Calling his decision not to seek a third term complicated and difficult, Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday said he will be focused on the significant work that still needs to be done to guide Massachusetts out of the coronavirus pandemic.
"And not focusing on, let's call it, the discourse -- and that's probably an insult to the word discourse -- that comes with political campaigning," he said at a news conference.
Baker, a moderate Republican who hasn’t been afraid to criticize former President Donald Trump, has had a well-publicized rift with the state party, which is loyal to Trump and far to the right of Baker.
The chair of the Massachusetts GOP, Jim Lyons, claimed that Baker was "shaken" by Trump's endorsement of Geoff Diehl in the Republican primary for the 2022 election.
Asked about that, Baker said, "Every race I’ve ever entered, I entered because I believed that I would be the best person to do the job and had the best plan on how to get it done.
"No. Not shaken," he added.
Trump took a victory lap after Baker's announcement, reiterating in a statement his old attack that the Massachusetts governor is a Republican in name only and claiming the Bay Stater "is incapable of getting the Republican nomination."
Trump continued, "He's been very selfish, and is bad news for the Republican Party—actually, he shouldn’t even be considered a Republican. We wish him well!"
While Baker remains broadly popular in Massachusetts, recent polling has found that he's more popular with Democrats and independents than Republicans, and he trailed behind Diehl among likely Republican primary voters. Earlier this week, Baker dismissed the idea that he would run as an independent.
Lyons has been dealing with intra-party politics of his own.
Top donors have threatened to cut off funding to the party unless new leadership is put in place after Lyons didn’t call out homophobia in the party. But Lyons said in response he hasn't considered stepping down.
Asked Wednesday if the general tenor of politics played into his decision, Baker said he believes his brand of politics has stood apart from a lot of the bipartisan noise.
"I would argue that the way we’ve operated has a lot to do with why the voters of Massachusetts think we’ve done a really good job for seven years," Baker said.
Baker has been atop the country’s most popular governor list for the better part of the past decade, something he credited to his lieutenant governor, Karyn Polito, and Cabinet. It was the only time he choked up during his news conference Wednesday.
More on Baker's 2022 Decision
Former Massachusetts GOP Chair Jennifer Nassour said Baker’s business background and ability to reach across the aisle put Massachusetts on solid footing over the last seven years.
"In Massachusetts, 57% of our electorate is actually unenrolled voters. Those are the people that matter. Those are the people that he has been focusing on," Nassour said.
Baker gave no hint as to what he is considering when his term ends. But when a reporter asked if he’s considering a possible run for president, he gave a hearty laugh, then said, seemingly sarcastically, "Yeah. Yeah!"