The duel over Diehl

Can Gonzalez capitalize on this moment?

THE BIT MOMENT in this week’s gubernatorial debate between Governor Charlie Baker and his Democratic opponent Jay Gonzalez was not about being governor at all. It came down to a duel over the Republican candidate for Senate, Geoff Diehl. Diehl was the Massachusetts co-chair for Trump’s presidential campaign, and has closely aligned himself with the President’s policies. Trump is deeply unpopular in Massachusetts, making associations with him a potential liability in a statewide general election.

Prior to the debate, Baker awkwardly sidestepped the question of whether he would endorse Diehl, saying instead he endorsed the full Republican ticket. Last night, Jay Gonzalez dug in, asking Baker point-blank if his endorsement means he actually plans to vote for Diehl. The Governor’s fumbling answer did not help. During the debate, he said he hadn’t made a decision. Then in the post-debate scrum, he claimed he misspoke and said he would vote for Diehl. Baker famously blanked his presidential ballot in 2016 rather than supporting Trump, and is often criticized for avoiding tough positions on hot button issues.

Meet the Author

Steve Koczela

President, MassINC Polling Group

About Steve Koczela

Steve Koczela is the President of The MassINC Polling Group, where he has grown the organization from its infancy to a nationally known and respected polling provider. During the 2014 election cycle, MPG conducted election polling for WBUR, the continuation of a three-year partnership. Koczela again led the endeavor, producing polls which came within one point of the margin in both the Massachusetts gubernatorial and U.S. Senate Elections. He was also lead writer for Poll Vault, WBUR’s political reporting section during the 2014 Election Cycle.

He has led survey research programs for the U.S. Department of State in Iraq, in key states for President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, and has conducted surveys and polls on behalf of many private corporations. Koczela brings a deep understanding of the foundations of public opinion and a wide ranging methodological expertise. He earned U.S. Department of State recognition for his leading edge work on sample evaluation in post conflict areas using geospatial systems.

Koczela is frequent guest on WBUR as well as many other news and talk programs in Massachusetts and elsewhere. His polling analysis is often cited in local, state, and national media outlets. He currently serves as President of the New England Chapter of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (NEAAPOR). Koczela holds a Master’s degree in Marketing Research from the University of Wisconsin and is a veteran of the war in Iraq.

About Steve Koczela

Steve Koczela is the President of The MassINC Polling Group, where he has grown the organization from its infancy to a nationally known and respected polling provider. During the 2014 election cycle, MPG conducted election polling for WBUR, the continuation of a three-year partnership. Koczela again led the endeavor, producing polls which came within one point of the margin in both the Massachusetts gubernatorial and U.S. Senate Elections. He was also lead writer for Poll Vault, WBUR’s political reporting section during the 2014 Election Cycle.

He has led survey research programs for the U.S. Department of State in Iraq, in key states for President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, and has conducted surveys and polls on behalf of many private corporations. Koczela brings a deep understanding of the foundations of public opinion and a wide ranging methodological expertise. He earned U.S. Department of State recognition for his leading edge work on sample evaluation in post conflict areas using geospatial systems.

Koczela is frequent guest on WBUR as well as many other news and talk programs in Massachusetts and elsewhere. His polling analysis is often cited in local, state, and national media outlets. He currently serves as President of the New England Chapter of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (NEAAPOR). Koczela holds a Master’s degree in Marketing Research from the University of Wisconsin and is a veteran of the war in Iraq.

Meet the Author

Maeve Duggan

Research director, MassINC Polling Group
The question now is whether Gonzalez can capitalize on this moment. Despite being a major party nominee, Diehl is not widely known. A majority of voters in a UMass-Lowell/Boston Globe poll of likely voters said they had either never heard of Diehl (29 percent) or had no opinion (21 percent). In our poll with WBUR back in September, just 28 percent said Baker’s endorsement would make them less likely to vote for his reelection while 55 percent said it would make no difference.

Then there is the question of resources. Jay Gonzalez has struggled to raise the kinds of money usually needed to spread a message statewide, and many Democratic heavy hitters have either stayed on the sidelines, or backed Baker. The state Office of Campaign and Political Finance reports Gonzalez with $677,000 as of October 15th, largely from a recent influx of public funding, compared to $4.5 million for Baker.

The moment was awkward, for sure. But going from awkward to a legitimate election issue will depend on whether voters pay more attention to the race than they have been, whether Gonzalez can spread the message, and whether voters will care.