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New poll suggests Charlie Baker’s ‘most viable path’ is independent racing


Faced with a potentially difficult primary, the incumbent Republican governor has a complex decision to make.

Governor Charlie Baker takes care of Needham Police’s heartwarming dog, Officer Rocket, outside a local store earlier this week. Suzanne Kreiter / The Boston Globe

Gov. Charlie Baker said he still has not decided whether he will run for a third term as governor of Massachusetts. He also says he is “very comfortable” within the Republican Party, although many of its leaders and base remain loyal to former President Donald Trump.

But what if the moderate Republican incumbent – facing a potentially difficult primary against Trump loyalist and former State Representative Geoff Diehl – ran for re-election with an (I) next to his name in place ?

A new poll suggests this could be his best move.

In a hypothetical 2022 general election clash against Attorney General Maura Healey as Democratic candidate and Diehl as Republican candidate, Baker still leads as an independent candidate with 32% support, according to the poll. last week by Northwind Strategies, a Boston – a Democratic-leaning political advisory group.

According to the poll, Healey got 26% and Diehl 21%.

There are a few important caveats: On the one hand, polls this far from election day aren’t particularly predictive. Additionally, like Baker, Healey says she is still in the process of deciding whether to run for governor, and that she would also face a competitive primary against three declared candidates: Ben Downing, Danielle Allen and the Senator. of State Sonia Chang-Diaz.

“Considering all the data, the most viable path to victory for [Baker] could run as an independent in 2022 ”, Doug Rubin, founding partner of Northwind Strategies, tweeted Tuesday morning.

Rubin refers to two major data points.

First, the accumulating evidence that Baker is “deep underwater,” as Rubin puts it, with Republican voters in Massachusetts.

While he remains one of the most popular governors in the country, bolstered by a high approval rating among Democrats, Baker is viewed favorably by just 23 percent of Republican voters in the general election and unfavorably by 68 percent, according to the Tuesday poll.

A poll released last week by UMass found somewhat similarly Baker with an approval rating of 41% among Republican voters, up from 49% who said he had fallen short of their expectations. The poll also found that 48% of Republican voters in Massachusetts perceive Baker as an ideological liberal rather than a moderate or conservative.

And a poll released last month found Diehl had a 50-29% lead over Baker in a Republican primary. The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling on behalf of the Democratic Governor’s Association, also found that 54% of Republican primary voters had an unfavorable opinion of Baker, compared to 30% who viewed him favorably.

A potentially difficult Republican primary isn’t the only problem.

Tuesday’s new poll also predicted a potentially tight general election race in a one-on-one clash against Healey.

“Baker starts off with a lead over Dems with statewide name recognition, but is well below 50% – which is generally bad news for a sitting governor,” Rubin tweeted Tuesday.

After the poll was published, MassInc pollster Steve Kozcela tweeted that it was “getting very difficult” to see Baker running as a Republican again. He also noted that his team’s internal polls are unlikely to show anything different.

Of course, there are pros and cons of becoming self-employed.

Without the Republican label, Baker gets just 19% of Republicans and Republican-leaning voters, while 67% support Diehl, according to the Northwinds poll (by comparison, Baker received 50% of GOP voter support when he is compared only to Healey).

“Baker loses virtually all Republican votes as an Independent,” Rubin told by phone Tuesday afternoon.

At the same time, Rubin says Baker gets a lot more support from Democrats and unaffiliated voters when he runs as an independent – enough to win over key groups including women, Latinos and Americans. university-educated voters.

“When Baker races as an independent in a three-way race, he flips all of those groups, so he wins those groups,” rather than Healey, said Rubin.

Still, it would be a major change for Baker, who has identified himself as a Republican since college. Despite his clashes with the state’s conservative Republican Party leaders, he told GBH in June that he thought it was “really important” for Massachusetts to have two healthy political parties.

“I don’t think the way to solve the problems you are reporting within the Republican Party is to run away from it,” Baker told GBH at the time, pleading for his increasingly old-fashioned brand as “News”. -England Republican. “

Despite the efforts of many reporters, Baker has repeatedly declined this year to say whether he has decided to run for re-election in 2022. If he chooses not to run at all, pollsters generally agree that that would spell the end of the Republican candidate in Massachusetts, whether it was Diehl or Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito.

“Healey smokes her,” Rubin said of his company’s poll of a Healey-Polito clash.

The recent UMass poll suggests that Polito would also face a tough race against one of the three lesser-known Democratic candidates.

Baker was once again pressed by GBH host Jim Braude to run for a third term in his last monthly appearance on the radio show in October. The governor again refused to say it, promising only a decision “soon”.

“That’s a very complicated question, Jim,” Baker replied, “for all kinds of reasons.”

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