LOWELL -- With hours to go before voters head to the polls, Republican Charlie Baker clings to a narrow lead over Democrat Martha Coakley in the Massachusetts gubernatorial contest, while in New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen is holding off GOP challenger Scott Brown in a high-stakes U.S. Senate brawl, a new Suffolk University-Boston Herald bellwether poll reveals.
The poll of likely voters in cities and towns with a history of forecasting statewide elections shows Baker and Coakley locked in a too-close-to-call finish, with a dwindling number of late-deciding voters likely determining the winner.
Baker, the former health insurance CEO, leads Coakley by a 46-42 percent margin in Waltham and just a 45-44 percent margin in Gloucester in the race for the governor's office, according to the poll of 300 likely voters in each bellwether community, The Herald reported.
The polls were conducted in Gloucester and Waltham. In Gloucester, Baker was up 45-44 percent. In Waltham, 46-42 percent.
The results show there could be a subtle shift in the vote toward Coakley in the last few days, according to David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, who conducted the Suffolk-Herald poll. "It comes down to the margin of victory for Baker among independents," Paleologos said.
In the Granite State, the Democratic incumbent Shaheen holds a 47-40 percent lead over the former Massachusetts Republican lawmaker in the city of Manchester, the poll shows. And Shaheen leads Brown by a narrower 44-41 percentage point lead in the town of Epping.
But the race appears to much more volatile in New Hampshire, with the undecided column at 14 percent in Epping and 12 percent in Manchester, according to the poll. That indicates there could be some last minute shifts in the vote.
But Brown's numbers show he could be in trouble because he should be polling much better in Epping, which is in an area - Rockingham County - that is a Republican stronghold.
"That's an area he should be winning big," said Paleologos. "But the undecided is really high."
Shaheen also has failed to reach the 50 percent mark in any poll.
The bellwether polls also tested the hotly-contested governor's race in New Hampshire. Incumbent Democrat Maggie Hassan leads GOP challenger by a 49-37 percent margin in Manchester and a 45-35 percent lead in Epping.
The bellwether areas in Massachusetts and New Hampshire were selected because they have closely mirrored the results of the last three statewide elections, according to Paleologos.
The poll shows that in Gloucester, independent candidate Evan Falchuk could be a factor. He is getting five percent of the vote there.
"Falchuk is drawing independents away from Baker," Paleologos said. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.65 percent in each bellwether area.