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Charlie Baker reserves millions in television airtime for campaign

Governor Charlie Baker acknowledged applause as he took the stage to address the Massachusetts Republican Conventionin April.Winslow Townson

If you watch TV, get ready to see a lot of Charlie Baker.

The governor’s reelection campaign on Monday reserved a whopping $4.3 million in television time for August through Election Day in November, according to a report detailing the effort that was obtained by the Globe. The reservation included time on stations in both the Boston-area broadcast media market, as well the much smaller Springfield market.

The reservation locks in ad space on shows that are watched by the demographic the Republican’s campaign is presumably hoping to target — but it does not necessarily mean that Baker will utilize and pay for all that inventory. Nor does it limit him from shifting those spots — or buying even more TV time.


For example, the campaign has reserved one 30-second spot during the NFL game between the New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills on Oct. 29. But it does not have to cough up the $45,000 for that time quite yet, nor is it limited from buying another.

The full reservation gives a sense of how Baker, who reported $8.4 million in his campaign account at the end of last month, might spend some of his massive fund-raising haul.

Rick Wilson, a Republican strategist who has decades of experience in political advertising, called the effort “pretty hefty for a guy who doesn’t need it,” referring to Baker’s strong polling numbers.

“But I’m a big believer in the campaign rule of ending broke. Money in the bank, there’s no purpose for it at the end of a campaign,” he said.

Wilson also looked at the specific shows Baker was aiming to advertise, including daytime television: “He’s buying slightly older women likely voters,” the strategist said.

From Aug. 15 through Sept. 4 — the state primary election — Baker reserved $930,000 worth of Boston-area TV time, with the majority of spending on WBZ-TV (Channel 4) and WHDH-TV (Channel 7).


From Sept. 3 through Election Day, Baker reserved $3.1 million in the Boston market. During that period, he reserved the most Boston TV spots on WFXT-TV (Channel 25) — on shows like “The Dr. Oz Show” and “TMZ Live.” But he is poised to spend the most money on WCVB-TV (Channel 5) — on shows such as “Dancing With the Stars” and “Good Morning America.”

Shows expected to have fewer viewers are usually less expensive than those expected to have more — say, Patriots games.

People close to Baker expect the reservation to be just an initial one, with more likely to come.

Baker has comfortably led both of his Democratic opponents in recent head-to-head public opinion polls, which, for some, raises the question of why Baker is reserving so much TV time at this stage of the campaign.

Kevin Franck, a Democratic strategist who worked for former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Setti Warren, saw weakness in the governor blocking off that much TV time.

“The reservation is an indication that Baker believes he is beatable and he’ll have to run a real election campaign to stave off a challenger in what could be a Democratic wave year,” said Franck.

And Jeffrey M. Berry, a political science professor at Tufts University, said, for one, Baker may be saving money by reserving TV time early and locking in good prices.

But there also may be broader Baker political plays afoot, the professor said. For example, a huge victory would give the Republican more leverage with the Democratic-controlled Legislature and, Berry added, “I think crushing the opponent is satisfying under any circumstances, but I think he’s keeping the door open to a national run.”


(Baker, for his part, has vowed not to run for president, telling reporters early in his gubernatorial term, “I am not nor will I ever be. . . a candidate for national office. I’m just, I’m interested in Massachusetts!”)

Baker’s opponents don’t currently have enough money for a serious TV advertising effort.

Democrat Jay Gonzalez had $187,000 in the bank at the end of last month, while the other Democrat running for the governor’s office, Bob Massie, had just $29,000. Scott Lively, a Springfield pastor and Baker’s primary opponent, had $19,000 in the bank.

The primary is Sept. 4 and the general election is Nov. 6.

Joshua Miller can be reached at