Gabriel Gomez, the Republican nominee for the U.S. senate
seat special election in Massachusetts on June 25, 2013,
is suddenly being taken seriously as a Democratic poll
shows him trailing the Democratic nominee, Congressman
Ed Markey, by only 44-40 (16% undecided). That’s an
ominous sign for the Democrats who initially thought this
race would be a no-contest in the heavily Democratic Bay
When a special election was held in this state in January, 2010,
to fill the seat of the late Edward Kennedy, Democrats also
assumed the seat was automatically theirs, and were stunned
when Republican newcomer Scott Brown won. This time, the
seat was vacated by John Kerry when he resigned to become
U.S. secretary of state.
Incumbent Brown was defeated last year in a bitter contest,
and despite being well-liked by Massachusetts voters, he could
not overcome the huge Democratic turnout caused by the
presidential election. But 2013 is not a presidential year, and
Mr. Markey, although a long-time U.S. house veteran, is
considered aloof and a relatively weak statewide candidate.
Mr. Gomez’s political personality, on the other hand, has not
yet been widely established, and that represents an
opportunity for both the Republicans and his Democratic
opponent. Cash will thus play a large role in this race,
as political advertising is a major component of creating
or denigrating a new political figure. It should be no surprise
that Mr. Markey has challenged Mr. Gomez to sign a pledge
not to accept campaign contributions from outside the state.
Mr. Markey is already well-funded from within the state, and
greatly fears that GOP donors from around the country
could equalize the race financially.
This is, in my opinion, a major test of how seriously the
national Republican Party will contest the 2014 midterm
U.S. senate elections to regain control of the Congress.
Mr. Gomez is reportedly a bit more moderate on social
issues than some southern and midwestern GOP senators,
and funding for his campaign has reportedly been slow so
The national Republican Party is a conservative party,
particularly on economic, entitlement and defense issues.
But certain regions in the nation, particularly the northeast,
produce a different kind of conservative. Senator Susan
Collins of Maine and Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee
are cases in point. There are Democratic incumbent
senators who are vulnerable in 2014, but they could only be
defeated by GOP opponents who reflect the general views
of their states on social issues, and that means a willingness
by Republican donors and officials to support their
strongest candidate in each race, notwithstanding their
“purity” or 100% “orthodoxy” on individual issues.
My calculation is that there are now about nine or ten
Democratic-held senate seats that could be won by
Republicans in 2014, but only about four or five that now
appear likely to change hands (even that, as we learned in
2012, is no certainty). Republicans need to regain at least
six senate seats to win control.
Scott Brown demonstrated that even in an overwhelmingly
liberal Democratic state such as Massachusetts an attractive
Republican candidate can win statewide office. When Brown
won a special election to succeed the late Ted Kennedy, it
portended the 2010 GOP midterm landslide later that year.
But the issue is larger than one special election. The real
question is whether or not Republicans are prepared to
govern again. While it is true that the nation is now rather
polarized between conservatives and liberals, the regional
and urban/rural demographics most accurately define the
American voter, and make many political issues more complex.
Grover Norquist, a favorite target of Democrats and liberals
for demonization, has recently been speaking about a more
pragmatic GOP approach to the elections of 2013-14.
Associated with the hard-line lower taxes issue, he has now,
without compromising his primary issue, argued that the
first function of a political party is to win elections. He
knows that any Republican majority is far more likely to
respond to his issue than any Democratic majority. If more
conservative leaders approach 2014 as Mr Norquist has, the
GOP has much brighter prospects than if those self-styled
conservative leaders who want GOP candidates to reflect
their own views 100% would prevail.
That is why the special U.S. senate election in Massachusetts
this year is so important.
Copyright (c) 2013 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.