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Baker, Coakley step lively to reach voters at Boston parade

Martha Coakley and Charlie Baker greeted potential voters at the East Boston Columbus Day Parade on Sunday.
Steven G. Smith for The Boston Globe, Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff
Martha Coakley and Charlie Baker greeted potential voters at the East Boston Columbus Day Parade on Sunday.

They shook, grasped, and high-fived countless outstretched palms, telling the multitudes, one by one, it was good to see them.

They said hello to children and babies and posed for cellphone shots. And they offered cheerful commentary on people’s costumes and food, amid the sounds of bagpipers and high school bands.

The two major party candidates for governor were on parade again Sunday: This time, marching in the East Boston Columbus Day Parade. It was the 14th parade for Democrat Martha Coakley and the 12th one for Republican Charlie Baker since their respective bids to succeed Governor Deval Patrick began last year.

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Each speed-walked, ran, and sprinted through the city on Sunday, moving rapidly down the street, surrounded by supporters, as if their political careers depended on meeting every potential voter lining the route from Suffolk Downs to Maverick Square — as if this parade might be their last.

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But it was unclear if either moved the needle with their extraordinary exuberance. Baker and Coakley are locked in a race that polls show to be very close.

RELATED: More coverage on the race for Mass. governor

In interviews with more than a dozen parade-watchers, most said that they planned to vote, had not yet made up their minds, and that meeting the candidates didn’t move them one way or the other.

Coakley said hello to Winthrop resident Claire Haddad, who was sitting along the route with her husband.

Haddad said it was her first time meeting Coakley. She said she found the attorney general “had a nice handshake and I thought she was warm,” but she still had not definitively made up her mind on the race.

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East Boston resident Dolores Urciuoli, 73, also met Coakley for the first time Sunday and was surprised by her size.

“She’s such a tiny woman,” she said, explaining that Coakley looked different on TV. As for whether the attorney general had gotten her vote? Urciuoli said she will make up her mind closer to Nov. 4.

Other voters said they were also unmoved by meeting the candidates and had already picked who they were voting for. “Nice to meet you, Charlie,” said Kerri Antonuccio, a 38-year-old parade viewer, as Baker greeted her briefly along the route.

Antonuccio, a North Reading resident and a Republican, later said she was already planning to vote for Baker, but it was “nice to see him be so personable and stop and chat.”

East Boston resident Nate Perkins, 48, said he was voting for Coakley, believing she would be an effective governor, but seeing her in the procession had no bearing on his ballot decision.

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Baker and Coakley both lauded the power of parades.

“Parades are a great opportunity to get to know the culture and the atmosphere in a community,” Baker said, during a break in chatting with supporters before the event.

“A parade is a lot of pomp and circumstance, but they want to see you out running,” Coakley said, over the rat-a-tat of a marching band’s drums.

Run she did, shaking the hands of a smattering of voters before breaking into a jog, then stopping to say more hellos.

“He’s making me run up a hill,” Coakley told a spectator with a laugh, motioning to state Senator Anthony W. Petruccelli, Democrat of East Boston, who marched with Coakley for some of the parade.

Baker, too, was running as he jetted between a big contingent of sign-wielding supporters and people along the route.

“Good-lookin’ sandwich!” he exclaimed, nearly knocking a sausage, egg, and cheese out of 19-year-old Brendan Nail’s hand. Baker bumped elbows with Nail, a North Carolina resident who didn’t have a free hand to shake, then quickly greeted Boston resident Evan Brown, 22, before jogging away.

Brown, who had seen Coakley pass by earlier in the parade, said he was leaning toward Baker and seeing the candidates in person “puts personality to them.”

Other politicians at the event expressed certainty that parade-marching could help move the vote.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston, a veteran of many parades, said from the route that marching definitely sways voters.

“Usually, the people that show up at parades are active participants in their communities,” the mayor said, adding that while the spectators Sunday weren’t all Bostonians, they were overwhelmingly Massachusetts residents.

US Senator Edward J. Markey, a longtime elected official who also marched Sunday, said people want to see candidates and officeholders in person. And, the Democrat added, showing up for a specific community’s parade is a sign of respect.

Jeff McCormick and Evan Falchuk, two of the independent candidates for governor, also marched in Sunday’s East Boston parade, according to campaign aides. Scott Lively, the third independent candidate, said he marched in a parade in the town of Orange.

Political observers said there is also another, innately human aspect at play in showing up to march.

“There’s the reciprocity factor,” said Jeffrey M. Berry, a Tufts University professor of political science. “If you don’t show up, you have an opponent who might.”

Joshua Miller can be reached at joshua.miller@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos.