Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: email@example.com
In his campaign for Massachusetts' governorship, Democrat-turned-independent Tim Cahill has been positioning himself as the most conservative candidate -- more conservative than newly minted Republican nominee Charlie Baker. Cahill opposed federal health care reform more forcefully than Baker. Cahill is more critical of Massachusetts' own near-universal health care law than Baker. Cahill attended a Tea Party rally in Boston with Sarah Palin, while Baker didn't.
Now, we have evidence that voters are noticing. The Boston Herald State House News Service (corrected) reports on a new poll from Western New England College:
Asked who they would support if the election were held today, Patrick led with 34 percent, following by Cahill at 29 percent and Baker at 27 percent, the Western New England College Polling Institute found.
The poll also found Cahill, running under the Independent label, taking likely votes away from Patrick, as well as Baker. Seventeen percent of voters who identified themselves as Democrats said they would vote for Cahill, as did 32 percent of Republicans. After a long career as a Democrat, Cahill quit the party last year to launch his run.
Cahill's strength with Republicans is a huge problem for Baker. There aren't that many Republicans in Massachusetts. Baker needs every one of them that he can get to win.
In past Massachusetts polling, I (and others) have wondered whether Patrick, despite his nominal lead, had much of a chance to win. Undecided voters seemed as though they were still deciding between Baker and Cahill. Once they chose, I expected Patrick to fall behind.
From this poll, a better question is whether Baker can win. Baker is in third place and his room for growth looks limited. Only 1% percent of Republicans are undecided, compared to 10% of Democrats and 10% of independents.
Still, Baker certainly can win. His campaign is better funded than Patrick's. To have a decent chance, he'll have to spend a lot of that money trying to discredit Cahill with conservatives.
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