Decision 2022

Could Healey Lose the Governor's Race in Deep-Blue Mass.? ‘In What World?' Experts Ask

Polls show Maura Healey holding on to a major lead over Geoff Diehl in the governor's race, and Democrats and Republicans alike say it would take a major scandal for it to be erased, let alone for Diehl to have a shot at winning

Candidates for governor of Massachusetts Maura Healey and Geoff Diehl
NBC10 Boston

There's virtually nothing Maura Healey could do to lose the race for governor of Massachusetts to her Trump-backed challenger Geoff Diehl in next week's election, pundits from across the political spectrum say.

While they identified some potential road blocks that could ruffle Healey's seemingly silky smooth campaign, they saw her consistent 20-plus point lead in the polls and Diehl's unpopular brand of Republican politics in the Bay State as insurmountable come Nov. 8.

“Donald Trump joked that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and his people would still back him. With Maura Healey – it’s not a joke," conservative commentator Michael Graham said. "There is nothing she can do to lose this race."

Graham, the publisher of InsideSources and a Boston Herald columnist, argued that what appears to be a predetermined result of the gubernatorial race doesn't reflect on Diehl as a candidate so much as the deep blue state of Massachusetts today.

Short of a scandal or unforeseen tragedy, political experts said the only way Healey could lose ground in the bid for the corner office would be alienating unenrolled voters and downright complacency.

NBC10 Boston Political Analyst Sue O'Connell gives her thoughts on what Geoff Diehl and Maura Healey did right, and what she'd have liked to see more of.

But a total loss?

"In what world is that possible? I don't think it's possible," said Mara Dolan, who sits on state committee for the Massachusetts Democratic party.

Healey is Massachusetts' first openly gay person to be elected attorney general, and would hold the same distinction as governor, if she's elected; she'd also be the first woman elected to the office. Diehl, a former state representative who co-chaired Donald Trump's 2016 campaign in Massachusetts, unsuccessfully ran for Senate against incumbent Elizabeth Warren in 2018.

Both candidates have different ideas about how, as governor, they would handle key issues facing state residents, including the whopping spike in energy costs.

Massachusetts gubernatorial candidates Maura Healey and Geoff Diehl responded Wednesday to the increase in energy costs from National Grid.

Healey had a major head start in the race, noted Erin O'Brien, an associate professor of political science at UMass Boston. The Democrat kicked off her campaign with a 26-point lead over Diehl, a Suffolk University/Boston Globe/NBC10 Boston/Telemundo poll found.

"It would be very difficult for her to lose this race barring something completely anomalistic," O'Brien said. "Twenty-six-point leads just don't evaporate minus scandal, or you know, something truly horrific, so it's almost impossible for her to lose."

More recent poll numbers show Healey holding on to her more than 20-point lead. Healey had 56% and Diehl 33% in a poll conducted with 500 likely voters Oct. 13-16 by Suffolk University/Boston Globe/NBC10 Boston/Telemundo.

The only way Healey could see defeat is "if she somehow managed to alienate what we call unenrolled voters -- folks who are not registered either as Democrats or Republicans," according to Dolan, a former candidate for the Massachusetts Governor's Council.

"I don't see her doing that," Dolan added.

A new poll released Tuesday is giving a clearer picture of where Massachusetts' biggest races stand three weeks before Election Day.

Approximately 30% of Massachusetts voters are registered as Democrats, compared to just 9% registered as Republicans. Nearly 60% of Massachusetts voters are unenrolled in either party, according to enrollment data from the Secretary of State's website.

Graham said that the majority of Bay State voters who haven't picked a party tend to vote Democrat.

"Massachusetts doesn't elect Republicans," Graham said, categorizing current Gov. Charlie Baker as a RINO -- a Republican in Name Only. "They haven't elected a Republican since the Mitt Romney exception, when he won the governor's race over Martha Coakley."

Lessons From Martha Coakley 's Loss

Healey, 50, was first elected the state's attorney general in 2014 after years working under former Attorney General Martha Coakley as chief of the office's Civil Rights Division, its Public Protection and Advocacy Bureau and its Business and Labor Bureau.

Coakley was the first woman elected attorney general in Massachusetts in 2006. She was considered a shoo-in when she ran for U.S. Senate in a 2010 special election, but lost in an upset to Republican Scott Brown. It was the first time Massachusetts elected a Republican to the seat in 38 years.

It would be very difficult for her to lose this race barring something completely anomalistic.

UMass Boston Associate Professor Erin O'Brien

"Surprises happen. Surprises do happen," O'Brien said. "When Coakley ran against Scott Brown, no one thought Scott Brown would win. It was a Kennedy seat -- he was a sacrificial lamb."

Four years later, Coakley could have been the first woman elected governor of the state, but she lost to Baker. A WBUR poll had her 10 points ahead at the time.

While experts stopped short of calling a repeat collapse impossible, they say the same fate is highly unlikely for Healey.

"One of the things that he was able to do was peel off votes from Democrats," Dolan said. "When Charlie Baker won against Martha Coakley, remember it was the narrowest victory and like 50 years. He won by only 40,000 votes, and one of the things that he was able to do was peel off votes from Democrats. Maura Healey does not have that problem. She's absolutely holding on very strongly to Democratic voters."

Baker, who has consistently held the title of the nation's most popular governor, likely couldn't get through the Massachusetts Republican primary because he's considered a RINO, O'Brien noted.

Graham noted that no Republican candidate has won a federal election in Massachusetts since 1994, with the exception of Scott Brown's special election win over Coakley. So if the outcome of the race is all but decided, for what purpose is Diehl running?

"You could argue he's not running a serious campaign to win the governor's job because Massachusetts is not going to elect an actual practicing philosophical Republican to be governor. They're just not," Graham said. "He's running a great race in America First, Trump-related ideas."

More on the Massachusetts governor's race

Democrat Maura Healey and Republican Geoff Diehl are vying to be the next governor of Massachusetts.

Maura Healey Declines Invitation From Geoff Diehl for Third Debate

Healey, Diehl Make Pitches, Points in Final Debate

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