Massachusetts Senate Race: Republicans Insist They're Only Losing By a Little

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
June 10 2013 2:28 PM

Is It Time for Massachusetts Democrats to Crack Each Others' Skulls Open and Feast on the Goo Inside?

Late last night the National Republican Senatorial Committee issued one of the most rarefied kinds of press releases: A "campaign memo," meant to read like some insidery news shared for your edification. It wasn't, of course—it was spin—but it quoted pollster John McLaughlin (whose work was organized and funded by John Jordan, a Republican donor and activist) to prove that Ed Markey was blowing the Massachussetts special election set for June 25. Four hundred "likely special election voters" had spoken.

The results of our survey show the new comer, Republican Gabriel Gomez, has stolen the momentum in the special election to be held on June 25th. Gomez and long time Democratic Congressman Ed Markey are in a statistical dead heat, with Gomez receiving 44.3%, Markey 45.3%, and 10.5% undecided.

Typically you don't leak that you're narrowly behind unless you're much further behind. The Gomez campaign's activity today confirmed that, when staffers crowed at the news of a new Suffolk poll. The new margin: Markey 48, Gomez 41, with the caveat that "Ed Markey continues to lead but the margin has dwindled" as Barack Obama's approval in the state has dwindled to 60 percent. Yes, 60 percent—about 15 points north of what it was during the 2010 Scott Brown upset.


Good enough for tryers! Gomez spokesman Will Ritter took to the Twittersphere to hat-tip anyone who pointed out that, in May, Markey led by 17 points. "Coakley had more room," Ritter told MA scribe Dave Bernstein. He could have mentioned that the Suffolk poll conducted the week before the 2010 special had Democrat Martha Coakley down by 4 points, but his goal is to create a sense of momentum, of certainty that soon, some poll will show that Markey is matching up to the "Martha Coakley 2.0" script that the Gomez campaign has written. (The script still has some tears after its misuse in the 2012 Senate campaign, the one Scott Brown lost to Elizabeth Warren.)

But there are all sorts of polls out there. On Thursday, Public Policy Polling released its second poll of the general election. In May, the time of that Suffolk poll Ritter was talking about, PPP found Markey with a meager 4-point lead. In June, after a pretty predictable campaign (Gomez: I'm independent and Markey has been around too long! Markey: Gomez is a Republican.), Markey had grown his lead to 7 points, and was pulling 41 percent of independent voters. In the new Suffolk poll, he's at 36 percent of independents. And the rule of thumb in any Massachusetts race is that the Democrat has to hold 35 percent of independents, plus his base. There's a scenario in which Gomez re-creates the Brown magic without the double whammy of collapsing Obama approval and anger at an in-progress piece of legislation, but we're not yet living through it.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


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