As a student and aficionado of politics, I must say that the Massachusetts US Senate race between Ed Markey and Gabriele Gomez may be the least interesting "race" that I have ever followed. The outcome has never been in doubt and the public enthusiasm for a June special election has been very low.
However, this race is a microcosm as to why Democrats continue to dominate all Massachusetts federally elective offices and will so for the foreseeable future.
First of all, my predictions and below the reasons why.
- Turnout statewide will be under 50%, my guess is that it is closer to 35%.
- Turnout will be highest between the 128 and 495 belts. This area is wealthy and highly educated which are indicators for propensity to vote. In this case, it will be largely Democratic votes.
- Markey will win all of the major urban areas in Massachusetts by wide margins.
- Markey will easily win Middlesex County, the largest county in Massachusetts.
- Markey will break 75% of the vote in many Pioneer Valley and Berkshire County communities. In Cambridge, Amherst, and tiny Sunderland Markey will win over 80%
- Gomez may lose every county in the state. If he is able to win anywhere, it would be in Plymouth and/or Worcester Counties.
- Gomez will handily win traditional GOP strongholds like Lynnfield, Boxford, and Wrentham. He will win a number of communities in the Merrimack Valley, Worcester County, and the South Shore. However, it will simply not be enough to make it close.
- The news media will have the race called for Markey by 9:00pm.
It is a special election and the public is tuned out
This is the third election for a senate seat in Massachusetts in three years and the public is not engaged. An election the week before the July 4 holiday is not going to attract many voters and those who do turn out will be the hardcore Democrats and Republicans. Some very conservative Republicans may in fact stay home on election day as Gomez has embraced many moderate and even liberal policy stances. Moderates and Independents are not engaged and Gomez needs high turnout in these groups to have a chance.
Money - having it helps!
Markey has absolutely swamped Gomez with negative advertising and it has worked beautifully. Tying Gomez to the national GOP (more on this shortly) is a winning strategy and has defined the relatively unknown Gomez negatively for many Massachusetts voters. Negative advertising is also designed to spark turn out of the base - in this case liberal Democrats, and to depress turnout among moderate and independent voters.
Gomez has not received critical financial support from the national GOP who appear to have written this race off early. Without financial resources, he has been at a disadvantage from the start.
Gomez as a first time candidate simply has not performed well or connected with voters. The magic (and conditions) that elected Scott Brown in 2010 are absent this time and Gomez has lacked the political skills, experience campaigning, and support system that a more seasoned candidate may have possessed.
In the debates (all of which had low viewership), Gomez has not done badly, but has yet to score any knockout blows. He needed to give more of a reason for people to support him apart from "my opponent has been in Congress for 37 years". Markey has played a perfect "run out the clock" game, has portrayed Gomez as a Tea Party extremist, and has not made any major errors.
Markey makes up in political skill that he lack in charisma. His very liberal views on economic and social issues in an low-turnout election dominated by party activists, play very well. He will be a reliable vote for President Obama's agenda and the Obama remains popular in Massachusetts.
The 66 year-old Markey has been able to secure unified Democratic support ans was anointed early by the Democratic power structure. A unified party with a powerful organization is almost impossible to beat.
In 2010, the state Democratic Party was caught napping by Scott Brown. This will not happen again. The Democratic base has been actuated and organized to turn out for Markey. Elizabeth Warren's election was based on organization and GOTV. Markey will benefit greatly from this.
Markey also has had Democratic heavy hitters such as President Obama, Joe Biden, and Bill Clinton come to Massachusetts to campaign for him. Boston Mayor Menino has endorsed him and the mayor's organization will turn out enough votes so that Markey wins Boston by tens of thousands of votes.
Gomez has neither the organization nor the enthusiasm that Scott Brown was able to generate. His campaign appears to be a half-hearted effort demonstrated by a lack of lawn-signs, TV advertising, and crowds. My sense is that the Republican base has never really warmed up to Gomez either. This translates into fewer volunteers for the GOTV effort.
The Scary National GOP
Perhaps the biggest reason that Ed Markey will win convincingly on Tuesday, Gomez has been painted rather successfully as a Republican in the mold of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Markey has tied Gomez to extremely conservative position on abortion (this actuates female voters in Massachusetts like nothing else).
The Republican "brand" in socially liberal Massachusetts is a killer for almost any candidate running for a national office. It is the main reason that Scott Brown, while personally popular, was handily defeated by Elizabeth Warren. Although Gomez has taken many moderate positions that differ from the base GOP, Markey has tied him to the national GOP and Gomez's negatives have crept up as a result. The unknown Gomez failed to define himself and was instead defined as a potential senate vote "against Choice" and "for the national Republican agenda". This is political death for candidates in the Bay State.
Another Prediction - for the future...
I cannot resist a little crystal ball gazing into the future of this senate seat. I see Ed Markey as a placeholder for somebody else. This is my scenario:
Markey runs and again wins the seat in 2014. His term will be up in 2020, but he does not finish the term. Instead he resigns, perhaps in 2016, opening up the Democratic nomination and senate seat for a member of a Massachusetts political dynasty...the Kennedys!
4th District Congressman Joe Kennedy is in his first term is in a House seat that he can have for as long as he wants. However, I see him as an ambitious young man who will run for and easily win the senate seat if and when Markey vacates it. He was discussed as a candidate for this special election, but wisely decided not to run as he was newly elected to the House in 2012. By 2016, he will have a proven track record and a well-oiled machine for a statewide candidacy. In addition, running in 2016 with a Democratic presidential candidate (Hillary?) who will pull in many groups that do not vote in off-year elections will almost guarantee an electoral route and a path to a long senate career.
However as the University of Virginia's Larry Sabato (my political guru) often says "Those who live by the crystal ball end up eating ground glass..."