Everybody is Martha Coakley if You Close Your Eyes and Wish

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 3 2013 2:16 PM

Everybody is Martha Coakley if You Close Your Eyes and Wish

U.S. Senate Democratic candidate Martha Coakley gives a concession speech on January 19, 2010 in Boston, Massachusetts.

Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images

Public Policy Polling dips into Massachusetts—remember, it called the Democratic primary right down to the last digit—and finds a number Republicans will like. Rep. Ed Markey leads private equity businessman/former Navy SEAL (the last job is relevent because it led to his political career) Gabriel Gomez by only 44-40. Markey faced a primary with a center-left congressman who beat him up for being "extreme" and weak on terror. Gomez bludgeoned two Republicans with a big TV buy. Voila: Gomez leads by 16 points among independents and pulls one in five Democrats.

Republicans want everyone to agree on two things. One: Gomez's momentum will only increase as voters get to know him. (Thirty-two percent of voters have no opinion of him; 42 percent like him.) Two: As National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brad Dayspring tried to convince me on Twitter, "Ed Markey is Martha Coakley without the Massachusetts residence."


That stings Democrats. They have waking nightmares about the 2010 Senate race, and how Coakley blew a bigger lead than Markey's ever had. Indeed, it was a PPP poll showing Brown beating Coakley by 1 point that started the 2010 panic. I'd just say: Beware of flacks bearing easy narratives. Gomez's 16-point lead with independents is literally half of what Scott Brown's was, and Brown won his race by only 4.7 percentage points. (A small spoiler vote went to a libertarian candidate named, funny enough, Joe Kennedy.) Coakley is remembered, correctly, as a lazy campaigner, and on Twitter, Gomez's aides joke that Markey needs to take the shuttle to D.C. and bolt the state. But Markey's internalized the Coakley defeat as much as anybody. He's got three public events today, more than Coakley would do in any given day of the stretch.

Gomez could do everything right and win this, sure, but at the moment it's sort of a media/spin story. Can Republicans convince the press corps to cover this race on their terms? (Gomez is running as a generic "Congress is broken, let's cut their pay" guy, as opposed to Markey's message of "I did a bunch of stuff you should like, in Congress.")

They could do that in 2010, when the Brown surge happened T-11 days from the election. I remember it well: Coakley could do nothing right, her every stumble (like an aide knocking reporter John McCormack over the outdoor fence at Sonoma, a D.C. wine bar) making it onto A1. Brown held monster rallies and answered no questions. I remember asking him on a rope line whether he would filibuster the nomination of Obama Office of Legal Counsel nominee Dawn Johnsen, and I remember transcribing his answer: "Ehhhhh." Gomez has already had a three-day honeymoon. That's awfully tough to sustain for five more weeks and four more days. It's just as easy to imagine Markey shaking off the primary, winning a few news cycles, and keeping a modest single-digit lead in the next poll. At which point we can get back to writing 2016 speculation or something.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics


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