Is Trump’s exit bad for Baker?

GOP gov’s Teflon coating starts to fade 

IT’S TRUMP’S FAULT. 

Not the insurrection at the US Capitol or the discrediting of fairly conducted elections or the general degradation of democratic principles — though there may be those things, too. In this case, the damage done by the former president is to Charlie Baker’s approval ratings. 

The governor, whose political standing with voters seemed to defy the laws of gravity, has seen his poll numbers come down closer to earth, and Politico’s Stephanie Murray says Trump is to blame. Not because of anything he did, but rather because he’s now gone.

“Wildly unpopular in Massachusetts, Trump served as a foil for Baker, who was able to establish his own political independence — and win over Democratic constituents — by frequently criticizing his fellow Republican,” she writes.

With no Trump to kick around anymore, Baker is finding himself on the receiving end of the blue-state brickbats. And he’s not alone, says Murray, who points to falling approval ratings for two other Republican governors in heavily Democratic states, Maryland’s Larry Hogan and Phil Scott in Vermont. 

Baker’s approval rating has fallen from close to 80 percent last August to 52 percent last month, she writes. He’s seen a similar falloff in polls asking specifically about his handling of the COVID pandemic. 

And there’s the rub. Trump’s exit has coincided with the state’s problem-plagued vaccine rollout and a growing overall weariness with the pandemic as it enters its second year. That makes it hard to tease out any independent effect of Trump’s disappearance from the public stage. 

Still, it’s not just public poll numbers that have shifted for Baker. The Democrats who dominate the Legislature have shown a new willingness to spar more directly with him, including in two recent oversight hearings where the lawmakers Baker loves to refer to as “our colleagues” have been decidedly less collegial. 

“We just seem to have thrown the playbook out and decided on something completely different,” Sen. Cindy Friedman told Baker bluntly in yesterday’s hearing, criticizing the administration’s turn away from long-established plans to rely on local public health departments in a crisis. She called the testimony to that effect yesterday from municipal health officials “damning.” 

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

Despite the dip in poll numbers, Baker’s coronavirus approval rating was still 59 percent last month. Hogan’s approval rating on his handling of the pandemic went from 78 percent to 64 percent, while Scott’s had ticked down just 8 points, from 78 percent to 70 percent. 

If that’s the sort of punishment in store for Republican governors, Andrew Cuomo and Gavin Newsom may be looking to sign up.