Is new poll a Diehl breaker? 

Emerson survey finds Healey with 18-point lead

THE HEADLINE IS not exactly the sort of unqualified boost that campaigns usually go out of their way to promote. But if you’re running for governor of Massachusetts as the Trump-backed Republican nominee, you take what you can get. 

So it is that the homepage of Geoff Diehl’s campaign website, under latest news and press, promotes a Boston Herald column from Monday proclaiming, “New poll gives Republican Geoff Diehl glimmer of hope for his underdog campaign.” 

An Emerson College poll released last week, the first to appear after last Tuesday’s state primary, shows Democratic nominee Maura Healey with a 52-34 lead over Diehl among likely voters. The gap is smaller than the 30-point margin she had over Diehl or his erstwhile primary rival Chris Doughty in polls earlier in the summer. The new Emerson poll also shows Diehl leading Healey 45-38 among unenrolled voters. That finding, in particular, said Herald columnist Joe Battenfeld, “should be a warning sign for Democrats not to take the governor’s race for granted.” 

Any warning aside, Spencer Kimball, director of the Emerson College Polling Center, said the big takeaway from the survey is “that Maura Healey, I would expect, to be the next governor of Massachusetts.” Kimball said Diehl would need a much bigger margin among unenrolled voters – on the order of 2-to-1 or more – to threaten Healey.

Healey is polling over 50 percent, Kimball said, and is well-defined and well-liked at this point. Healey’s overall favorable-to-unfavorable rating in the poll was 55-35, while Diehl was underwater at 34-38. “So he’s got a tough road,” Kimball said of Diehl. 

Appearing Sunday on WCVB-TV’s “On The Record,” Diehl was asked if he plans to make a big issue of the November ballot question on repealing the state law allowing undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses. “I think the economy right now is going to be the No. 1 issue,” he said. “The Biden economy is really poor right now. We’ve got high inflation, high cost of fuel, obviously high cost of food. So I think that’s going to be front and center.” 

Diehl then pointed to the Emerson poll’s finding that voters identified the economy as their top concern (41 percent said it was their top issue) and that he leads Healey (49-33) among those respondents. Kimball said Republicans often do better than Democrats nationally on poll questions centered on the economy, but he pointed out that Healey is the overwhelming choice of those who cited abortion rights and health care, the next highest ranked concerns, as their top issues. 

While Diehl seemed to wave off the idea of a prominent place for the driver’s license issue in his campaign, Rob Gray, a veteran Republican strategist, thinks the ballot question – along with the millionaires tax question – is actually one of the few openings for Diehl to try to make up ground. With only $17,000 in his campaign account as of the end of August, Diehl is heading into the general election with virtually no resources, said Gray. The ballot questions, on the other hand, will have some campaign dollars behind them and draw media attention. 

“I see the two ballot initiatives as one of the few bright lights for Diehl,” said Gray. “If he can identify himself with the anti-tax side on the income question and with the pro-repeal side on the driver’s license question he would do himself some good.” 

Healey is on the opposite side of Diehl on both questions, having voiced support for the 4 percent surcharge on annual income over $1 million and for preserving the law on licenses for undocumented immigrants. “The only way to defeat Maura Healey is to create doubt about her and drag her down, and to that you have to identify wedge issues between you and her,” said Gray. “I’m not sure what the strategy is of trying to tie Healey to Biden or the ‘Biden economy.’” 

The most recent polling shows Diehl’s position on the two questions losing, but ballot questions are prone to big shifts in voter sentiment as campaigns play out.

Diehl has no ability, however, to promote his own message, said Gray. “You can’t win a car race if you have no gas in your tank, and he has tens of thousands dollars, not the millions of dollars a Republican in Massachusetts needs to run a viable campaign,” Gray said.

Healey, who had $4.7 million on hand at the end of August, will have plenty of resources to promote her message. She has been making a clear play for more moderate voters who supported the popular outgoing Republican governor, Charlie Baker. 

“Geoff Diehl needs to convince voters that she’s nothing like Charlie Baker,” said Gray. But he has no resources to do that, Gray said. 

What’s more, by aligning himself with Trump to lock down his party’s right flank and echoing his false statements that the 2020 presidential election was rigged, Diehl has gone out of his way to convince voters that he’s nothing like Charlie Baker. 

MICHAEL JONAS

FROM COMMONWEALTH

Staffing up: The Department of Public Utilities, which has come under fire for its oversight of MBTA safety, is trying to nearly double the size of its transportation division. It currently has eight employee positions focused on rail safety and is trying to fill three existing vacancies and add seven additional staff.

– In a series of recent reports and directives, the Federal Transit Administration has raised concerns about the DPU’s ability to provide proper safety oversight of the MBTA.  An August 31 report said “staffing levels [at the DPU] are not commensurate with the actual oversight needs of MBTA.” Read more.

Wu defends votes: Boston Mayor Michelle Wu withdrew her endorsement of Suffolk County DA candidate Ricardo Arroyo amid allegations of sexual assault but ended up voting for him. She also dismissed speculation about her motives in backing Shannon Liss-Riordan over Andrea Campbell in the primary for attorney general. She said media analysts too often view women leaders as “emotional revenge machines.” Read more.

Changing voting patterns: For the second time in as many election cycles, more votes were cast before rather than on primary day. Most of those early votes were cast by mail. Read more.

Tran loses challenge: A federal judge rejected congressional candidate Dean Tran’s lawsuit alleging Attorney General Maura Healey filed “categorically false” gun theft charges against him for political reasons. The case against Tran will proceed as he runs for Congress against Rep. Lori Trahan. Read more.

OPINION

Worker pipeline: Annie Duong-Turner of John Hancock and Josh Bruno of the Boston Private Industry Council say employers need to focus on summer youth employment to create a pipeline of workers. Read more.

 

FROM AROUND THE WEB

MUNICIPAL MATTERS  

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu is challenging the 2020 Census results, saying it has undercounted Boston’s population by missing lots of college students, foreign-born residents, and those who are incarcerated. (Boston Globe

Fall River City Councilor Pam Laliberte-Lebeau resigned as president of the council after criminal harassment and obstruction of justice charges were filed against her by Westport police in connection with messages she sent to the wife of a former romantic partner. (Herald News

Pittsfield says it is finding some success using $510,000 in ARPA funds to market the city to millennials. (Berkshire Eagle)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

An antibody developed by researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital appears to neutralize all major COVID-19 variants, a promising lead to new treatments, say scientists. (Boston Globe

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina files legislation to ban abortions nationally after 15 weeks. (NPR)

ELECTIONS

Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee eked out a narrow victory in the Democratic primary over two challengers. (Associated Press)

A new ad released by Attorney General Maura Healey’s gubernatorial campaign focuses on her work suing ExxonMobil and Purdue Pharma. (MassLive)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Dining hall workers at Northeastern University have agreed to a new contract that will see average pay reach nearly $30 an hour by 2026, triple what it was 14 years ago when they voted to unionize. (Boston Globe

General Electric agrees to a union contract that will allow workers in Lynn to reach the highest pay scale faster. (Daily Item)

Two New Bedford businesses are working with NASA on space missions that will allow human exploration of the moon and Mars. (Standard-Times)

EDUCATION

A package exploded inside a Northeastern University building last night, injuring one man. Local and federal law enforcement authorities quickly swooped in, but there was no further word on the incident and what may have been behind it. (Boston Herald

TRANSPORTATION

MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said 82 percent of the Orange Line work has been completed and he is confident the trains will start rolling again, as planned, next Monday. (Boston Globe

The town of Milton threatens to sue the MBTA after years of requests that it repair a long-closed stairway at the Mattapan trolley line’s Milton station. (Patriot Ledger)