Poll: Democrat surges ahead in Mass. Gov. race; RNC members upset at Republican Governors Association 

The new Rasmussen poll has has kind of shocking result. What had been a tightening three-way race in the Massachusetts now has the state’s otherwise unpopular incumbent Democratic governor surging ahead by 14 points:

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has gained ground over the past month and now earns 45% of the vote in his bid for reelection against Republican Charlie Baker and independent Tim Cahill. That’s a 10-point jump from a month ago and the Democratic incumbent’s best showing in surveys stretching back to June of last year.

A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state finds Baker with 31% support and Cahill earning just 14% in a three-way contest with Patrick. Ten percent (10%) remain undecided.

So what exactly is going on here? In a nutshell, the GOP candidate Charlie Baker is very liberal Republican. Baker’s primary target has not been the Democrat, but the independent Tim Cahill. Cahill is a the current state treasurer who renounced his membership in the Democratic party to team up with a pro-life Republican and run for governor on a hardline fiscal conservative ticket. Baker and the Republicans Governors Association (RGA) have been so threatened by Cahill's potential challenge from the right, they’ve been spending money attacking Cahill to knock him out of the race. Of course, the problem is that Baker doesn’t appear to be gaining support from any damage they’ve done to Cahill, but rather the Democrat Deval seems to be the chief beneficiary.

It remains to be seen whether this is good strategy for Baker. However, RNC members appear to be growing upset that the RGA is spending so much effort defending a liberal Republican as a matter of blind party loyalty when Cahill might be more in sync with conservative ideology. Reid Wilson at Hotline reports:

Conservative members of the RNC are upset with RGA chair Haley Barbour for spending party money to attack a right-leaning candidate, and some are threatening to make it hurt any WH hopes Barbour may hold.

Committee members have drafted a letter they plan to send to Barbour expressing their anger over the RGA’s support for businessman Charlie Baker (R), the former Harvard Pilgrim Health Care CEO running against Gov. Deval Patrick (D). The conservatives see Baker as a liberal who doesn’t represent the GOP establishment.

Meanwhile, the RGA has run radio and TV ads blasting Treas. Tim Cahill (I), a former Dem who is running as a third-party candidate. Cahill is running to the right of both Baker and Patrick, and RNC members say spending money to defeat him is the wrong use of the party’s money.

Obviously, it’s understandable the RGA is going to back the party representative. And prior to Scott Brown, backing a liberal Republican might have seemed like the party’s only hope. But this is not your typical election year, and now Barbour’s kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place.

For more on the tension the Massachusetts governor's race has created in Republican ranks see David Freddoso's Beltway Confidential post yesterday.

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Mark Hemingway

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