The big news Thursday night was that a new Boston Globe poll in the Massachusetts governor's race showed Republican Charlie Baker leading Democrat Martha Coakley by 9 points.

Coakley, it bears mentioning, previously lost that big 2010 Massachusetts special election that sent Scott Brown to the Senate. So the idea that she could lose another race she was supposed to win pretty easily in dark-blue Massachusetts has caught plenty of attention.

But in Massachusetts, this has become more the norm than the exception. While the state has a proud Democratic tradition (arguably the biggest in the country), the GOP has been in the ballgame for each of the last four major statewide campaigns.

The biggest Democratic win of the four was Rep. Ed Markey's (D) 10-point victory in the 2013 special election for John Kerry's old Senate seat -- and even that was a little closer than Democrats would have liked. Besides that, you've got Brown's win, a 6-point loss for Baker to incumbent Gov. Deval Patrick (D) in 2010, and Brown's 8-point loss to now-Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in 2012.

Across those four races, the GOP has taken nearly 48 percent of the two-party vote.

Of course, the cast of characters in those races has been pretty constant -- two Coakleys, two Browns and two Bakers. But if nothing else, the nature of these competitive races and the repeating cast of characters reinforces the fact that candidates matter.

And Coakley is a decidedly not-good one.