 50% (at least not yet) and Baker can't either - especially as long as Cahill in the race. One other note - will Green Parity candidate Jill Stein be able to siphon off a percent or two of liberals who would otherwise vote for Patrick and hand the election to Baker? Baker still needs to perform and find his inner Scott Brown to close this deal. He has four months to do so.

Let the games continue - Onwards!

The Prof

Saturday, June 26, 2010

T Minus Four Months (and a little more)

New Rasmussen polling shows some positives for Charlie Baker, but he is still the underdog in this race. While he has crept closer to Patrick over the past month, bear in mind that the movement in the numbers since May are still within the 4.5% margin of error. While this makes for a good headline for Baker it does not signify (yet) any significant movement.

One positive for Baker is that his recent positive ads showing his "non-corporate" side may be contributing to his upward trend in favorability. It is a good start, but he has to keep it up throughout the summer.

Patrick remains stuck in the low 40s. If I were Patrick, I would begin each day by thanking Tim Cahill for being in this race. Is Christy Mihos from 2006 being channeled here?

The fact that Tim Cahill is at 16% and Patrick's negatives are at 50% show that Cahill is likely draining some of the anti-Patrick sentiment that Baker desperately needs. I think the key to this race is Cahill's final vote tally. If he takes 8% of the vote with Patrick topping out around 43% (probably Patrick's ceiling baring unforeseen events down the road) would leave Baker with 42%. Note that I am not including Green party candidate Jill Stein in this analysis - when we do get some polling numbers with her in the race it will likely take a bit off of Patrick's numbers.

Bottom line - until Labor Day, any polls taken now are directional at best. I think that the outcome in November will rest with the state of Massachusetts' economic conditions as the Governor's approval is tied in large part to the perceptions of the status of the economy.
The Prof

Saturday, June 5, 2010


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!)


The Prof