BOSTON (AP) — Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump appears to be catching on among Massachusetts primary voters despite sharp criticism from GOP Gov. Charlie Baker.
A new MassINC Polling Group survey for WBUR-FM shows Trump, a billionaire New York businessman, well ahead of other Republican candidates among likely voters. Massachusetts is one of 12 states that cast votes for party nominees on Tuesday.
The poll shows a much tighter race between Democratic hopefuls Hillary Clinton, the former U.S. first lady and secretary of state, and Bernie Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont.
Baker, a moderate, questioned again Friday whether Trump has the temperament to be president.
Baker had briefly backed the campaign of Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and appeared with him at a campaign event in New Hampshire. Christie dropped out after a poor showing in the New Hampshire primary this month and endorsed Trump on Friday.
Baker said he was surprised but wasn’t disappointed by Christie’s endorsement. He said he’d assumed that Christie would not have made an endorsement at this stage of the campaign.
“Chris Christie is very much his own man, and that was part of what made him an attractive candidate for me,” Baker said. “I don’t believe his endorsement of Donald Trump says much of anything about why I chose to endorse him.”
An aide to Baker said the governor wasn’t told ahead of time about Christie’s decision.
Baker said he doesn’t know which candidate he will vote for on Super Tuesday and has no plans to endorse anyone else.
Baker did say that he doesn’t anticipate voting for Trump or Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. He said neither has a proven track record or working well with others, something he said is key to successful public service.
The other remaining GOP candidates are Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.
Kasich has been endorsed by one of Baker’s political mentors, former Republican Gov. Bill Weld. Kasich has also spent time campaigning in Massachusetts and plans to visit the state on Sunday and Monday.
Baker said he’s not persuaded that Trump will lock up the nomination after the Super Tuesday contests.
The new poll shows Trump with the support of 40 percent of likely Republican voters in Massachusetts, with Rubio and Kasich each receiving the backing of 19 percent. Cruz trailed with 10 percent, followed by Carson with 5 percent and 7 percent undecided.
The poll shows a much closer race among likely Democratic voters, with Clinton capturing 49 percent of those polled compared with 44 percent for Sanders and 7 percent undecided.
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