Can a Republican Win John Kerry’s Old Senate Seat?

Posted: Jun 11, 2013 6:00 PM
Can a Republican Win John Kerry’s Old Senate Seat?

The Massachusetts Senate special election is approximately fourteen days away, and despite the inescapable fact that the Commonwealth is one of America’s bluest battlegrounds, political newcomer Gabriel Gomez is ostensibly cutting into his opponent’s double digit lead.

Is this race getting close?

Democratic Rep. Edward Markey holds a narrowing lead over his Republican rival, former private-equity executive Gabriel Gomez, in the Massachusetts special election race, according to a new Suffolk University Political Research Center poll released Monday.

Among 500 likely voters, about 44% plan to vote for Mr. Markey in the June 25 special election, compared with 36% for Mr. Gomez, the survey found. That’s less support than Mr. Markey had in a Suffolk University poll in May, when 52% of likely voters said they planned to vote for him, while 35% leaned toward voting for Mr. Gomez.

Many voters in the Democratic-leaning state have yet to make up their minds. When asked in the most recent survey whom they would vote for if they were currently in the voting booth, 51% said they were still undecided, 18% said they would vote for Mr. Markey and 23% said they would choose Mr. Gomez.

Those “undecideds” will almost certainly determine the outcome of the race. Given the make-up of the electorate (after all, Republicans comprised roughly 11 percent of all registered Massachusetts voters in 2012), Gomez will need to attract large pluralities of independents and left-leaning Democrats to have a fighting chance. But can he do it? My hunch is that winning isn’t necessarily a bridge too far -- not least because political observers predict voter turnout will be way down given the nature and timing of the election. Remember, Scott Brown’s successful Senate run in 2010 was only possible because (a) his opponent ran a lackluster and lazy campaign and (b) many Democrats who consistently vote in presidential election cycles opted to stay home. This latter scenario -- should it come to fruition again -- is perhaps the most important factor in determining who will win on June 25.

Meanwhile, despite Ed Markey’s numerous missteps and blunders -- and there seems to be quite a lot lately -- the longtime congressman is a seasoned political operative who understands how to win elections. In other words, he’s no Martha Coakley -- despite a number of seemingly apt and relevant comparisons. In fact, he’s a liberal ideologue from a state that (ahem) loves electing liberal ideologues. And while Gabriel Gomez is indeed a quintessential, moderate Republican with an inspiring life story, he’s running for office in a state where no less than sixty percent of the electorate voted for President Obama in 2012. Thus the odds are not really in his favor to win -- not by a long shot. But if he does win somehow, and he very well could, it will most likely be because of his opponent’s own failures and mistakes.  Put another way, this race is Ed Markey's to lose.

But the question is, will he?

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