Martha Coakley Seems To Be Blowing Another Big Election In Massachusetts

Back in 2010, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley was seen as the almost inevitable next Senator from Massachusetts. She was, of course, running to replace the late Senator Ted Kennedy, who had died in the summer of 2009, and she had the support of key members of the Kennedy family and, of course, the top names in Massachusetts Democratic politics. In the end, though, she ended up losing the race to Scott Brown, then a Republican State Senator, who used a combination of an unconventional campaign style and public disappointment with the young Obama Administration to become the first Republican Senator from Massachusetts in some three decades. In the post-mortems after the election, though, many Democrats ended up heaping blame on Coakley and her campaign for the loss, especially the many misteps that were made on things as simple as talking to Boston Red Sox fans outside Fenway Park. Notwithstanding that assessment, the party renominated her for Attorney General in 2010, a race she won easily no doubt in part to the fact that Governor Deval Patrick was at the top of the ticket. Then, this year, they gave her the nomination for Governor, and now she seems poised to blow that race as well:

Republican Charlie Baker has opened up a 9-point lead over Democrat Martha Coakley, 45 percent to 36 percent, according to a new Globe poll that depicts a far more comfortable advantage than either candidate for governor has enjoyed in months.

The poll reflects an October surge in independent voters toward Baker’s column. It was independents who provided Governor Deval Patrick with his margins of victory in 2006 and 2010.

Baker’s standing has improved from last week’s poll, which showed the two candidates dead even. It can be attributed largely to the gains he has made in voters’ perceptions of who would improve the economy and manage state government, areas that already were tilting his way. At the same time, Baker has offset the deficits he faced on issues such as education and health care, where Coakley still holds an edge, but a diminished one.

“There is just positive movement in every single metric we can ask around Baker,” said pollster John Della Volpe, chief executive of SocialSphere Inc., which conducts the weekly poll for the Globe. “The more voters have gotten to know him, the stronger he performs.”

Overall, Baker has moved from 38 percent support to 45 percent since late August. Coakley dropped 5 points this week, the poll found, after having held steady throughout much of the fall. Baker’s growth, said Della Volpe, has come almost entirely from voters who have made up their minds since the beginning of September. Eleven percent of voters remain undecided.

This poll from the Boston Globe shows a bigger gap between Baker and Coakley than other recent polling, but it appears to be indicative of a shift toward Baker in the closing weeks of the campaign rather than just an anomaly. Coakley has not led in a poll since early October, for example, and Baker currently has a +4.5 point lead in the RealClearPolitics average, an average that has clearly shown Baker rising and Coakley falling with very little time left:

Mass Gov

This being Massachusetts it’s possible, of course, that Coakley will pull out a win in the end, but much like 2010’s race against Scott Brown the numbers are not looking good for her, and it’s worth noting that, despite its liberal reputation, Massachusetts has never elected a woman Governor. (The one female Governor the state has had, Jane Swift, assumed office when Paul Celucci resigned to become Ambassador to Canada and did not run for election in her own right).

FILED UNDER: 2014 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Ben says:

    Coakley’s losing because a lot of liberals really really dislike her, enough that they’re willing to either vote for Baker or stay home. Coakley really is a repulsive figure if you look up her record as a prosecutor. I can only provide anecdotal info, but I live in RI and all of my friends live in MA. Not a one is willing to vote for Coakley, and several of them voted for Brown 4 years ago. When you have dyed-in-the-wool Massachusetts liberals voting for Republicans, that should tell you how distasteful the Democratic candidate is.

  2. @Ben:

    I’ve seen similar comments from others, and yet she won the primary by some 20,000 votes

  3. bandit says:

    Unfortunately for Ms. Coakley Tom Menino is extremely ill with cancer and won’t be able to turn out 110% of the vote in Dorchester, Roxbury, Hyde Park and Mattapan for her like he did for Warren. Also the Dem party in MA is not dominated by liberals it is dominated by Dem party hacks and Coakley is a puppet not a leader of them. Marty Walsh doesn’t seem inclined to perpetrate the level of fraud needed to swing things if they aren’t going her way.

  4. CSK says:

    It could possibly be sexism. When Shannon O’Brien ran against Mitt Romney in 2002, she too lost. But I very much doubt it. Massachusetts has an overwhelmingly Democratic state legislature, and entirely Democratic representation in the senate and the house. But…they tend to elect Republican governors more often than not.

    Coakley’s problem is that no one really likes her. And she’s a terrible campaigner. Apparently she learned nothing from the debacle with Scott Brown. She’s stiff, humorless, and worse, evasive when questioned on matters of policy. “I’ll have to study that issue,” seems to be her rote response.

    More to the point, as Ben says, her prosecutorial record, and the disaster with the state crime lab a few summers ago, really disgusted a lot of people, liberals and conservatives alike.

  5. Hal_10000 says:


    You can look at commentary on this from Popehat, Radley Balko and the Boston Globe. To make a long story short, she continued to pursue innocent people convicted in the Satanic abuse panic, even trying to use their family members as leverage. She pushed junk science in the Louise Woodward Nanny case, but she has frequently shied away from prosecuting abusive cops or state agencies. She used an argument in the Supreme Court that was laughable she ended up to the right of Scalia (basically arguing that defense attorneys shouldn’t be allow to cross-examine forensic technicians).

    I wouldn’t vote for her for dog catcher.

  6. Ben says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    She got 229000 votes in the primary, but there were 327000 votes against her. If even a third of the latter total decides to either sit this one out or cross the aisle and vote for Baker, that would have been enough to flip the last gubernatorial election back in 2010. She is in a very tenuous position, and a large part of that is resistance from her own side.

    I’m not saying she’s doomed. The loyal democrats will still vote for her. But the true liberals (and there are a lot of them in Mass) really don’t like her and will resist. There weren’t enough of them to defeat her in the primary, but they won’t just play team ball now in the general.

  7. Dave Schuler says:

    I know nothing of Massachusetts politics. If it were Illinois, the question would be why does the party keep putting up a poor candidate?

  8. CSK says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    In 2010, when she ran against Brown, the party operated on the assumption that an overwhelmingly Democratic electorate would put her in the senate. And Coakley herself assumed she wouldn’t have to campaign in order to win.

    This year, she won the primary over two opponents who had far less name recognition in-state than she. And I have no doubt that she convinced the party officials that she”d learned her lesson and would be a far more effective campaigner this time. Clearly she hasn’t been.

    Another possibility is that the Massachusetts party elders decided sometimes last spring that they’d lose this one, and so let Coakley go ahead because it didn’t matter who ran against Baker, the likely Republican opponent.

    Massachusetts is a strange place politically.

  9. ratufa says:

    I agree with Dave Schuler. When she lost to Scott Brown, the story was that she lost because she’s an a-hole and many people just don’t like her. That’s not something that candidates easily recover from, especially if they really are unlikable a-holes. If the Democrats were dumb enough to nominate her, it can be argued that they deserve to lose this election.

  10. Tyrell says:

    It’s over.

  11. george says:


    Marty Walsh doesn’t seem inclined to perpetrate the level of fraud needed to swing things if they aren’t going her way.

    Its funny how losing an election brings out cries of fraud from the fringes. Some on the far left were sure voting machines were rigged when Bush won. Some on the far right are sure extra people are voting when Obama won.

    Or maybe both groups are right, and the rigged voting machines are just off-setting the extra voters? Only the tin-foil hat brigade know for sure.

  12. Paul L. says:


    she continued to pursue innocent people convicted in the Satanic abuse panic, even trying to use their family members as leverage.

    I am sure that Media Matters would excuse it as just legal maneuvering like subpoena pastors for their sermons.
    The Coakley Condition

    According to Rabinowitz’s account, before agreeing under great pressure from judges and the public to agree to reduce Cheryl Amirault’s sentence to time served, Coakley asked the Amiraults’ attorney, James Sultan, to pledge—in exchange—that he would stop representing Gerald and undertake no further legal action on his behalf. She had evidently concluded that with Sultan gone—Sultan, whose mastery of the case was complete—any further effort by Gerald to win freedom would be doomed. Mr. Sultan, of course, refused.

  13. Just Me says:

    She just isn’t very likes me and I think the more face time she gets with cameras the more she comes across poorly. I think she turns voters off and while Massachusetts is pretty much a vote in mass for anyone with a D by their name they do on occasion ECF the token republican to run the state. Looks like the voters are ready for the token republican cycle.

  14. JohnMcC says:

    In FL we have Ms Alex Sink. A Dem poohbah in good standing that does not have whatever it takes to win an election.

  15. CSK says:

    The Boston Globe just endorsed Charlie Baker.