David Parrella, a real estate developer, offered to help. “My son used to volunteer for Scott Brown in Hyannis,” he said.
“Maybe that’s the kiss of death,” rejoined Ann Canedy, 64, a town counselor.
Gomez walked through the local grocery shaking hands and peeled a $20 bill from a stack to pay for a pack of Twizzlers. “I want you to meet the president of Cape Cod baseball,” Canedy said at the register, introducing a woman with a lanyard that read “Cape Cod baseball.” She noticed the candidate’s tie, mottled with Boston Red Sox B’s.
“I was a baseball coach until I ran,” said Gomez, who incessantly relies on baseball for small talk, even while being photographed in front of a real estate office. “I’m a rabid Sox fan,” he said through a frozen grin.
At the community college, he stood in front of a large screen that featured him wearing the bomber jacket. He spoke to an audience of about 50 people, with many students eating pizza. He nervously flexed his hand as he made a halting pitch about his Republican values but also his moderate posture on issues like same-sex marriage, immigration and gun background checks. (He said he opposes bans on assault weapons or large-capacity clips, explaining, “I have a pretty unique perspective having been a SEAL and having fired all these weapons.”)
Gomez chastised Markey for spending his career in Congress and vowed to serve only two terms. When asked about his campaign donation to Obama, he said: “People ask me, ‘Are you a liberal? Are you a conservative? Are you a moderate?’. . . I simply tell them one thing, I’m a Navy guy.”
After the event, Gomez told a gaggle of students that he had neglected to mention that “this is like my first kind of real stop since the primary.”
“You’re going to need a lot more of them,” blurted out Sabrina Macleod. Gomez ignored her as she put her hand over her mouth.
Always a close race
That evening in Boston, the Democratic machine creaked into action. The 260 people who flooded into The Place, a bar in the financial district, could choose from “Latinos for Markey” or “African Americans for Markey” stickers. Behind an “employees only” door, Markey, wearing a suit and American flag pin, reclined in an armchair in an adjacent lobby. The 66-year-old expressed confidence that sophisticated Massachusetts residents would vote on the issues.
“I welcome the discussion about which of us is the candidate of old ideas and which of us is the candidate of new ideas,” he said, adding that the state just lost more than 70 years of experience between Kennedy and Kerry and that voters want a “proven track record of getting results.”
On a small stage in the bar, Gov. Patrick helped Markey out. “There’s a lot of talk in the election right now about new faces, fresh faces. I like that. I used to be one,” he said. “But new isn’t always better.”
After the event, John Walsh, chair of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, stood across the street in a parking lot waiting for his car. He said that he has “lived through screwing up with the Scott Brown race.” Asked about Gomez’s early strength, he asserted that Massachusetts races tend to be close, especially when the candidate is not named Barack Obama.
“I love Ed Markey, but he’s no Barack Obama,” Walsh said. “But Gabriel Gomez might be Mitt Romney.”