National Republicans are aggressively promoting Gabriel Gomez, the GOP candidate in the Massachusetts Senate race, as a “new kind of Republican,” casting him as the face of the GOP’s future while dismissing longtime Congressman Ed Markey as a kind of Washington dinosaur. And it’s true that Gomez is relative young (47), Latino (the child of Colombian immigrants), and an outsider (a former Navy SEAL who has gone on to a successful private sector career).
But there are two areas where Gomez isn’t such a new kind of Republican: His positions on the issues, and his work for an outside group that hammered Obama during the 2012 election for supposedly trying to take credit for the killing of Osama Bin Laden. For instance, in a Fox News interview, Gomez was asked what he would do about the weak recovery. His answer:
“I’d focus on the spending side. He only focused on the revenue side. I think we need to address the spending side. And we need to address cuts in certain programs. We’ve got all parts of the government could have some kind of cuts. And I also think we need to potentially address the entitlement issue as well for people of my generation and the younger generation, not for people actually receiving the retirement benefits or those approaching retirement benefits. We need to acknowledge we have a spending problem. And that’s the first thing we need to do.”
Gomez’s leading prescription for speeding the recovery is spending cuts. Meanwhile, his suggestion that “we need to address the spending side,” as opposed to the “revenue side,” suggests he opposes higher taxes on the wealthy to bring down the deficit. The idea that we have a spending problem — and not a revenue one — has been GOP dogma for many years. He has supported a Balanced Budget Amendment — also longtime GOP dogma. He has attacked Wall Street reform.
Meanwhile, on health care, the issue section of Gomez’s web site notes that he sees Obamacare as a “so-called solution.” And while Gomez doesn’t seem to support repeal, he does seem to think health reform should be handled by the states: “States should be free to design their own programs, just as we did here in Massachusetts.” The Massachusetts reform, of course, was the basis for Obamacare. Gomez supports gay marriage and expanded background checks, but he opposes the assault weapons ban and abortion. (Update: In fairness, Gomez has come out against repealing Roe v. Wade.)
Will Gomez’s stance on the issues undercut his ability to present himself as a new kind of Republican? Elizabeth Warren won her Senate seat with a campaign that focused heavily on populism: She became perhaps the most prominent advocate in the country for higher taxes on the rich, and was also perhaps the most outspoken critic of Wall Street of any major Democrat. And she attacked Scott Brown aggressively over women’s issues. Markey has vowed to challenge Gomez on women’s issues and the need for more regulation of Wall Street — an approach Warren has shown can win statewide.
However, a lot will turn on whether biography trumps issues. As Sean Trende notes in a smart analysis of the race, Gomez’s best hope of victory is probably to assemble a “downscale coalition,” which would rest heavily on winning over enough blue collar Democrats and independents to prevail despite the state’s three-to-one Democratic advantage. Gomez’s outsider status and son-of-immigrant-parents-made-good story could have resonance among them. Meanwhile, Markey is a longtime politician who doesn’t enjoy the outsider status Warren did, and it remains to be seen whether Markey (whose primary victory, Trende notes, relied more heavily on upscale Dems) can reunite the Democratic coalition. On the other hand, Markey seems far more in sync with Massachusetts on the issues. The electorate will not be a 2012 electorate, but it very well might not be a 2010 one (amid which Scott Brown won), either. Indeed, the GOP brand is in rough shape these days, and the national environment is far from what it was in 2010.
One way in which Dems will seek to undercut Gomez’s “new kind of Republican” posture will be with his work attacking Obama over Bin Laden. As Jed Lewison notes, the Republican National Committee is working furiously to downplay Gomez’s role with a right wing Super PAC that accused Obama of leaking classified info to hog credit for Bin Laden’s death. But Markey is holding a presser today to again hammer Gomez’s role. The argument: It’s not terribly convincing that Gomez is now posing as a “new kind of Republican” less than a year after playing a lead role in the high profile “swift boating” of President Obama. The question is whether this will successfully tie Gomez to the national party in a blue state at a moment when its numbers are in the toilet — which is, of course, exactly what Gomez is trying to avoid.
UPDATE: The NRSC responds with a statement: “The current Democratic Playbook doesn’t seem to have a section on how to cover new Republicans like Gabriel Gomez. Gomez is a young, Hispanic, problem solving former Navy SEAL. National Tea Party groups say he is too centrist and Bay State women know he has the same position on life as John Kerry and Ted Kennedy. The cookie cutter attacks continue, but no one is buying them.”