The polls look dismal for Gabriel Gomez in his special election face off against Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). Only two public polls in the last six have Gomez within single digits of Markey. None have him closer than seven points. Republicans insist the race will be closer in large part because turnout is expected to be very low. Markey has hardly given the base much to cheer about. The visits of prominent Dems to campaign for Markey including the president and Michelle Obama may indicate Democrats think the race is closer than public polling shows — or it might indicate how desperate the White House is to associate itself with a winner.
Nevertheless, Gomez is obviously the underdog and an upset at this point would be a stunner. Republicans close to the race say Gomez simply didn’t have the money to compete on the air with Markey. Given the flurry of other news and the overwhelming Democratic bent in the state, getting visibility for a newcomer has been challenging. Republicans, however, take solace in the argument that if their opponents have to grossly outspend them in deep blue Massachusetts, the one place where the president is still an asset, how will the Dems hold on in South Dakota, West Virginia, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alaska, New Hampshire and elsewhere?
Republicans are certainly favored to pick up Senate seats in 2014. Larry Sabato, like most analysts, doesn’t have a single Republican at risk, rates South Dakota and West Virginia as likely to switch from R to D and says five other Democratic incumbents are in toss-up races. The Cook Political Report has a similar outlook, as does Stu Rothenberg. In a very strong wave election, Colorado, Michigan and Iowa may become real pick-up opportunities.
Unless Tuesday is a landslide for Markey and Gomez doesn’t pull off a huge surprise, Gomez will almost certainly come back to challenge Markey in 2014. By then Gomez will have surer footing, better name recognition and Markey’s record to shoot at. Forcing Dems to spend real money twice in Massachusetts in the space of less than two years will, Republicans hope, drain support from other candidates.
The bottom line: In deep blue Massachusetts a Gomez win would be an enormous upset, but his future prospects — and even more so the Republicans’ more generally — remain bright for 2014.