The Duel Over Diehl

The big moment in this week’s gubernatorial debate between Governor Charlie Baker and his Democratic opponent Jay Gonzalez was not about being governor at all. It came down to a duel over the Republican candidate for Senate, Geoff Diehl. Diehl was the Massachusetts co-chair for Trump’s presidential campaign, and has closely aligned himself with the President’s policies. Trump is deeply unpopular in Massachusetts, making associations with him a potential liability in a statewide general election.

Prior to the debate, Baker awkwardly sidestepped the question of whether he would endorse Diehl, saying instead he endorsed the full Republican ticket. Last night, Jay Gonzalez dug in, asking Baker point-blank if his endorsement means he actually plans to vote for Diehl. The Governor’s fumbling answer did not help. During the debate, he said he hadn’t made a decision. Then in the post-debate scrum, he claimed he misspoke and said he would vote for Diehl. Baker famously blanked his presidential ballot in 2016 rather than supporting Trump, and is often criticized for avoiding tough positions on hot button issues.

The question now is whether Gonzalez can capitalize on this moment. Despite being a major party nominee, Diehl is not widely known. A majority of voters in a UMass-Lowell/Boston Globe poll of likely voters said they had either never heard of Diehl (29 percent) or had no opinion (21 percent). In our poll with WBUR back in September, just 28 percent said Baker’s endorsement would make them less likely to vote for his reelection while 55 percent said it would make no difference.

Then there is the question of resources. Jay Gonzalez has struggled to raise the kinds of money usually needed to spread a message statewide, and many Democratic heavy hitters have either stayed on the sidelines, or backed Baker. The state Office of Campaign and Political Finance reports Gonzalez with $677,000 as of October 15th, largely from a recent influx of public funding, compared to $4.5 million for Baker.  

The moment was awkward, for sure. But going from awkward to a legitimate election issue will depend on whether voters pay more attention to the race than they have been, whether Gonzalez can spread the message, and whether voters will care.

by Steve Koczela and Maeve Duggan

The Crosstabs 

Nurses say yes on 1, and no on 1. Our WBUR poll of the state’s registered nurses finds they are split on the ballot question which would set limits of patient-to-nurse ratios.

With a Democrat and a Republican holding wide leads for reelection in Massachusetts, there must be a lot of crossover voting. Rich Parr takes a look at these ticket-splitters for WBUR. “As it turns out, had Baker come to either of the Women’s Marches in Boston, he would have found a fair number of his own voters.” 

A Boston Globe/UMass Lowell poll found both Elizabeth Warren and Charlie with wide leads in their reelection bids. It also found question 1 on nurse staffing ratios trailing for the first time.

This week on The Horse Race, our podcast on Massachusetts politics and elections, we look at Elizabeth Warren’s surprising focus on her Native American heritage, the WBUR poll of registered nurses, and the potential for a close race in the Massachusetts 9th congressional district.

Also on the Horse Race, we have a new … announcer! Or jockey? We’re not sure, since horse racing metaphors have never really been our strong suit. But please welcome Jenn Smith of the Dorchester Report to our podcast cast.