The new Boston Globe/UNH poll has the Massachusetts governor race at a dead heat, with Deval Patrick at 35%, Charlie Baker 34%, Tim Cahill 11%, Jill Stein 4%, and 14% undecided among likely voters. That's obviously going to give a morale boost to the Baker camp, but I have a strong sense that the Patrick brain trust is not too unhappy with it -- perception of an even race is what they need to gin up interest and involvement from their supporters.
As a side note, the 4.5% or so margin of error means that it's not certain anything has much changed since the June Globe/UNH poll, which had the race Patrick 38, Baker 31, Cahill 9 -- as I wrote after the recent Suffolk poll came out, overall there's not much reason to think that anything significant has changed in the race since the big flip in the spring, when Baker and Cahill traded places in the polls.
That's good news in a way for Baker -- it means he's not losing voters as they learn more about him, which means he should be growing increasingly likely to win the bulk of undecided voters (who presumably aren't starting out sold on Patrick re-election) near the finish line.
This newest poll could also be seen as confirmation of the theory, held by the Baker camp, that this year "likely voters" (which the Globe poll uses) are more GOP-leaning than "registered voters" (which Suffolk uses). Or, it could be that the Globe's UNH pollsters are building that assumed pro-GOP leaning into their "likely voter" model, but that it won't really turn out that way.
Anyway, my reading of the poll data is that the big change between the June Globe poll and the new one is a fairly sizable shift in women's support from Patrick to Baker -- which is the opposite of what others have been finding. Women went from 42-24 in favor of the governor to just 36-32.
Another important finding confirms what I blogged yesterday, which is that it now appears that Cahill supporters are evenly split between Baker and Patrick as their second choice. In June, Cahill supporters had a favorable/unfavorable rating for Baker of a respectable 16/18. Today, that's dropped to 6/24.
Another potential trouble sign for Baker: his lead among unenrolled voters is just 35-28 over Patrick. Bear in mind that Scott Brown took unenrolled voters roughly 2-to-1 over Martha Coakley, according to late polls, in order to win by 4 points statewide.
And there's one more, related thing that really jumped out at me from the poll: the apparent unanimity of feeling among a very large portion of Democratic-leaning voters who share the common trait of disliking the Tea Party movement.
The poll finds that 41% of likely voters oppose the Tea Party, compared with just 17% who support it. Here's the voting plans of those 41% who don't like the Tea Party:
Patrick 56% Baker 11% Cahill 10%
Grossman 63% Polito 8%
Bump 51% Connaughton 10%
US House Democrat 70% Republican 8%
Mass. House Democrat 66% Republican 8%
That same group of anti-TPers has a decent 39%/38% favorable/unfavorable opinion of Senator Scott Brown (not much changed since June) -- but a miserable 13%/46% favorable/unfavorable opinion of Charlie Baker. And, clearly, they are widely predisposed against any and all Republicans other than Scotto.
If that 41% (and growing, from 36% in June) doesn't get a better opinion of these Republicans in the next six weeks, and if the Democrats can convince them the world is going straight to the Tea Party if they don't get to the polls to vote in November, that's an awfully huge batch of solid anti-Republican votes for Baker -- and any other GOP name on a Massachusetts ballot -- to overcome.