The Topline: Left turn ahead? Team Baker looks to reshape coalition for re-election bid.
As Charlie Baker accelerates toward his re-election season, he may have just flipped on his left blinker. If the strategy he shared with donors in a recent meeting is any indication, his campaign may be an even more cross-partisan affair than his governing has been. The Boston Globe reports that in a meeting of his finance committee, “the governor said he must draw nearly a third of Democrats and almost 60 percent of independents.”
If Baker were to win a third of Democrats, it would be a legitimate political earthquake. That would represent nearly twice as big a share of Democrats as Republicans have gotten in recent contests. The target for Democratic support may have been set high, just like the reported goal of raising a staggering $30 million for the 2018 bid. In 2014, Baker won just 18 percent of Democrats in his winning bid, almost identical to Senator Scott Brown’s 17 percent in his 2010 special election. Win or lose, this tends to be the range competitive Republicans fall into in Massachusetts. Baker, in his unsuccessful 2010 bid for governor, and Gabriel Gomez in his 2013 senate loss to Ed Markey, also earned Democratic support in the mid-teens.
Baker’s target is ambitious, but it makes a certain amount of sense, given his poll numbers. Key to Baker’s consistently strong polling has been the strength of his cross-partisan support. A recent poll from The Novus Group showed Baker is just as popular among Democrats (66 percent favorable) as he is among Republicans (65 percent favorable). This echoes many of our own polls of late, some of which even show Baker doing better among Democrats.
Aiming more toward the center also compensates for Baker’s potential weakness on the right. Among the Massachusetts registered Republicans, Donald Trump is more popular (79 percent favorable) than is Baker. Baker has had a deeply uncomfortable relationship with Trump since the campaign, and has chastised the administration for policies at odds with his own.
Chasing Trump’s core supporters to improve his numbers among Republicans would be perilous for Baker. Just 35 percent of Massachusetts votes approve of Trump’s job performance, so there is relatively little to gain. And seeking to curry favor with Trump’s base would likely cut into the Democratic support Baker currently enjoys. There are more than three times as many registered Democrats as Republicans in Massachusetts. Winning close to a third of Democrats would mean Baker could lose a good chunk of Republican votes and still be successful.
It could be that Baker just wants a comfortable margin and is aiming above where he needs to be. Or it could be he is anticipating losing votes on the right, and needs to make up the difference in the middle. Especially if Baker faces a third party challenge on the right (not unheard of lately), he may need a larger chunk of the Democratic vote than Republicans typically receive.
The Democratic Party, for its part, is not doing much to prevent Baker from siphoning off their voters. In an interview already causing heartburn on the left, House Speaker Robert DeLeo would not commit to voting for the eventual Democratic candidate for governor next year. DeLeo told WBZ-TV’s Jon Keller over the weekend: “I think I want to see exactly who that nominee will be. I still think it’s a little bit early, in terms of thinking about next year’s race. So right now I just wanna see, wait and see attitude.”
Baker’s strategy of courting Democrats is not without risk. If the Democrats find a compelling candidate, or coalesce around one of the current challengers, Baker may find his coalition pinched on both the left and the right. Party alignment and identification have been powerful forces in recent election cycles. Reaction to the Trump presidency -- and, potentially, Trump’s state co-chair Geoff Diehl on the Senate ballot -- may reinforce partisan tribalism next year.
So keep an eye on how Baker does among Democrats in future polls. Those numbers will give a hint whether Baker’s brand of bipartisanship is enough to steer him around the obstacles he faces on the road to reelection.
MPG’s President Steve Koczela joined WBUR’s Morning Edition with Bob Oakes to talk Trump’s approval numbers and his core supporters at the beginning of Trump’s first trip abroad.
Writing for CommonWealth, Steve Koczela and Rich Parr looked at how Trump’s approval numbers stack up with Nixon’s during the Watergate scandal. Despite starting from a lower number than Nixon, Trump’s ratings may not sink as low, because the political and media landscape is so much more polarized today than it was in the 1970s.
Trump’s budget proposes deep cuts to programs like Medicaid. According to research conducted by Pew, despite sweeping claims of reining in budgets, Americans don’t like budget cuts when asked about the specific programs being affected.
A recent Gallup report shows that 25 percent of Americans between 18 and 29 plan to rely on social security when they retire. This is nearly double the percentage reported in 2007.
The Congressional Budget Office released their score of the American Health Care Act, projecting 23 million fewer Americans will have health insurance coverage. Polls havefound the new version of the bill remains deeply unpopular.
FiveThirtyEight graphed the anticipated coverage loss, and compared it to projections for the current law.
But Nate Silver looked a little more closely at Trump’s “strong approval” rating, and found evidence that his base may be shrinking. (We noted this phenomenon in our piece for CommonWealth last week.)
Push may have come to shove for Trump at his NATO meeting, but Pew finds the alliance is viewed more favorably, both in Europe and in North America.
Meanwhile, tourism to the US from foreign countries is down 11 percent since the election.
A few weeks ago, we wrote about Jon Ossoff and the Georgia 6th Special Election. Ossoff won the first round by came just shy of 50 percent of the vote, triggering a runoff against Republican Karen Handel. The most recent poll shows Ossoff ahead by 7 points.
Chris Dempsey of No Boston Olympics and Smith College professor Andrew Zimbalist have written a first-hand account of the Boston 2024 proposal. CommonWealth has an excerptand a podcast, and the WBUR poll gets several extended mentions.
------------------------------------------Nerd Alert Tearline ------------------------------------------------
MPG President Steve Koczela attended the main national pollster convention (AAPOR) this year, which included a whole session on polling using voter lists rather than dialing random telephone numbers. We have been using this method for a considerable share of our polling since our founding in 2010. This year’s conference included much more content on so-called “registration-based sampling.” A total of 6 percent of battleground state polls used the method, and per the AAPOR chart below produced slightly more accurate estimates than the more random digit dial (RDD) method.