National Democrats are haunted by memories of Martha Coakley’s unforced stumbles and missteps in 2010, which cost them a U.S. Senate seat in one of the country’s bluest states.
Four years later, the Massachusetts attorney general might be about to blow another major contest: The race to succeed Deval Patrick as governor.
With two weeks left to go, a new poll by WBUR, which tracks the race weekly, found Coakley trailing for the first time against Republican Charlie Baker, a former health care CEO who served as secretary of finance and health under Gov. William Weld in the 1990s.
It’s still a close contest: Baker has 43 percent while Coakley has 42 percent, well inside the poll’s 4.4 percent margin of error.
But the troubling sign for Coakley is that Baker appears to be gaining steam down the stretch after consistently trailing throughout the campaign.
“It’s one of several polls which over the last week or so have shown a movement toward Baker,” Steve Koczela, the president of MassINC Polling Group, which conducts the polls, said. “Coakley has essentially been treading water while Baker’s been climbing.”
Coakley’s late drop-off seems eerily reminiscent of the 2010 special election against upstart Republican candidate Scott Brown, when the Democrat blew a huge lead, fell behind in the final stretch, and went on to lose.
Coakley, too, hasn’t forgotten about 2010. During a televised debate with Baker on Tuesday, she said the biggest misconception about her was that “people still think from 2010 that I don’t have a sense of humor and I’m too chilly, and I’ve worked four years to overcome that.”
Notably, Massachusetts has been warmer toward Republicans in gubernatorial races. While Democrats have dominated in Senate elections for a generation, Republicans held the governorship consistently from 1991 to 2007.
The WBUR poll surveyed 501 likely voters from Oct. 15-18.