Should Coakley Cancel Her Globe Subscription?

This could be the week that Martha Coakley cancels her subscription to the Boston Globe.

Last Friday as literally thousands of Massachusetts’ six million residents awaited the Democratic Party convention, the Globe’s new Friday “Capital” section devoted to politics was in its second week of existence. As promised it delivered a poll following up on its inaugural survey of the prior week and here’s the lead:

Martha Coakley holds a commanding 35-point lead in the five-way race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination and has broadened her edge in a potential general election match up with Republican Charlie Baker, according to a new Boston Globe poll.

So far so good and there was no change in the week against the Democratic rivals but there was versus Baker, thus:

The results indicated a notable shift in Coakley’s lead over Baker in a hypothetical general-election matchup. She moved from a 5-point edge last week — 37 percent to 32 percent — to an 11-point lead this week, 42 percent to 31 percent.

Here is what was missing from the story: any explanation of what could have moved Coakley from a five point lead to an eleven point lead over Baker. I can’t think of anything but let me know if I missed something.

For the sake of being diabolical though let’s say the lead never really changed and the true difference in the hypothetical Coakley-Baker matchup was just statistical noise.

Happily such random occurrences quickly return to a more accurate reading, but maybe not so happily in this case. Suppose that this Friday’s Globe poll shows that Coakley leads Baker by thirty seven percent to thirty two percent – why Coakley has dropped from an eleven point lead to a five point lead!

What is worse, there is a ready narrative explanation: Coakley, that terrible campaigner, underperformed at the convention, is no match for Steve Grossman and can’t possibly withstand the surging Don Berwick!

Maybe none of this will occur and perhaps if any of it does the Globe will not follow the easy narrative; but others will, pushed by her Democratic rivals. It is a reminder that no thirty-five point lead over a statewide office holder and an ideological insurgent stands up, but any five point drop is likely to play into the narrative of Coakley as a Democratic disaster. There will be stories of much wailing and gnashing of teeth by Democratic Party insiders. Coakley faces a real risk of the story snowballing.

The other major risk here is that “Capital” in its infancy becomes a major variable in the campaign narrative and not just a chronicler of Massachusetts politics.

The final risk is that I am all wrong but that pales against the risks to Coakley and the Globe. It does heighten my interest in reading “Capital” this Friday morning. And on the small chance I’m right it might be the last day that Martha Coakley subscribes to the Globe.





About Maurice T. Cunningham

Maurice T. Cunningham is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. He teaches courses in American government including Massachusetts Politics, The American Presidency, Catholics in Political Life, The Political Thought of Abraham Lincoln, American Political Thought, and Public Policy. His book Maximization, Whatever the Cost: Race, Redistricting and the Department of Justice examines the role of the DOJ in requiring states to maximize minority voting districts in the Nineties. He has published articles dealing with the role of the Catholic Church in Massachusetts politics and on party politics in the state. His research interests focus upon the changing political culture of Massachusetts.
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