BOSTON (CBS) – I understand that most of us don’t have much bandwidth available to pity politicians, but you’ve got to feel just a little bit sorry for Massachusetts Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jay Gonzalez. With just one week to go until Election Day, Gonzalez trails Republican incumbent Charlie Baker by 39 points in a new Suffolk University-Boston Globe poll, 65-to-26.
If that result holds up, it would tie for second-biggest landslide in a governor’s race here in the past 40 years, especially startling given the almost total Democratic control over every other statewide office. And that raises a question: how is Baker doing it?
Here’s a simple answer – by being independent despite the “R” on his ballot line. More than half of registered voters here are independents, and the trend away from partisan identification has been building for years. Under Baker, Beacon Hill has followed suit, it’s large Democratic majorities often abandoning the party line to meet Baker halfway.
And efforts by Gonzalez to paint Baker as a GOP partisan just haven’t stuck, in part because of moments like the one at their second debate, where Baker was reluctant to go beyond a cursory endorsement of Geoff Diehl, the former Trump campaign chairman in Massachusetts.
Add in the governor’s open disdain for the president and it’s clear why independents see Baker as one of their own. And in Massachusetts politics these days, that’s exactly where you want to be.