Saturday, October 30, 2010

New polling - Gov. Race closing...

The last Rasmussen poll of 750 likely voters shows some possible momentum for Baker over the past week.

Patrick 46%
Baker 44
Cahill 6
Stein 2

A StateHouse News poll of likely voters conducted last week also showed a three point Patrick advantage.

Below is the updated chart of the Rasmussen polling since last March.

All of the polls have shown the race to be tied factoring in the margin of error. However, bear in mind that Patrick has had a consistent lead throughout, but also that the polls have also showed some tightening over the past week. Baker may have a bit of momentum as his final debate performance was better, although Patrick has remained nearly mistake-free throughout this campaign.

Patrick has been running very well among his base of liberals, voters with post-graduate educations, urban voters, younger voters, and is doing well among females where has holds a ten point lead. Baker is faring well among Independents (a 15 point lead, but he needs to get more of them to win), has a substantial lead among male voters, and is doing well in regions where Scott Brown did back in January.

However, in recent days Patrick has mentioned that he is open to considering tax increases which Baker has pounced on with new ads that will be running all weekend. I would think Patrick's handlers must have been beside themselves that Patrick would talk of this during the final week of a close campaign.

Typical of third party candidates such as Cahill is that they usually fade as many voters who may have been initially sympathetic want to vote for candidates who have a realistic chance of winning at the end of the day. Cahill may do well in his hometown of Quincy (where some speculate that he may run for Mayor), but I doubt if he will end with more than 5% of the total vote.

My assessment (for today) is that this is a very close race, but Patrick retains a slight advantage. I will post my final predictions on Monday.

Things to expect over the next 72 hours...

This is now a pure turnout game with the campaigns working to motivating their base vote and getting them to show up on Tuesday. Both candidates will be running advertising, placing calls to individual voters, and crisscross the state holding rallies in their key areas.

Baker will be focusing on areas that went big for Scott Brown in the 495 suburbs along with Worcester County, the North and South Shores, and the Cape. He is also going to be working on blue collar communities (Lowell, Worcester) to try to attract conservative Democrats. His challenge is that his campaign has not been exactly "inspiring". He has to keep framing this as a discussion of continuing the status quo (Patrick) or to embrace change (Baker) and to motivate and convince voters who are upset with the current direction of the state, tax increases, and the frustrating lack of reform. He has to show himself as the only alternative.

Patrick will focus in his urban bases of Boston, Fall River/New Bedford, Middlesex County, and liberal Western Massachusetts. Much of his pitch will be to motivate progressives in the leafy suburbs along with female voters who are favorably inclined to his reelection. Patrick needs to continue capitalizing on the perceptions that he is a calm and reasonable leader and that Baker would be the wrong direction to go for those who value human services and a compassionate government.

72 hours and counting...

The Prof

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Patrick maintains lead going into the final stretch

Just a short post this evening - the latest Rasmussen survey of 750 likely voters (taken Oct. 16-17) shows the following:

Patrick 47%
Baker 42
Cahill 6
Stein 1
Undecided 3

Yes, I know that this is within the margin of error BUT...after seeing a slew of polls all showing Patrick with a 4-6 point leads, I believe that this is pretty close to where the actual electorate would vote, providing the election was held today. Baker can still turn this around (look for some Hail Mary's to shake up the race) over the next 12 day, but he needs to turn the momentum around. Note that only a few voters are still undecided, but the soft supporters for any candidate can still be turned.

Patrick looks to be on his way to a close reelection - provided he goes mistake free over the next several days and has a decent GOTV program. He has run a positive and professional campaign and this aided by Baker's not defining himself early (like last spring) and the Cahill/Baker squabble has enabled him to run as the happy reformer and stay out of the muck. His numbers are still poor in terms of overall approval, but Baker needs to give folks a reason to vote for him. Being the anti-Patrick is not going to be enough.

Baker is finally running some good contrast ads - we'll see if they are enough to keep Patrick from sealing the deal.

In his latest ads Patrick continues to instill doubts regarding Baker's stewardship of Harvard-Pilgrim. This may be effective as HMOs are not well regarded by the voting public and I am sure Patrick's campaign has data that backs this up.

A lot can happen and this is far from over - but I am upping the odds for Patrick from 60% to 65% likelihood for reelection.

Onwards (to Nov.2)!!

The Prof

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Polling models - why do they vary?

More polling data is out in the wake of the Cahill debacle of the past two weeks.

Suffolk University poll - October 14
Patrick 46
Baker 39
Cahill 10
Stein 1

The results suggest that Patrick has indeed helped his own position by remaining above the Baker-Cahill fray. Patrick is enjoying an 11 point lead over Baker among female voters (male voters are essentially splitting between them) and has amassed a large lead in the urban core around Boston and liberal Western Massachusetts.

The bad news for Baker is that he simply is not getting much momentum and the polling suggests that Patrick is drawing enough of former Cahill adherents to maintain his lead.

Patrick continues to struggle though with high (44%) disapproval ratings. I think that he is heading toward a narrow victory due to him being a good campaigner with strong base support and Charlie Baker just hasn't caught fire.

Interestingly, there is an Opinion Dynamics poll out last week as well that is showing Baker with a five point lead. (37% to 32%) over Patrick However, I am waiting for the next Rasmussen poll as I find their methodology to be closest to the actual vote. They use a model that seems to be very reflective of reality and really gets at voter intensity and motivation as those are key turnout components.

One thing that all (except for the Opinion Dynamics poll) of these polls are showing is a consistent Patrick lead of 4 to 7 points. Consistency over time is an indication that the polling is indeed correct.

Any reputable poll has a model for turnout - in other words, an educated guess as to what the voter demographics and turnout rate will be on election day. This is drawn from past elections and current trends and is very open to different interpretations. For example if a pollster believes that rural and suburban independents will turn out in high numbers and urban voters will have an average turnout - advantage Republicans. If the model shows a high big city turnout the Democratic candidates will benefit. The polling reflects the assumptions that pollsters make. They do make mistakes of course as in a close race like this one, just a little turnout variation can produce results that are contradictory to the polls.

Who shows up on Nov. 2 in Massachusetts? Will it be the Tea Party activists looking to kick out incumbents or are public employee unions showing up to uphold the Democratic Party dominance? This is why the advertising is so intense along with phone banks. It's all about GOTV (get out the vote) at this stage of the game. Who has a better ground game in a close race like this will likely remain victorious.

My money is still on Patrick and I give him 60/40 odds on winning on Nov. 2- but Baker still has a window to catch him. However, it is closing by the day and Baker needs to get the Cahill distraction behind him and get back on track and on message. The endorsement he received from former Democratic AG Tom Reilly may be the start of this.

16 days to go - time is short!!


The Prof

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Wild week!!

This past week has been one of the most intense that I ever seen in my years of analyzing Massachusetts politics. Lets re-visit this ongoing train wreck:

Reacting to Lt. Gov. candidate's Paul Loscocco's switch (defection) to the Baker camp along with other top operatives, Tim Cahill in addition to publicly calling this a "backroom deal" filed a lawsuit against his former allies last week. The suit alleges that they had divulged confidential material to Baker from Cahill's campaign. In reaction Cahill's former chief consultant, John Weaver is counter-charging that the Massachusetts State Lottery (run by Cahill as the sitting State Treasurer) is running ads designed to boost Cahill's standing which runs afoul of campaign laws.

In a further twist, on Friday Loscocco alleged collusion between Cahill's and Governor Patrick's media people to coordinate negative attack ads on the Baker campaign. Thus far the allegations are unsubstantiated.

OK, my head is spinning too! Conventional wisdom has been stood on its head and it is hard to determine right now how all of this affects the eventual outcome, 24 days hence. Who knows what next week will bring as allegations and counter-charges are likely to continue flying.

As for the two candidates who have any business thinking that they can win it is certainly a distraction at best and a crippling blow at worst for Baker. This sucks the oxygen out of his message of reform and lower taxes as he has to react to Cahill's broadsides. As I predicted last week, Cahill now appears to be concentrating on playing a spoiler and seems to be singularly focused on preventing Baker from winning.

Governor Patrick thus far has remained above this fray and is benefiting as seeming to be above this destructive Baker-Cahill battle which will not endear either of them to increasingly disgruntled and cynical electorate. The danger for Patrick is that if any documentation comes to light that there was any coordination between his campaign and Cahill's that it may result in political rigor mortis for the already unpopular incumbent. His strategy rests on the anti-Patrick vote (around 55% to 60%) being split.

What happens here remains to be seen. I still think the physics of this campaign continue to favor Patrick. Rasmussen should have new polling out this week which will establish any new trends. When it is published there will be some idea of what affects the last couple of weeks have yielded.


The Prof

Friday, October 1, 2010

Camp Cahill's Chaos Continues

hmmm - the title of this post sounds like something Howard Cosell may have said...

Tim Cahill's campaign continues its implosion. This is like an accident where the cars continue to pile up - even when you think it can't get much worse.

This morning Lt. Gubernatorial candidate and Cahill running mate Paul Loscocco unexpectedly withdrew from the race and very publicly endorsed Charlie Baker. Loscocco emphasized that Cahill's candidacy was only helping Deval Patrick by splitting the considerable anti-Patrick sentiment.

Cahill dashed any speculation that he was leaving the race and vowed to fight it out until the end. The $750,000 in state matching campaign funds that he received this week will help him stick around for the next 31 days.

I think it is interesting gaming the motivation that compels Cahill to stay in the race after the departure of Loscocco, Cahill's campaign manager, and a top campaign strategist. I see several possible scenarios unfolding:

Scenario I - Cahill fights to the bitter end and runs equally hard at both Patrick and Baker in terms of advertising and message. This keeps him viable if he decides to launch another statewide run in 2012 or 2014. 40%

Scenario II - Cahill runs almost exclusively against Baker reprising Christy Mihos' campaign in 2006. This would be payback for the Republican Governors Association's ad campaign that has raised Cahill's negatives. However, it would damage his credibility as a truly independent outsider. 50%

Scenario III - Cahill drops out of the race prior to Nov. 2 possibly endorsing Patrick. Republicans would then be able to yell "I told you he was a straw - the fix is in!" 10%

Scenario IV - Cahill drops out and endorses Baker (NOT Happenin'!) 0%

The not-so-stealth attempt by Baker and his allies to knock Cahill out of this race has not succeeded, but it has seriously compromised his candidacy. Today may be seen as one of those moments where even the most optimistic Cahill supporters became convinced that it simply is not going to happen this year.

This is truly a shot in the arm for the somewhat underperforming Baker candidacy and will be keeping Patrick's advisers up at night since this may turn it into the two-person race that could be devastating to Deval's hopes of a second term. I have noted that Patrick's campaign is calling this a backroom deal and is openly courting Cahill voters - which included the Governor doing some impromptu bar tending in Cahill's hometown of Quincy today.

The most recent Rasmussen poll has Patrick up by about six points in the three way race (sorry Jill Stein, but you won't get any more than 2 or 3 points at the end of the day). Cahill supporters seem evenly divided among the top two candidates if asked what they would do if they had to choose Patrick or Baker.

However, my political instincts tell me that Charlie would benefit more than Deval from any drop in Cahill's support. These are disillusioned voters who are not happy with the status quo and Baker would be the only other candidate representing change. Of course some are die-hard Democrats who would not vote for a Republican and some will not vote at all without Cahill as an option. But it seems that both Baker and Patrick are viewing it this way - at least their campaigns are behaving as such.

Fasten your seat belts and if the campaign keeps up like this, tighten your straitjacket!


The Prof