In MA, Gomez Within Striking Distance of Markey in Special Election?

Massachusetts Democrats vowed this year not to have a repeat of the 2010 special election for US Senate in which Republican Scott Brown upset Democrat Martha Coakley. But the latest polls in the race to fill the Senate seat vacated by Secretary of State John Kerry has Republican Gabriel Gomez within striking distance of prohibitive favorite Democratic US Rep. Ed Markey in the overwhelmingly Democratic state. Bay State voters go to the polls next Tuesday.

The Real Clear Politics (RCP) website combines a number of other polls and comes up with its own average number. RCP has Markey’s lead in the single digits. Polls by Suffolk University and WBUR radio have Gomez within seven points. That’s bad news for Markey, the longtime congressman. However, the latest Boston Globe poll shows Markey with a 13-point lead but also indicates Gomez is the more likeable candidate.

Massachusetts is as solidly blue a state as possible. The only way a Republican can win a seat in the US Senate or House is if it’s in a special election (see Brown besting Coakley for the seat that opened when Ted Kennedy died). It’s all about turnout.

There is another problem for Markey at play in this race—he is seen as “establishment Washington” and has been tagged by Gomez as “owning” all the problems that plague the nation’s capital. Not that it’s that hard to do. Markey has been in Congress for 37 years.

When Gomez scored an upset victory the three-way Republican primary in April, he was seen as little more than a newcomer who would easily be bested by Markey. But that gradually changed as people started to take notice of his résumé. He’s former Navy SEAL, has an MBA from Harvard Business School, and is a successful businessman (although that’s been challenged by the Boston Globe).

Markey can still hang his hat on his liberal credentials while Gomez holds some positions that are anathema to Massachusetts voters. He’s on the wrong side of the gun control debate for Mass. voters—he is against an assault weapons ban and a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines. He is also “personally pro-life” and would not disqualify a nominee to the Supreme Court for being in favor of reversing Roe v. Wade.

Markey has tagged Gomez as someone who would be a pawn of the Republican congressional leadership from whom he has accepted campaign money. Gomez has gone out of his way to distance himself from the national party. When US Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) remarked this week that, “…because you know, the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low,” Gomez said, “These kinds of comments only come from a moron and they shouldn’t be tolerated one bit.”

There is no question Democrats are a bit nervous. Markey has dramatically outspent Gomez. And this week he brought in the big gun with a visit from President Obama who is still wildly popular in the state. And Dem superstar Bill Clinton was in Worcester Saturday stumping for Markey.

The television ads in the campaign have been nasty. One particular Markey ad had a picture of Osama bin Laden on one side of the screen and Gomez on the other. Gomez responded by calling Markey “pond scum.” Nice.

So can Gomez “pull a Scott Brown?” Brown seems to think so. He passed on the race himself after losing to Elizabeth Warren last November but came out in favor of Gomez this week.

Again, it’s all about turnout.