BOSTON — When you are rated the most popular governor in the United States and voters in your home state have largely never heard of your opponents, running a stealth campaign for re-election is an attractive option.
Gov. Charlie Baker is seeking re-election this year but has yet to articulate any pledges or promises for what he plans to accomplish from 2019 through 2022. And judging by the latest WBUR poll, Massachusetts voters are not alarmed by his lack of a visible campaign and public agenda for the next four years.
Sixty-six percent of 504 registered Massachusetts voters polled March 16-18 had a favorable view of Baker, with only 14 percent viewing him unfavorably.
By contrast, based on a smaller poll of 252 respondents, 62 percent of respondents said they’ve never heard of Bob Massie, a Democrat running for governor.
The news was worse for Setti Warren and Jay Gonzalez, unknown by 70 percent and 75 percent of respondents, respectively.
The Democrats could find some solace in the fact that the poll showed 13 to 16 percent of voters are still undecided. There’s still seven months before the election, so there’s time to make progress.
But the current takeaways are not promising for Democrats. The candidates are running low-budget campaigns, with Warren and Gonzalez knocking Baker periodically and trying to use the media to contrast their views with his. They have not gained ground on Baker since the previous WBUR poll, in November.
In poll results released Friday morning, Baker leads Gonzalez by 39 points (60-21), Massie by 37 points (59-22), and Warren by 34 points (58-24).
One of the three Democrats seeking to upset the popular governor needs to first win the party’s nomination. So far, they’ve not criticized each other, or engaged in the kind of politics that often accompanies a contested primary election.
The candidates have also so far not benefited from a groundswell of support from elected Democrats, who, on Beacon Hill, seem to get along well with Baker and who have so far not engaged in the kind of Democrat-versus-Republican politics of past years.
On April 28, Republicans plan to gather in Worcester for their convention. Baker, who at last weekend’s St. Patrick’s Day breakfast took some ribbing from Democrats for acting more like a Democrat than a Republican, will have to rally his GOP brethren at that gathering, and could outline some campaign themes.
The governor in some respects has seemed more in sync with Democrats on Beacon Hill than Republicans, notably not joining his GOP colleagues in opposing a $2 billion income surtax on wealthy taxpayers, frequently touting the benefits of government spending, and mostly refraining from using the bully pulpit to prod Democrats to act on the many slow-moving bills that make up his legislative agenda.
“I’m not a big believer in blame as a general rule. I sometimes wonder what it gets ya,” Baker said this week.
Baker was talking to reporters who asked about President Donald Trump’s singling out of “sanctuary city” Lawrence as a supplier of fentanyl to six New Hampshire counties. But his response exemplified his modus operandi when it comes to dealing with Democratic supermajorities — if you agree with them, let it show.
The governor is a numbers guy who has been around politics a long time. He’s well aware there are 3.2 Democrats in this state for every Republican, and he knows a significant anti-Trump dynamic will be at work Nov. 6. He has been more or less campaigning against Trump for two years, and the poll is the latest data sample indicating it’s working.
While no doubt frustrating for the other major candidates in the poll — the Democrats — the numbers are the numbers.
To the extent that conventions give candidates a bump, Democrats will have to wait until June 1-2, when they also plan to unite in Worcester.