Charlie Baker will win the governorship in a close race. Contrary to my earlier thinking, I see Martha Coakley blowing her second big election in a row. She has run a relatively poor campaign and has not sealed the deal, even with a a sizable portion of Democrats. Baker also needs to be credited with running a disciplined and largely mistake-free campaign.
Baker's narrative about needing a counterweight to the Democratic majorities on Beacon Hill has indeed resonated and was a smart play for Baker. On policy, he has inoculated himself from the very toxic tea party wing of the GOP (note on social issues, he is running well left of center) and Coakley has not been able to tie him effectively to the national GOP. This is not for lack of trying (nearly every ad refers to REPUBLICAN Charlie Baker), but the ads have not been moving the needle enough to redefine Baker.
On fiscal issues, Baker is likely more in step with voters and the polling suggests that voters see Coakley as more apt to raise taxes. On the hot button issue of drivers licenses for illegals, Baker probably is with the majority of voters. Coakley has many policy views more in step with the public (expanding paid sick leave for example), but they simply are not resonating this year. Baker's overall negatives are still fairly low and this demonstrates that attack ads did not have their intended effects. Ironically, Baker's attack ads on Coakley may have had their desired effect as her negative and positive ratings are about even.
One surprise is that the gender gap does not appear to be swamping Baker (my earlier blogging about the power of the sisterhood may be turned on its head in this case). Indeed, polling is showing that Coakley is suffering her own gender gap and seems to be losing the male vote by nearly 10 points while winning the female vote by only seven points
I maintain that Coakley has run a relatively poor campaign throughout (snatching defeat from the jaws of victory given the state party demographics) and this reinforces a perception that she will not be a strong performer in the corner office. She is losing nearly a quarter of registered Democrats - unforgivable in a partisan atmosphere (lukewarm endorsements from her defeated rivals have not helped). She is responsible for this, although the media certainly amplifies and reinforces these perceptions.
Keys to Election Night
- Watch the margins in urban areas. If Coakley is winning cities such as Boston and Lynn by less than 20 points, she is in trouble. Baker has worked hard to expand his outreach in inner cities and minority communities. He does not aim win these areas, merely to lessen the losses. In 2012, Elizabeth Warren beat Scott Brown by over 40 points in large cities. Coakley needs to come close to that margin.
- Central Massachusetts and the South Shore - long two of the GOP's key regions, Baker needs to run up big wins here to mitigate an expected large loss in Middlesex County, especially along the Route 2 corridor.
- Bell-weather communities that tend to mirror the state such as Waltham and Gardner may set early indications for how the evening will turn out. (update bellweather polls in Waltham and Gloucester give Baker a minute lead....this will be a CLOSE race)
- Turnout - does the Democratic machine get its voters out? If so, this may erase the current polling lead that Baker seems to be enjoying.
Other Statewide Races
- Seth Moulton beats Richard Tsei in a close race (less than five points) in the 6th district. If Tsei was running against Tierney, it would have been a certain GOP pickup, but the Massachusetts Republicans will retain their dubious 0-9 record in Congress-bound races...
- Ditto on the other statewide races. Incumbent senator Ed Markey easily defeats Brian Herr for US Senate and all of the Democrats running for statewide constitutional offices win by at least ten points each. Up and coming Attorney General To Be Maura Healy may win by close to 40 points.
- One bright spot for the GOP is that they will improve their anemic membership in the state legislature, as they are currently outnumbered by the Democrats who have 85% of state legislative seats.
- Ballot Questions
- Question 1 on ending the indexing of the gas tax to inflation loses due to its poor wording.If it was worded in a more understandable manner, polling shows that it would bass easily.
- Question 2 on expanding the bottle law will lose by a wide margin, probably 60-40.
- Question 3 which would ban casinos will lose as well, but the margin will be less than ten points.
- Question 4 on expanding sick leave passes 60-40 or more.
The Republicans probably will take the Senate with a host of pickups in red states. The GOP is fortunate as many of the Senate races happen to be in states that President Obama lost in 2012. They are also fortunate to generally have strong candidates and will not be throwing away victories due to poor quality candidates similar to what occurred in 2010 and 2012. However, as Louisiana and Georgia have runoffs if no one candidate attains 50% on Tuesday, we may not know for sure until those runoffs which would be held in December. President Obama's toxic ratings (he is even under 50% favorability in true blue Massachusetts) will help the GOP takes several Democratic seats, notably in Arkansas, Montana, West Virginia, and Iowa.
I will go out on a limb and predict that Scott Brown beats Jeane Shaheen in New Hampshire in a race decided by about 1% of the vote. But I wouldn't bet more than a nickle either way on this. (update - Bellweather poll in Manchester and Epping shows Shaheen with a lead in these key communities - I retract the Brown prediction...if this is true...)
Post election wrap-up later in the week. Oh, now less than 60 days until 2015 and the presidential invisible primary will be well underway. Yes, I am smiling at the prospect!