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Keller @ Large: Geoff Diehl has work cut out for him against Maura Healey in Mass. governor race

Primary Night: Jon Keller previews Mass. Governor's race
Primary Night: Jon Keller previews Mass. Governor's race 03:30

BOSTON – Geoff Diehl campaign advisor Corey Lewandowski was telling WBZ-TV before the polls closed Tuesday night "The voters...don't know Maura Healey yet. Our job is to educate the people of Massachusetts about what she truly believes."

The next morning, it's Diehl and company who need to hit the books.

First, to figure out how to unite Republicans and right-leaning independents after a GOP primary that exposed surprisingly deep divisions. Huge majorities of Massachusetts Republicans told pollsters early on they wanted a candidate who backed former President Trump, but in the end significant numbers of them were swayed by former Diehl booster Howie Carr's argument that stopping Healey was more important, and the Trump baggage was a severe impediment to doing that.

Secondly, to dope out a way around voter backlash against the Supreme Court's evisceration of abortion rights, which Diehl celebrated. Despite his Mitt Romney-esque straddle on abortion rights (against them, but won't mess with them, honest!) this was going to be a problem for Chris Doughty as well, but it's a mega-hurdle for Diehl.

And third, to figure out a line of attack on Healey that's more potent than the flogging of her long-ago gaffe when she clumsily compared incidents of arson during civil unrest to natural wildfires that help forests "grow." A bad flub, but unless they link it with documentation of a Healey pattern of leniency toward violent criminals, it's going to be hard to gain much traction.

In the meantime, voters who saw Healey model conciliation and moderation in her victory speech Tuesday night are going to be tough to persuade that she's the second coming of Che Guevara. She praised outgoing Gov. Charlie Baker for putting "progress over politics" and endorsed the pending tax rebate due to excess state revenues that other Democrats have balked at. And Healey practically begged Diehl, Lewandowski and Trump to slap her with the "radical" label, thus opening the door for a discussion of Justice Alito, January 6 etc.

School starts tomorrow, and Diehl has his work cut out for him, especially because this sure looks like the year of the woman. With the exception of Bill Galvin, it's an all-female statewide ticket for the Democrats. For those who remember the bad old days before 1998 when Shannon O'Brien became the first woman to be elected statewide (Evelyn Murphy had won the lieutenant governorship but on a ticket with Michael Dukakis), it's been a long time coming.

All that said, complacency would be a poor strategy for Healey. The outpouring of signatures for the hastily-assembled petition drive to repeal the drivers' licenses for undocumented immigrants law, public dismay over inflation and Joe Biden's performance, and the state's modern-day tradition of wanting some kind of brake on the Democratic express could in theory make for a competitive race.

Then again, Trump. Post-primary lesson #1 for the Diehl campaign: be careful what endorsements you wish for.

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