Waiting Up for Dems to Come Home

The latest WBUR/MassINC poll has Charlie Baker taking a statistically negligible lead over Martha Coakley, 43% to 42%, in the Massachusetts gubernatorial race, with less than five percent of voters planning to vote for one of the three other candidates. The trend line is in Baker’s favor, and the failure of the independents to gain traction—Jeff McCormick in particular—is one of several ways the campaign has played out as Baker needs.

There remain, according to most polls, an unusual number of undecided voters remaining, for such a high-profile race between two well-established candidates. The lion’s share of those undecideds appear to be regular Democratic voters, whether they identify as party members or not. Conventional wisdom would suggest that most of them will, in the end, “come home” to their party’s candidate, to use the political argot, as they did for Elizabeth Warren and Deval Patrick in 2012 and 2010.

But in this race, the “come home” phrase increasingly brings to my mind the image of a parent waiting up as curfew passes. The later the hour grows, the more likely that the wayward child will decide to crash at a friend’s house for the night.

Tuesday night’s Boston Globe/WGBH debate was another opportunity for Coakley to call the children home, with a warning of the predatory dangers that lurk beyond the safety of the Democratic haven. She was crisp and effective, I thought, but I don’t think she ultimately convinced many of those undecided voters that Baker fits the Stranger Danger profile.

The same appears to be true of the third-party attack ads, and aggressive Coakley media campaign. They appeared to convince a certain number to return to the fold, but—to the limited extent we can tell—quickly ran out of easily persuadable targets, and the re-migration of the Democrats seems to have stalled.

Those undecided voters might yet listen to that voice of caution and decide in the end not to bed down on Charlie’s sofa, to stretch this metaphor into increasingly awkward territory. But the hour is late, the sofa looks comfortable, and those calls from Martha are increasingly going straight to voicemail.