Baker's Last Legs

For a long time now, whenever I'm asked who I think will win the Massachusetts Governor's race, I've said the same thing: I think Deval Patrick -- to my surprise -- has a slight advantage, with perhaps a 55% chance of winning.

Today, with the new Boston Globe/UNH poll, I am -- to my further surprise -- recalbrating that analysis. At this point, I would have to consider it a surprise if Charlie Baker wins. I would say it's at least an 80% chance of a Patrick victory.

The numbers are clear: Patrick has not only led in every single public, independent poll ever taken of the race, but his lead has increased in each of those polls, and voting opinions seem to have firmed sufficiently that Baker lacks the room to win through the late-breaking undecideds.

Four independent polling firms have polled this race both in mid-September and in mid-October. The Globe/UNH poll results went from Patrick +1 to Patrick +4; Western New England College's went from Patrick +6 to Patrick +8; Rasmussen Reports went from Patrick +3 to Patrick +5; Suffolk University/Channel 7 held steady at Patrick +7.

The four recent polls are remarkably consistent with one another. Averaging them out, you get Patrick 45%, Baker 39%, Cahill 8% -- and in every one of the four, Patrick's number is within 2 points of 45, Baker's is within 3 of 39, and Cahill's is within 2 of 8. There are no outliers.

There's also little room for change. Throw in a couple percent for Stein, and you've got about 6% undecideds. Cahill's numbers have whittled down to core supporters, so he's not likely to lose many more at this point. If the polls are right, then even if Baker wins the lion's share of the available undecided or persuadable votes, he still can't win.

I've seen some argument that Baker's apparent disadvantage will disappear on election day, because more of his voters are "excited" or "enthusiastic" about voting. I suspect that could make a difference if this was a low-turnout election, but it won't be -- indications are that all the usual governor's-race voters are going to come to the polls, and once they're in the booth they all count for one vote, whether they're excited, angry, depressed, grouchy, giddy, aroused, stoned, or flatulent.

If anything, the Patrick side should have an advantage in turnout, because -- as solid as the Baker/MassGOP GOTV operation is -- Democrats in the state simply have a huge infrastructure advantage. (Also, it's possible that the strategy being deployed by Mass. Dems chair John Walsh and his team is neither moronic nor insane, as I once suggested it might be,)

None of this means it's impossible for Baker to win. I still think it's a close race, and close races -- even where there's a well-defined incumbent, as in this case -- can sometimes change enough in the final week to change the result. But, from where I sit, it sure looks like Deval Patrick is heading for victory.

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