Coakley, Baker aim to answer old doubts
Rivals try to push past 2010 detriments
FOXBOROUGH — With the election just two days away, the two leading candidates for governor moved on Sunday to shore up symbolic weaknesses from their failed campaigns four years ago, both hoping to convince voters they have changed and improved.
Republican Charlie Baker, who has acknowledged he came across as unsympathetic in his unsuccessful 2010 run against Governor Deval Patrick, made campaign stops in Mattapan and Roxbury, working to make GOP inroads into communities of color.
Democrat Martha Coakley, who disastrously eschewed campaigning outside Fenway Park during her failed bid for US Senate the same year, spent nearly an hour in snow and freezing temperatures mingling with tailgaters before the Patriots-Broncos game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.
Both candidates paid respects at the late Boston mayor Thomas M. Menino's wake at Faneuil Hall but also dived into a full schedule on the trail for the second-to-last day of campaigning.
For Coakley, the harsh weather from the weekend's storm could hardly have been more cooperative in allowing her to offer a contrast. Her derisive remark in 2010 at the suggestion she campaign more aggressively — "Standing outside Fenway Park? In the cold? Shaking hands?" — was seized upon then as evidence that Coakley was too detached a candidate to beat the frenetically campaigning Republican Scott Brown, who this year is seeking a US Senate seat in New Hampshire.
Coakley sported a Sox cap and Dunkin' Donuts cup as she emerged, gloveless and in rain boots, from the car on Sunday to walk from tailgate to tailgate in the Rodman Ford lot across Route 1 from Gillette.
She exchanged elbow bumps with fans whose fingers were covered in rib sauce and waited patiently while others shifted their beers into the crooks of their elbows so they could shake hands.
"I asked somebody on the way over here: 'What's the line out of Las Vegas?' " Coakley, who received an almost universally warm reception, told a tailgater at one stop.
"I've got to tell you, I wasn't going to vote for you, because Scott Brown broke my heart," Ted Gildea, a 33-year-old North End real estate broker told Coakley, referring to her 2010 upset loss. "But having met you today, you got my vote."
"He broke everybody's heart," Coakley replied.
Outside the football stadium, Coakley turned down most offers of food or beer but made an exception for a Styrofoam bowl of fish chowder, which she ladled herself.
"I'll make you a promise: If the Patriots win, the chowder will be in the speech," she told a group of tailgaters taking refuge from the weather under a tent.
"If the Patriots win, you're going to kick [expletive] on Tuesday," one man taking a break from his beanbag toss game told Coakley.
"I like that," she said.
Joined for the day's stumping by her husband, retired police deputy superintendent Tom O'Connor, Coakley at one point accidentally kicked over a drink in a Solo cup and immediately tried to make amends by embracing its owner.
"Oh dear," she said. "I just lost a vote."
Later, Coakley campaigned with former congressman Barney Frank at the Rose Alley Ale House in New Bedford, where she again raised questions about the topic that has dominated much of the campaign's final days: Baker's thus-far unsubstantiated story about a tearful encounter with a fisherman in New Bedford during the 2010 campaign.
After both Baker and Coakley campaigned at a Mattapan church on Sunday morning, Baker returned to Boston in the afternoon and rallied a diverse crowd of about 85 supporters inside The Base, a Roxbury organization that provides baseball training and educational opportunities for student athletes.
"There are a lot of people in this room — we all look kind of different. Which is great," Baker told the crowd. "But underneath it all, folks, we're chasing the same dreams. And anybody who says otherwise is selling something."
Also in the crowd were fellow GOP candidates Patricia St. Aubin for auditor; Mike Heffernan for treasurer; Brian Herr for US Senate; John Miller for attorney general; and David D'Arcangelo for secretary of state.
Baker's running mate, Karyn Polito, campaigned with him, saying, "This is a very close election. We have to make it happen!"
Baker and Polito have been trying to make inroads in communities of color, particularly in Boston, and proposed an urban agenda that includes initiatives on education, economic development, affordable housing, and youth violence. Baker reminded the crowd that he is chasing "100 percent of the vote" and said people share the same aspirations, regardless of their community.
"I've seen the difference: He's evolved," said Elizabeth Hinds-Ferrick of Dorchester, who said she recalled Baker's 2010 campaign.
"We definitely need a change on Beacon Hill, and he's the person who can do it," said Hinds-Ferrick, who is black and works as a supervisor for the state Department of Transitional Assistance.
The Baker campaign is poised to air a television ad on Monday night three times as long as the typical spot: 90 seconds of an upbeat closing argument from the candidate; his wife, Lauren; and his teenage daughter, Caroline. According to a Baker aide, the spot is set to air a single time Monday evening on three broadcast stations.
Like the vast majority of Baker's advertising this year, the ad is positive and appears aimed at boosting voters' positive perceptions of Baker, countering a barrage of negative ads that have aired against him over the course of the campaign. Polls consistently show that voters have a more favorable view of him than Coakley.
Although the candidates themselves projected mostly upbeat messages Sunday, their surrogates continued on in the embittered style of much of the campaign's final weeks.
The two camps held dueling conference calls, with Democrats attacking Baker over his evolving explanations about the fisherman story, while Coakley critics charged that Coakley had been uninterested in pursuing a case against former House speaker Salvatore DiMasi.
Neither side presented new information, but their ongoing volley underscored the race's intensity and increasing acrimony.
Both candidates plan to attend Menino's funeral on Monday.
Tuesday's election also features three independent candidates: Evan Falchuk, Scott Lively, and Jeffrey S. McCormick.