Sep 27, 2022 - Politics

Can Geoff Diehl beat Maura Healey?

Photo illustration of Maura Healey tinted blue and Geoff Diehl tinted red separated by a white halftone divider.

Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photos: David L. Ryan and Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Local political experts say time is running out for Republican nominee for governor Geoff Diehl to attract enough attention from voters to have even a glimmer of hope to defeat Attorney General Maura Healey.

Why it matters: Historical trends, recent election results and factors unique to 2022 make Diehl's chances of becoming the next governor very slim 25 days before voting begins.

  • Polls suggest that Healey has a clear lead over Diehl that's only now beginning to slightly narrow as the general election nears.
  • A July 20 poll from Suffolk University found Healey up by 31 points against Diehl. Suffolk's Sept. 10 follow-up survey put Healey's lead at 25 points.

What they're saying: Republican strategist Rob Gray tells Axios that Diehl's path to victory is "less than narrow."

  • Diehl lacks name recognition, and more importantly, the campaign funds to become better known, according to Gray.
  • "He's unknown, but among those who know him, he's seen as somebody who got trounced by Elizabeth Warren, who's still pretty popular here."

By the numbers: There is no apples-to-apples way to compare Diehl's electoral record to Healey's, since they've never run against each other. However, both were on the ballot in 2018, when Healey was reelected as AG and Diehl lost the U.S. Senate race to Elizabeth Warren.

  • Diehl got 979,210 votes to Warren's 1.6 million.
  • Healey did even better than Warren that year, with 1.87 million votes to her opponent's 805,000.
  • Running in very different races, Healey, an incumbent, received nearly 895,000 more votes, or 62.7% more than Diehl did challenging Warren.

MassINC Polling Group president Steve Koczela tells Axios there's been a historical advantage for Republicans running for the corner office for the last few decades, but it looks like that trend could be over.

  • "There's no evidence so far of that advantage continuing this year. Polls throughout the year have shown Maura Healey with a comfortable lead," Koczela said.

Of note: Democrats have focused on Diehl's allegiance to former President Donald Trump in their attacks on the Whitman Republican.

  • The party released an ad this week linking Diehl to denials that the 2020 election was legitimate. The ad includes Diehl's praise of the Supreme Court justices Trump named.

Between the lines: The numbers support the Democratic strategy. Trump received only 1.17 million votes in 2020, one of the highest-turnout elections in state history. Joe Biden won in Mass. with 2.4 million votes.

What we're watching: Bringing Trump to Massachusetts to campaign on Dihel's behalf could "shuffle the deck," according to Gray, by drawing more attention to the race and boosting GOP fundraising.

  • But Diehl standing side-by-side with Trump could be the last straw to turn off unenrolled voters.

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