In Massachusetts, the Republican Governors Association is up on the air with a $1 million radio and television ad buy attacking not Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick but state Treasurer Tim Cahill, who is running as an independent conservative. The only other comparable RGA ad buy I’m aware of is against Jerry Brown in California.
The Boston Globe notes the RGA tried a similar “worse than the Democrat” line of attack against independent candidate Chris Daggett in last year’s New Jersey gubernatorial race, but there are some key differences. Daggett was clearly running to Republican Chris Christie’s left; Cahill is running to Republican nominee Charlie Baker’s right. Daggett was siphoning votes from Christie but was in a distant third place. Cahill is ahead of Baker in at least one public poll and is actively vying with him to become Patrick’s main opponent. The only difference that cuts against Cahill is that he is a former Democrat while Daggett is a former Republican.
“Do conservative grandmothers in Nebraska know their donations to the Republican Governors Association are being used to attack candidates running to the right,” quips one observer, asking why “in a target-rich environment” this race “is Haley Barbour’s biggest priority.”
The Baker-Cahill feud has become the dominant story in the Massachusetts governor’s race, where most voters have already clearly turned the page on the Democratic incumbent (Patrick is significantly underperforming Martha Coakley, if that tells you anything). The question is whether one of them emerges as Patrick’s chief rival or whether the two of them will split the fragile, narrow center-right majority assembled by Scott Brown (and Mitt Romney before him) and allow Patrick to sneak back into office with a small plurality.