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At Convention, GOP Gives Green Light To Baker01:48

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Charles Baker gestures after he was chosen as the Republican candidate for governor at the Massachusetts Republican convention on Saturday in Worcester. (AP)
Charles Baker gestures after he was chosen as the Republican candidate for governor at the Massachusetts Republican convention on Saturday in Worcester. (AP)

The man Charles Baker won't have to face in a Republican primary, Christy Mihos, tried to stay on the ballot by making this pitch to delegates at the GOP convention this weekend:

"With a primary and taking our message to the people, we'll be in the news each and every day," Mihos pleaded.

The argument didn't work. Fewer than 15 percent of the delegates voted for Mihos (he received 11 percent, to Baker's 89 percent), so the Republicans now have their one candidate for governor. Before the convention, Baker admitted that a primary might help him hone his campaigning skills, but immediately after he knocked Mihos off the ballot, Baker clearly had no regrets that he won't be practicing his skills against another Republican.

“Really, what it comes down to is: Can Baker stop Cahill from growing any further than he has?”-- Republican consultant Mike Dennehy

"I think what it means is that the race is now going to be between the reformers and the non-reformers," Baker said.

By his assessment, Baker would be the reformer. Gov. Deval Patrick and state Treasurer Tim Cahill — the independent candidate — would be the non-reformers.

Sometimes candidates benefit from a primary. They can be like having a sparring partner before the prize fight. In the 1998 governor's race, a Republican primary challenge from Treasurer Joe Malone made Acting Gov. Paul Cellucci a more aggressive campaigner. Cellucci went on to beat Democrat Scott Harshbarger.

But Tufts University's Jeff Berry, a political science professor, sees Baker facing a different kind of battle.

"I think he already has a challenge in the form of Treasurer Cahill, who is campaigning very aggressively to the right of Baker," Berry said, "and the campaign is really under way already, so I don't think he needs a three-ring circus with Mihos as well as Cahill fighting against him."

Cahill and Baker are now in a race to see who gets most of the voters unhappy with Patrick. Republican political consultant Mike Dennehy says knocking Cahill out of contention has to be Baker's main focus.

"Really, what it comes down to is: Can Charlie Baker stop Tim Cahill from growing any further than he has?" Dennehy said. "Can he convince voters of Massachusetts that he is the candidate, he's the outsider, he is the independent Republican to carry the corner office, and the real change that Massachusetts is looking for?"

In order to win voters over, Baker has to let them know know who he is. He has been running for almost a year, but really, voters are just beginning to pay attention. So he used this weekend's convention to introduce himself.

"Let me tell you a little bit about who I am and why I'm running for governor," Baker told the crowd. "I'm a Massachusetts kid. I'm 53-years-old, and I've lived here for 48 of those 53 years. I grew up in Needham. When I was young and foolish, I saw the Stompers play at the Paradise, and Aerosmith came this close to playing at my high school dance."

Baker said he used to work the door at the Oxford Ale House, in Harvard Square. He's just barred Mihos from the door to the governor's office. Now, Baker can focus on persuading voters that he — not Cahill — is Patrick's main challenger.

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This program aired on April 19, 2010.

Fred Thys Twitter Reporter
Fred Thys reports on politics and higher education for WBUR.


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