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Keller: Despite COVID Vaccine Fumbles, Baker Approval Rating Remains Strong

BOSTON (CBS) – Sometimes a poll of a politician's popularity tells us more about the people being polled than the pol.

That's the case with a new MassINC Polling Group survey of 1,308 Massachusetts residents taken over the past 12 days that suggests all the incoming fire Gov. Charlie Baker has taken over the well-publicized fiascos of the state's vaccination rollout have ricocheted harmlessly to the ground, like a Jayson Tatum step-back jumper.

"The persistent question," notes pollster Steve Koczela, "is how Baker seems to forever float in the political stratosphere, unencumbered by the laws of political gravity that affect everyone else."

Actually, those laws seem to be broken more frequently these days.

Candidate Donald Trump violated every known political commandment in 2016, surged to the top of the polls and never looked back. As president, despite regular displays of incompetence and vulgarity that seemed to impose a hard cap on his approval ratings, he never cratered either, at least not until he sicced his plug-uglies on the Capitol.

Sen. Ed Markey found himself well behind primary challenger Joe Kennedy in late 2019, and young Joe spent a lot of time and money reminding voters why they'd consistently given Markey anemic job-approval ratings over the years. By voting day, Markey's numbers were through the roof, and Kennedy's candidacy was out with the trash.

And now there's the Baker phenomenon. At 74% approval, he's right where he was in the last MassINC survey in December (73%) and the most recent Suffolk Poll late last year (72% approval of Baker's coronavirus management).

Why? Chalk it up to the apparently-wide gap between the people and the pundits, at least those who've been strafing Baker over his vaccination fumbles.

Unlike the pundit class and the outraged citizens filling up chat rooms and call-in talk shows with their complaints, most people aren't much interested in the blame game right now. Perhaps they long ago decided that in an era of wretched leadership, Baker – warts and all – was as good as it's going to get.

The "intelligentsia" loves to scrutinize every last news story and Twitter thread for profound omens, the way the aruspex of ancient Rome examined sheep entrails. Regular folks with demanding jobs and three kids on remote "learning," not so much.

And when the kindling for a political backlash hasn't been properly seasoned, it takes an opposition force to stand there and aggressively blow on it to spark a bonfire. Sharp criticism of Baker's vaccination efforts has come mostly from obscure Beacon Hill backbenchers and state Democratic party officials, not from top legislative leaders. If this were Baker's re-election stretch run and there was a prominent opponent hammering him on TV every day, things might be different.

But it's not and there isn't.

So it seems that, for now, as long as Charlie Baker doesn't run over a nun, kick a puppy on camera, or am-scray for Cancun during an ice storm, he's good to go.

Or, perhaps, stay.

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