(Ed Markey’s Desk ad, 2020; recreated from 1976 ad below)
By Jim Ellis
Sept. 3, 2020 — Sen. Ed Markey’s win over Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Newton) is attracting a great deal of media attention in the aftermath of Tuesday’s 55-45 percent Democratic primary election, and it should. In many ways, this was an extraordinary campaign.
Sen. Markey should be credited with running an excellent political effort in that he maximized his advantages and minimized his weaknesses. It also featured bizarre happenings in that the 74-year-old candidate received 71 percent of the 18- to 29-year-old vote against his 39-year-old opponent, and he re-created, virtually word for word, an ad his campaign produced for his first congressional race back in 1976 highlighting an issue that defined his career in the state legislature.
Conversely, Kennedy ran a failing campaign that never got untracked and proved strategically wrong from the outset.
Let’s go back to where this race began in order to set the stage. Kennedy announced his candidacy in October. Polling had already begun in late August, and Change Research released the first public poll of a proposed Markey-Kennedy race (Aug. 23-25, 2019; 80 registered Massachusetts voters) and found Rep. Kennedy leading Sen. Markey, 42-25 percent.
The last poll, conducted exactly a year later from Boston-based Emerson College (Aug. 25-27; 453 likely Massachusetts Democratic primary voters), found Sen. Markey ahead 56-44 percent. Thus, all of the campaign movement favored Markey, and Kennedy was unable to expand outward from his original support base.
What Markey Did Right
Compare Markey’s 2020 ad (top) recreated from his 1976 ad (below):
(Ed Markey’s Desk 1976)
Sen. Markey can count. Understanding that his home county of Middlesex is the largest in the state by far — some 1.58 million people — he returned to his boyhood home in Malden where he based his campaign. His re-created 1976 ad from the first congressional campaign about “Ed Markey’s Desk” was done to emphasize his home roots in the Malden-Melrose area and the surrounding Boston suburbs that comprise the heart of Middlesex County.