Campaign 2010

In last week, Patrick and Baker pull out all stops

By Michael Levenson and Noah Bierman
Globe Staff / October 27, 2010

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Locked in a close contest, Governor Deval Patrick and his Republican rival, Charles D. Baker, are charging into the final week of the governor’s race with plans to barnstorm the state with rallies, bus tours, and promises to put thousands of people back to work.

Baker, predicting a “food fight’’ in the closing days, is planning to enlist US Senator Scott Brown for a bus tour Saturday that will head through Springfield, Foxborough, Worcester, and Marlborough. Patrick is planning his own statewide bus tour on the weekend, making five or six stops a day.

After 15 months of accusations, policy papers, and political ads, both front-runners are trying to simplify their message to voters: I will bring jobs to Massachusetts.

Patrick, in a preview of that distilled pitch, cast his campaign yesterday as a battle on behalf of those who want a job but cannot find one.

“I’m not fighting for my job,’’ Patrick told 200 students and faculty during a visit to Salem State University. “I’m fighting for theirs and for yours.’’

Baker, making one of his closing pitches, released a new television ad yesterday that highlights the state’s latest unemployment report, which showed that Massachusetts lost 21,000 jobs last month, “enough to empty most of Fenway,’’ the ad says, as it shows an overhead shot of the ballpark with fans vanishing from the seats.

With polls showing Patrick clinging to a slight lead over Baker, the outcome on Election Day will hinge on voter turnout. Baker is betting that Republican enthusiasm, a phenomenon documented in polls locally and nationally, will help him close the gap with the governor.

“Our volunteers are enthusiastic and engaged,’’ Baker said yesterday, speaking from a spit of park land behind the University of Massachusetts Boston. “They are coming on Election Day.’’

Patrick is counting on a network of volunteers who have signed up to help him get his supporters to the polls on Tuesday. He said 8,000 people signed up to help him at his Oct. 16 rally with President Obama in Boston.

“I’m encouraged by the enthusiasm and the willingness of people to come out, and they’ll be out helping all through the weekend and on Election Day,’’ Patrick said. “It’s all about the grass roots, people to people, not relying on ads alone and on on-air stuff.’’

State Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill, the independent candidate who has fallen to single digits in the polls, will try to recapture attention with a State House press conference today. He is also planning a rally tomorrow night at a function hall in his hometown of Quincy. Green-Rainbow candidate Jill Stein is also running, although she kept a low profile yesterday.

Baker appears to be targeting Patrick on a different issue each day and tying that issue to broader problems in the job market. Yesterday, it was education.

“After 16 years of bipartisan education reform, Massachusetts schools have performed quite well,’’ Baker said at UMass Boston, standing next to a poster giving the governor a grade of F on education issues. “But over the course of the past four years, they’ve suffered many of the same hits and the same reductions and the same loss of personnel that we’ve seen spread across our economy.’’

Baker accused Patrick of presiding over the loss of 3,200 teachers and $140 million in higher education spending while tuition and fees have increased substantially. Baker said Patrick had abandoned his promises four years ago to make education a priority.

“The governor ignored the tough decisions he could have made when he had billions of dollars in rainy day money and billions of dollars in federal stimulus money,’’ Baker said.

Patrick said the state has been ranked first in the nation in student achievement for three years, won a $250 million federal Race to the Top grant after passing a law that paved the way for more charter schools, and has maintained funding for the state’s primary education account during the economic downturn.

“If I walked on water,’’ the governor said, “Charlie Baker’s response would be, ‘See? I told you Patrick can’t swim.’ ’’

In the next few days, Baker, who also met with voters in a Lynn restaurant yesterday, plans to address energy prices, illegal immigration, and welfare recipients’ spending their benefits on alcohol or gambling, an issue mentioned in his newest ad.

Patrick is planning to highlight bright spots in the economy, visiting businesses that are expanding and adding jobs, and shoring up his support among loyal backers. Yesterday, after visiting Salem State, Patrick went to the Charles Street AME Church in Roxbury to meet with Mothers for Justice and Equality, a group of murder victims’ relatives who are launching an antiviolence campaign.

He met privately with the mothers for about 45 minutes, listening to them and praying with them in a room before addressing them and about 30 other activists in the church basement. Patrick mentioned the election only glancingly, garnering applause when he mentioned a second term. Instead, he praised the mothers and vowed to help them.

Cahill, highlighting his experience as a former sandwich shop owner, began a tour of small businesses in Dedham, Attleboro, and Norwood. He plans to spend today in the Merrimack Valley.

“The message for the last week is: He’s the candidate who’s going to fight for small business,’’ said Cahill spokesman David Kibbe, adding that the treasurer will also emphasize fiscal austerity, honesty, and integrity.