With Attack Ad, Republican Group Seeks To Push Cahill Aside03:16

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Right now, independent state Treasurer Timothy Cahill is beating Republican candidate Charles Baker in the race for governor. The most recent poll, released by Western New England College last week, shows Baker in third place, with Gov. Deval Patrick in the lead.

Cahill and Baker are splitting the anti-Patrick vote, so Baker and his Republican allies are shaking up the race. On Tuesday, Baker hired a new campaign manager, Tim O'Brien, who ran Kerry Healey's gubernatorial race against Patrick four years ago. And the Republican Governors Association (RGA) released this television ad:

Beacon Hill's a mess. Tim Cahill's making it worse. With Cahill running the lottery, costs have skyrocketed, and he spent a million bucks on office renovations.

"It was done at the expense of the landlord," Cahill said. "We did not use taxpayer dollars to renovate. It was part of a negotiation about extending the lease."

Massachusetts is one of only three states — along with California and Florida — where the RGA is intervening with ads so early in a race.

"In the case of Massachusetts, we feel that we can have an impact," said Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for the association.

Murtaugh wouldn't say why the RGA decided to target Cahill, and not the Democratic incumbent, Patrick. The governor's campaign issued a statement calling the spots "disappointing and sad."

Professor Maurice Cunningham, of the University of Massachusetts Boston, says the earlier Republicans can get Cahill out of contention, the clearer the shot Baker has at Patrick.

"Neither is terribly well known to the broad public yet, and so this is particularly damaging," he said.

Cunningham, who teaches a course on Massachusetts politics, says the ads are damaging in two ways: "One is of course to mark up Cahill, drive up his negatives. It's a very hard-hitting ad. The second goal, I think, is to make him spend down money, and weaken him very early in the campaign."

And Cahill says that puts him in a tough position.

"With seven months to go, we're not planning on spending significant money," he said. "We're not going to go up on network TV, or spend big money on the radio."

Cahill Campaign Ad

Now, Charlie Baker and his Washington friends are desperate to tear me down with over a million dollars of negative attack ads.

In the spot, Cahill is seen in his kitchen. In his race for U.S. Senate, Scott Brown also recorded an ad in his kitchen after Democrats ran negative ads against him. Cahill says Massachusetts voters don't like negative ads.

"It didn't work for Martha Coakley when she tried it on Scott Brown," Cahill said. "It didn't work for Kerry Healey, back in 2006, when she tried it against Deval Patrick."

Cahill's right. In recent statewide races, the candidate with the negative ads lost. The Republicans are taking a gamble that this time, it will work.

This program aired on April 28, 2010.

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