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Keller @ Large: How Trump's Endorsement Of Geoff Diehl Could Impact Governor's Race

BOSTON (CBS) - The last time former State Rep. Geoff Diehl made most people's radar, he was losing big to Elizabeth Warren in the 2018 US Senate race.

Most recently, he's launched a GOP gubernatorial primary challenge to fellow Republican Charlie Baker that is so far short on money and visibility.

But now Diehl has won a prize of sorts: the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, who issued a statement excoriating Baker as "definitely not an American [sic] First or Make America Great Again kind of guy."

Is Baker vulnerable next year? "The short answer is yes," says Dave Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center. When Paleologos last checked Baker was enjoying wide support from Democrats and Independents. But within his own party, just a slim majority said they approved of the job he's doing. That same narrow GOP margin approved of his handling of the pandemic, a lingering issue that could plague Baker next year.

And after all, Trump has twice won more than a million votes here. Does that mean big trouble for Baker in holding off Diehl? Paleologos is skeptical. "It's gonna be slim pickings to find, of that million voters, people who not only dislike Charlie Baker but who dislike him so much that they'll come out to vote against him," he said.

But it's more likely that Diehl - who declined our interview request - could hobble a potential Baker bid for a third term. "Diehl in a primary is gonna pull Baker to the right, so by pulling Baker to the right to win over likely Republican primary voters he's potentially gonna alienate Independent voters," says Paleologos.

There are some strong indications that Baker does intend to seek a third term, but nothing official yet. And in any case the Trump endorsement of Diehl is highly unlikely to scare him off.

If anything, knowing Baker's self-confidence and contempt for what Trump stands for, it might have just sealed the decision for him.

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