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Governor hopefuls stoke campaign flames

New Jersey Governor Christopher Christie (right) rallied supporters for Massachusetts Republican gubernatorial candidate Charles Baker in Melrose on Sunday. New Jersey Governor Christopher Christie (right) rallied supporters for Massachusetts Republican gubernatorial candidate Charles Baker in Melrose on Sunday. (Suzanne Kreiter/ Globe Staff)
By Noah Bierman and Stephanie Ebbert
Globe Staff / October 25, 2010

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MELROSE — With New Jersey Governor Christopher J. Christie offering a blueprint for GOP victory, Republican Charles D. Baker brought 800 chanting supporters to their feet yesterday as he promised to replicate Christie’s victories in Massachusetts.

In one of Baker’s most energetic events to date, Christie regaled the crowd at Melrose City Memorial Hall with stories of his election win over an incumbent in a three-way race last year and the confrontations with the Legislature over taxes and spending that followed, recounting it all with the gusto and bravado of a storyteller at a tavern. He playfully threatened to “go Jersey’’ on the crowd and even offered a mocking imitation of Jon Corzine, the Democratic former governor.

“I’m here to show you a living, breathing example of what you’re going to see on Nov. 3,’’ Christie said, summing up his more serious message.

Both Baker and Governor Deval Patrick, a Democrat, did their best to motivate core supporters yesterday as a new Globe poll showed Patrick with a slim 43 percent-to-39 percent lead over Baker with only one campaign week remaining.

Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill, running as an independent, drew support from 8 percent of those polled by the Globe. Green-Rainbow candidate Jill Stein had 2 percent.

“I’m still confident,’’ Cahill said as he shook hands and exchanged hugs with a long line of supporters at a Quincy senior center yesterday. “We’re working hard, and we’ll do everything we can until the real poll Nov. 2 — when people vote.’’

Patrick spoke to 200 supporters at the Quincy Elks Lodge before heading to Framingham for a rally with dozens of supporters and candidates.

US Representative Edward J. Markey reminded the party faithful at the rally outside Framingham’s Town Hall that President George W. Bush turned a surplus into a deficit, and he mocked the Tea Party movement.

“What we’re seeing out there is the tea party of “Alice in Wonderland,’’ and there are plenty of Mad Hatters,’’ Markey said. “Thanks to Delaware, we’ve gone from Democrats who say ‘yes we can’ to Republicans who say, ‘yes, Wiccan,’ ’’ a reference to GOP US Senate nominee Christine O’Donnell and her admission to having dabbled in witchcraft.

The crowd chanted “Four more years!’’ as Patrick took to the microphone with a rousing call to Democrats to fight for their principles. He urged supporters to help him get out the vote in the coming days, not to save his job but to save their own.

“We’re not fighting for my job. It’s for theirs. For yours. For a better Commonwealth,’’ Patrick said. “I am confident, if we do that work and if we do it in the spirit of generational responsibility, we will win.’’

The governor spoke of visiting a Quincy job fair where he met people in their 60s who had done “everything that was asked of them. They went to work on time, they did the job that was asked of them, they looked after their families, they saved what they could,’’ but lost their jobs.

“These are the people that some would think are angry,’’ he said. “But none of those folks I met were angry. They’re scared. They’re scared.’’

Baker’s floor-stomping event showcased the enthusiasm his supporters have been promising since he entered the race more than a year ago. The candidate shed some of his usual policy-laden stump rhetoric in favor of a punchier delivery. He reeled off a quick list of problems he blamed on Patrick, including higher taxes and a looming budget deficit.

“You got nine more days to solve this one, folks,’’ Baker said.

Christie has been a rising star in the Republican Party since last year’s win in a state in which, like Massachusetts, Democrats greatly outnumber Republicans. And Baker’s campaign has used Christie’s three-way race as a model, dutifully tracking how support for independent Chris Daggett faded by Election Day, just what Massachusetts Republicans hope will happen to Cahill.

Baker has promised to govern like Christie, who has cut taxes and spending despite protests from a Democratic-controlled Legislature.

But Baker may not like all the comparisons. Last week, Baker criticized Patrick for 20,900 jobs lost during September, ranking Massachusetts third behind California and New York in the number of newly unemployed. But New Jersey ranked fourth on that list, with 20,200 jobs lost in the month.

Still, Christie’s popularity was evident when one woman during yesterday’s question-and-answer session demanded to know “when are you going to run for president?’’

The only potential downside to Christie’s appearance for Baker may have been the inevitable contrast with Baker’s more cerebral campaign style.

“Christie’s New Jersey. Baker’s Massachusetts, Harvard,’’ said Steve Howe, a 59-year-old financial consultant from North Reading who attended the rally.

The rally with Christie was the second for Republicans this weekend.

On Saturday, Baker faced an awkward situation in Dennis, when he appeared to tiptoe around Jeffrey D. Perry, a Republican running a close race for Congress in the 10th District. Perry is facing renewed questions about his role as a Wareham police sergeant in the early 1990s, when an officer under his command illegally strip-searched two teenage girls.

Yesterday’s rally was attended by another congressional candidate, Bill Hudak of the Sixth District, who once drew notice for putting a yard sign on his lawn depicting President Obama as Osama bin Laden.

State Senator Richard R. Tisei, Baker’s running mate, did not introduce Hudak when he named several other candidates in the audience. Hudak said he came in late, and Tisei said he did not know he was attending.

Tisei later represented the Baker campaign at a Greater Waltham Tea Party event, which drew appearances by Republican treasurer nominee Karyn Polito, auditor nominee Mary Z. Connaughton, Markey challenger Gerry Dembrowski, and the GOP nominee for secretary of state, Bill Campbell.

The candidates for governor reacted to a story published yesterday by the Globe’s Spotlight Team that illustrated the degree of influence and patronage wielded in the state’s probation department by one of Beacon Hill’s most powerful lawmakers, Representative Thomas M. Petrolati, whom some have dubbed a king of patronage.

“It’s obviously deeply troubling,’’ Patrick said in an interview after the Framingham event. “This isn’t the first time that we’ve heard about some of these things in terms of what’s going on in probation and his involvement in it. I think there are a lot of hard questions he’s got to answer, and I expect him to answer them.’’

Baker said the story is one of many that illustrate a back-scratching culture on Beacon Hill, an “open secret’’ that elections are meant to rectify.

“I blame this sad story on the governor, the Legislature, everybody,’’ Baker said in a phone interview. The probation department has been “operating on their own little island’’ for the past five years, he said.

Meghan Irons contributed to this report. Noah Bierman can be reached at nbierman@globe.com; Stephanie Ebbert at ebbert@globe.com.