State House Roundup: The XX Factor

Charlie Baker, the Republican nominee for governor, wants you to know something about him. Actually, he needs you to know. Women like him.

"I think women who know me like me fine," he told reporters Thursday.

If you don't believe Charlie, just watch his newest campaign commercial featuring daughter Caroline. Or ask any one of the 300-plus women who showed up at the South End Cyclorama to voice their support and empty their wallets with over $100,000 to help make him the next governor.

This coveted voting bloc could well decide the 2014 race for governor. And while they don't necessarily vote in unison, both Martha Coakley and Charlie Baker are fighting to get them, or at least enough of them, in their corner.

While the first full week of the general election campaign for governor gathered steam, Gov. Deval Patrick continued to woo European businesses through Denmark, England and France, while Bill Weld, his shock of strawberry blonde untouched by time, burst back on the scene in a major way.

Coakley, the Democratic nominee, and her GOP opponent Baker were spotted putting stakes in the ground on key issues they hope will move voters: early education and jobs, respectively.

Coakley's fleshed-out, $150 million plan to eliminate the 17,000 deep waitlist for early education vouchers - her definition of universal pre-K - went head to head with Baker's $300 million package of tax breaks to boost the economy, which incidentally shed 5,300 jobs in August as the unemployment rate ticked up to 5.8 percent. But blame DeMoulas for some of that.

If some Democrats were expecting Baker to come out of his corner punching (and they were), it didn't really happen. This is the new and improved Charlie Baker. The Charlie that loves his family, watches a lot of football and cries at Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

To some extent, the 2010 Republican nominee's new strategy appears to be working. The latest Boston Globe poll showed Baker in a statistical dead heat with Coakley, trailing 36 percent to 39 percent, well within the margin of error. But perhaps more interesting was the gender gap emerging in the race.

Coakley's support is comprised of 62 percent women, and she leads Baker 46 percent to 30 percent in the coveted demographic. Meanwhile, Bakers leads Coakley by 11 points (43-32) among men, and spent his week trying to peel away some of the 11 percent of undecided voters who happen to be female.

When the situation with domestic violence in the NFL seeped into the campaign, Coakley saw it as an opportunity to shore up female support, calling for Commissioner Roger Goodell's removal in the face of Baker's request for "more data" and broader explanations about the league's handling of domestic violence cases.

The candidates aren't just competing over women voters. They're also fighting over Democrats. In the case of Hill Holiday CEO Karen Kaplan, Baker hit the jackpot. In Quincy, Baker reveled in the endorsement of Democratic Mayor Tom Koch, a Grossman supporter who chose to throw in with the Republican rather than back his party's nominee.

Coakley, meanwhile, got ice cream in Newton with former primary rival Steve Grossman and campaigned in Lexington with her other vanquished primary opponent Don Berwick. While Coakley tries to unify the Democrats, Baker is trying to divide them.

It's been three years since Gov. Deval Patrick and legislative leaders were able to come together to legalize casino gambling. And while it could be years more before a hand of poker gets dealt, the Gaming Commission rendered an important verdict this week when it selected Wynn Resorts, and its international reputation for glitzy gaming extravagance, over a competing bid by Mohegan Sun and Suffolk Downs for a Greater Boston casino license.

The win for Wynn and Everett means the end of the track for Suffolk Downs, who almost immediately after the vote announced its intention to close its doors before the end of the year, lay off all 176 employees, and join Wonderland in the annals of Bay State racing lore.

Members of the Gaming Commission have been on the receiving end of some blowback for casting the vote that appears to have killed thoroughbred racing in Massachusetts. But ultimately, saving the horse racing industry was never their directive, even if it was an underlying force behind the legalization of gaming in the first place.

There, back on Massachusetts soil to once again feel the thrill of victory, was former Gov. Weld, whose firm ML Strategies repped Wynn during the application process. Weld was also by Baker's side as his protégé - who still calls him "boss" - rolled out an economic plan that Big Red deemed brilliant. He also went toe-to-toe with Mo Cowan on who will win the Corner Office, and said the public can expect to see more of him on the trail in the weeks to come.

Patrick, as he was when Sal DiMasi crushed his first casino dream, was out of state when the Gaming Commission cast its decisive vote. And he was not alone.

While the governor continued his European adventure, Senate President Therese Murray was in Ireland, where she was joined on the island Friday by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. Walsh is making his first international rounds as mayor, and judging from the accounts trickling across the Atlantic, he's returning to the homeland of his parents a hero.

Even from London, Patrick was able to make clear one thing, or group, he won't miss when he hands over the keys to his office in January: the Pioneer Institute.

The Pioneer Institute released a nine-page report this week detailing what it described as the $1 billion price tag of implementing the Affordable Care Act, including the added expense of rebuilding the state's failed web exchange. The administration left little doubt what it thought of the report, with even the governor weighing in, via statement, to castigate the "spurious charges" in the report that officials said was political, not fact-based.

STORY OF THE WEEK: Baker throws in with women, Massachusetts throws in with Wynn.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "Basically what he engaged in was techno-babble and we don't entrust elections to techno-babblers." - Secretary of State William Galvin, in response to Republican opponent David D'Arcangelo's call for online voting.


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