Every recent poll shows Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA) holds a lead over his Republican opponent, former Navy SEAL Gabriel Gomez, in the Massachusetts special election to replace John Kerry in the Senate next Tuesday, but all hope is not lost for Gomez.
A Boston Herald poll shows Markey’s lead is 20 points, the Boston Globe puts it at 13 points, the Emerson College poll has it at 10 points, and McLaughlin Associates, a respected Republican pollster, has it at 3 points. The Herald poll, to which 312 likely voters responded last week, had the greatest margin of error, at 5.6%. The Emerson College poll, with 1,422 likely voters responding, had a 2.5% margin of error.
Markey’s lead derives largely from an advertising barrage in which he has outspent Gomez by a 4 to 1 margin. The negative television ads have worked, driving Gomez’s negatives up significantly.
But saturation level negative television campaigns come at a price. An increasing number of contemporary voters tend to respond to negative advertising by simply rejecting the idea of participating in the electoral process for either candidate.
Gomez’s strong performance at Tuesday’s third and final debate cut into Markey’s lead, according to the Herald, which reported Gomez’s “best night of polling came this Wednesday, after his final debate performance against Markey. He trailed in that night’s sample by 13 points, indicating Gomez gained steam from the televised showdown.”
Special elections, however, are harder to predict than general elections; low turnout elections are even harder to predict.
Next Tuesday’s special election looks like it will have a very low turnout, and that possibility, combined with a last minute surge, gives Gomez supporters hope that he will pull off an upset victory as Republican Scott Brown did in the 2010 special election where he defeated Martha Coakley to replace the late Senator Ted Kennedy.
On Friday, Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin said he was “extremely concerned” Tuesday’s special election could see a low turnout. As The Republican reported, “[a]ccording to Galvin’s office, the number of U.S. Senate absentee ballots requested to date has been 49,748 compared with 63,610 absentee ballots requested one week prior to the U.S. Senate special election in January 2010 that elected Scott P. Brown.”
Galvin indicated that all signs point to low turnout. “With many people focused on the Bruins playing in the Stanley Cup final, the (Whitey) Bulger trial, and the end of the school year, the special election has a lot of competition for attention.”
If Democrats, lulled into a sense of security by the favorable poll results, decide their votes are not needed for a Markey victory, and the Gomez campaign catches fire with the grassroots, the former Navy SEAL has an outside chance of winning.
But the odds look long for the Republican in a state where a scandal-ridden President Obama still enjoys more than a 60% approval rate.