BOSTON — With less than five weeks to Election Day, the latest polls suggest the gubernatorial race is a two-man contest between Democratic incumbent Gov. Deval Patrick and Republican challenger Charles Baker. So just where does that leave independent candidate Timothy Cahill? Despite one of the toughest weeks of his campaign, Cahill, the state treasurer, is vowing to press on.
Tough Days For Cahill
Just how tough has it been for Cahill? Last week, two top campaign staffers walked out. First, John Weaver — who helped Sen. John McCain win the New Hampshire primary 10 years ago — quit, saying Cahill can’t win. Weaver said Cahill will only hurt Baker and help re-elect Patrick. The next day, Adam Meldrum, his campaign manager, stepped down.
Meanwhile, the latest polls show Cahill running a distant third. And yet Cahill is carrying on.
“I feel good,” Cahill said earlier this week. “I mean, the numbers really haven’t changed for the last six months for any of us.”
Being mired in third place might be discouraging to some, but Cahill says he still believes that he is within striking distance. And he dismisses the departure of Weaver as no big deal. “Weaver was not a very active part of the campaign, so it’s not a great loss to us,” he said.
“And he was advocating a strategy that we didn’t think was a good one, which was attack the other candidates. For me it’s never been about re-electing Patrick or hurting Baker. It’s been about giving people an independent choice because they are sick and tired of the party system.”
To Attack Or Not To Attack
To some, it might be admirable that Cahill rejected advice to go on the attack. To others it might seem naïve — especially after the way he was hammered by a series of attack ads from the Republican Governors Association last spring. Back then, Cahill was running a close second behind Patrick — but his campaign never seemed to recover from the attacks.
Political observers say third-party candidacies are usually a long shot — especially in Massachusetts where the two parties remain so entrenched — and especially in this race — with national Republican forces engaged in an effort to knock off one of the nation’s most liberal governors.
Out On The Campaign Trail
But the Cahill campaign seems a world away from such concerns. Earlier this week, in his role as state treasurer, Cahill presented a giant check to Martin Middle School in North Attleboro for a new roof. Then, as a candidate, he headed to an editorial board meeting at The Sun Chronicle in Attleboro to ask for the paper’s support.
“I would love your endorsement, just like I would love the votes of everyone in this room and everyone in this state,” Cahill told the editors. The board members listened courteously, even if they seemed skeptical that Cahill could win.
The Cahill campaign still has about $2 million in the bank — enough to stay on the air for the next few weeks with political ads. In his latest ad, the treasurer touts his experience as a former restaurant owner. “Having owned a restaurant for 12 years has taught me a few things,” Cahill says in the ad. “You see a tomato. I see a profit. You see a back door. I see a place profits can go.”
And Cahill says plenty of voters are unhappy with the two major parties, which, he says, is why neither Patrick nor Baker is polling much above 40 percent.
“They’re still very close or below the threshold of actually being able to win this race, which tells me people still haven’t made up their minds,” he said. “That’s why I don’t want to give up. And I don’t think people want me to give up.” Cahill repeated his promise to stay in the race until the election.
“Nobody has even cast a ballot yet,” he said. “For me to walk away would defeat the purpose.”
Cahill says his purpose is to be a winner. Absent a political miracle, he might have to settle on being a spoiler.