At a cavernous union hall in Charlestown Sunday morning, her voice resonating off the walls, Democrat Martha Coakley exhorted members of Teamsters Local 25 to get out the vote for her.
At a North End restaurant, with the smell of Italian food in the air, Republican Charlie Baker and running mate Karyn Polito encouraged a few dozen supporters to focus their next two weeks and two days on marshaling their networks for Nov. 4, Election Day.
With polls showing a neck-and-neck race, the gubernatorial candidates for both major parties and their allies rallied backers Sunday and asked them not just for their vote, but their voice — to amplify each campaign’s message to acquaintances across the state.
“Your friends, your family, your e-mail list, your social media, your faith circles, everyone you know,” Polito said. “There is nothing more important in your life over the next 16 days than to engage your friends and make this happen.”
Coakley telegraphed the same message. She asked people in the union hall to call their friends, family, and even people who they don’t think agree with them.
“They’ve got to vote,” she said, “and they’ve got to vote for the governor who’s going to stand up for you.”
Successful get-out-the-vote efforts take many months to build, and both campaigns are confident in their operations. Still, political operatives say, there is a swath of people newly tuning into the race who are more reachable and receptive to messages about it, most effectively from people they know.
John E. Walsh — a former state Democratic Party chairman who was Governor Deval Patrick’s 2006 campaign manager, and is an evangelist of the political power of neighbor-to-neighbor contact — said that at this point in the race certain people are just starting to “click in” to the contest. “The folks who have been tired or busy or whatever now are saying ‘OK, it’s time to go,’ ” he said.
Pressing supporters with increasing intensity to reach out to their social networks is a way for candidates to connect to some of those folks just looking at the gubernatorial race, Walsh said. But he added that a get-out-the-vote infrastructure crafted over the long term will be paramount.
Ben Coes, who was the campaign manager for Mitt Romney’s successful 2002 gubernatorial bid, said in the final stretch of that campaign, they ramped up efforts on all fronts, including pressing supporters to talk to their friends and neighbors.
But, he explained, those efforts were only effective because the Romney campaign already had a statewide infrastructure in place, including local-area captains.
On Sunday, treading on familiar ground, Baker and Coakley also offered supporters a précis of their visions.
Baker spoke about crafting an effective, efficient state government “as thrifty and as hard-working and as creative as the people in Massachusetts”; bringing balance to Beacon Hill; and ensuring great educational and economic opportunities for residents in every region of the state.
Speaking at the Teamsters Local 25 event, which included speeches from other Democratic candidates the union is backing, Coakley emphasized turning the economy around for everyone and growing the state to be “prosperous and fair.”
‘This is a race where turnout is going to make a difference.’
The attorney general, who later campaigned in Framingham and with Patrick in Boston, also offered a contrast she has emphasized in recent weeks. She said she would be a governor who would stand up for people, and framed Baker as someone “who just sees numbers, who sees the bottom line, who doesn’t mind a cut even when it affects families or their health care or their jobs.”
Baker, speaking to reporters outside Prezza restaurant in the North End, called Coakley’s contrast a “half-baked attack” and “ridiculous.”
Beyond their back-and-forth, the candidates also alluded to the closeness of the race.
The most recent Boston Globe poll found a dead heat, with Coakley and Baker each garnering 41 percent among likely voters, and independent candidates Scott Lively, Evan Falchuk, and Jeff McCormick each pulling 2 or 3 percent support. Ten percent were undecided.
Both major-party candidates have suffered statewide defeats in prior races: Coakley against Scott Brown in the 2010 US Senate special election and Baker against Patrick in 2010.
Responding to questions Sunday, Baker and Coakley reflected on the possibility of another defeat.
The attorney general said she knows that every time she gets in a race, just like every time she has tried a case, she could lose. But, she said, it does not change what she does.
“If anything, because it’s close, and people know that, I think it’s energized people,” she said. “This is a race where turnout is going to make a difference.”
Baker said political bids are interesting: The candidate spends all this time throwing himself into the maelstrom of a campaign “and then, boom, it all ends on one day.”
But, he said, the great thing about it is “the voters get to make the call.”firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos.