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OPINION

Wily, thy name isn’t Geoff Diehl

A Trumpster plots a primary challenge to Charlie Baker.

Republican state Rep. Geoff Diehl in 2018.Steven Senne

Some politicians are born wily. Others become wily. Still others aspire to wiliness, but end up looking more like the hapless cartoon coyote of the same name.

Exhibit A: Geoff Diehl. A former Republican state representative from Whitman, Diehl was the GOP’s 2018 nominee for US Senate and has been making the political rounds telling people he’s running for governor in 2022.

“I’m considering it,” he told me in a phone conversation on Tuesday. “I really haven’t made a decision yes or no.”

Except that Diehl has been telling people he’s running for weeks now. As Politico reported Wednesday, he has also been interviewing potential campaign managers. (I’m told one of his top choices has already turned him down.)

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Normally, you’d say that Diehl is merely positioning himself to run in case Baker doesn’t. (That’s a coin toss, I’m told.) But Diehl at least claims that “this would be regardless of whether Charlie” runs. Now, when a long-shot candidate challenges an incumbent of his own party, he or she usually has a reason for why he’s running. So what is Diehl’s?

“Well, right now, while I am making a decision … those are the factors that are going to influence that decision: what we think we have to offer different than if he [Baker] decides to stay and run for a third term,” he, um, explained. (My suggestion: clarity of purpose! No, just kidding.)

Diehl is tight with the Donald Trump backers on the Republican State Committee, which has long been a place where the wackadoodle — ah, highly ideological — faction of Massachusetts Republicanism vies for intraparty influence against the establishment Republicans. The former are types who would rather wage a bitter battle for control of the listing, wave-swept deck of the Titanic than take refuge in a lifeboat. The latter are concerned with fielding candidates who actually have a chance of winning in Massachusetts.

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The state party is now narrowly under the control of Jim Lyons, a hard-right conservative and a staunch Trumpster. Diehl, a state committee member, is not only a Lyons ally, he also works for would-be GOP political power Rick Green, CEO of 1A Auto, unsuccessful 2018 candidate for the Third Congressional District, and founder of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, a dark-money right-wing attack outfit that masquerades as a policy shop. That tripartite alliance has set itself up as an enemy of Baker’s form of moderate, electable Republicanism.

Diehl is clearly hoping to cultivate the Trump wing of the party without taking on Trump’s tarnish. So how’s it going? Well, let’s see. . . .

When the governor expressed support for the impeachment of Trump after Trump incited the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, there was talk of the Republican State Committee censuring him for his comments. Diehl was on Howie Carr’s radio show, fanning the flames.

“I didn’t say [Baker] should be censured,” Diehl said of the Carr segment, claiming he was merely suggesting “that the best thing to do would be for him to retract his statement that the president should be impeached.”

So it must have been a Geoff Diehl impersonator who told Carr that though Baker’s allies on the state committee would oppose a censure motion, “what we’re hoping is the remainder of the people, who aren’t beholden to the governor for a job right now, actually vote their conscience if this ends up coming up to a vote.” It didn’t.

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Does Diehl think Trump bears some responsibility for assembling and inciting his supporters to storm the Capitol?

“I think those people were coming down to Washington regardless,” he said. “His address [to the ‘Stop the Steal’ rally] was to make sure he respected their right to protest, but also urging them to do it peacefully.”

I asked a variant of the question(s) conservative Bill Kristol suggests should be posed to every Republican officeholder or candidate: Do you think Joe Biden’s victory was legitimate?

Trump is out of office, so looking back is a waste of time, Diehl said. I noted it was important that voters not be told a fair election was somehow stolen. The Democrats refused to accept the results of the 2016 election, Diehl replied. Actually, Hillary Clinton conceded a day or two after the election, I noted.

“She may have,” he said. May have? Facts matter. She did.

I pressed on through the fog. So, in his view, was Biden’s victory legitimate?

“The president doubted it,” he answered. Yes, but Trump lies at the drop of a hat. Well, Diehl added, there were members of Congress who were against certifying the election results.

“All I can say is that if they had concerns, there might be merit for that,” he concluded.

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Sorry, folks, I’ve been far too tough here — on Wile E. Coyote, that is.


Scot Lehigh is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at scot.lehigh@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeScotLehigh.