A Race or Not for the Massachusetts Senate?

The Massachusetts special Senate election is scheduled for June 25, and there is rather a large discrepancy amongst the myriad of polls that have just recently been released. Depending upon which survey you want to believe, the race is either Rep. Ed Markey’s (D-MA-5) to lose, or one in which he is dangerously close to falling behind Republican nominee Gabriel Gomez.

Here are the most recent polls:

  • McLaughlin & Assoc. – June 4-5; 400 likely Massachusetts voters – Markey 45% – Gomez 44%
  • Public Policy Polling – June 3-4; 560 Massachusetts likely voters – Markey 47% – Gomez 39%
  • New England College – June 1-2; 786 Massachusetts registered voters – Markey 53% – Gomez 40%
  • UMass (by YouGov) – May 30-June 4; 357 Massachusetts likely voters – Markey 47% – Gomez 36%

As you can see, Markey’s advantage varies from one to 13 points. All of the studies agree that the Democrat is leading, but is the race of razor-thin proportion, or does the suburban Boston congressman enjoy a comfortable lead?

When considering polls released prior to these four, it does appear that Gomez is becoming a formidable challenger. Almost all of the post-April 30 primary day surveys have shown him to be within single-digits of Markey, an unusual circumstance for a Republican in Massachusetts.

But the major point of contention surrounds the Republican and right-of-center organizations and whether or not they will actively support Gomez. So far, there is little evidence of independent expenditure activity for the Republican nominee, but there is still time for such to occur.

Questions remain for the National Republican Senatorial Committee brain-trust, however. Is the polling foretelling a close race, or are the current numbers fool’s gold? And, even if Gomez somehow pulls the upset, would such a victory mean anything more than “renting” the position for just over a year? Since this particular seat is normally in-cycle during 2014, the special election winner will stand for a full term in a little more than 16 months. Could a Sen. Gomez withstand a normal election turnout in the wake of popular former Sen. Scott Brown (R) being unable to do so in the 2012 election? Finally, could testing proposed 2014 themes, such as those involving the IRS and Department of Justice scandals in such a liberal bastion, return enough relevant data to warrant a major investment even if Gomez loses?

Certain left-of-center organizations such as the Senate Majority PAC, the League of Conservation Voters and NextGen have committed an aggregate total of pro-Markey/anti-Gomez dollars that exceeds $1.3 million. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) is spending at least another $500,000. Therefore, outside expenditures for Markey or against Gomez will alone exceed $2 million.

The congressman himself is spending heavily on his own efforts. Putting more than $5 million into the nomination campaign to defeat fellow Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA-8), Markey began the special general election with more than $3 million remaining in his committee account. He will undoubtedly surpass the $10 million mark when the campaign wraps up on Election Day. Gomez’s total primary and general election spending is currently closer to the $3 million mark.

Both the Senate Majority PAC and the DSCC are currently running television ads to deride Gomez. They use the same theme that we have come to regard as routine; the class warfare approach that paints the Republican candidate as only favoring the rich, wanting to cut Social Security benefits and, in this case, favoring an increase in the retirement age. The spots are not particularly interesting, and it is doubtful that many undecided voters will be moved. The two ads are attached below.

DSCC – Break

Senate Majority PAC – Trust

Right now, the Markey-Gomez race is on a precipice. Will Markey, like most Democrats in Massachusetts, begin to gather steam and decidedly pull away from Gomez as Election Day approaches? Or, can the Republican attract enough inside and outside support to really make this campaign a race? Events during the next two weeks will answer those questions.

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