This week, Gabriel Gomez won the Republican primary for Massachusetts’s Senate special election, and Representative Ed Markey took the Democratic nomination. As Katrina wrote for NRO this week, as a Republican in a deep-blue state, Gomez is helped by the fact that this is a special election, but he remains a real underdog. Or is he? The first two post-primary polls have Gomez remarkably close to his Democratic opponent.
First, Public Policy Polling finds that Markey has just a four-point lead, 44 to 40 — a seriously worrisome number for Markey, but Gomez does have some weak spots:
Gomez is starting out as a pretty popular candidate, with 41% of voters rating him favorably to 27% with an unfavorable opinion. Beyond having good numbers with Republicans he’s at 42/24 with independents, and actually seen narrowly positively even by Democrats at 33/32. Voters meanwhile are more divided on Markey, with 44% holding a positive view of him to 41% with a negative one. He’s at 31/50 with independents.
For a Republican to be competitive in Massachusetts they need to win independents by a hefty margin and get a fair amount of crossover support from Democrats, and right now Gomez is doing both of those things. He’s up 47/31 with independents and winning over 21% of Democratic voters. Both those numbers suggest that some folks who supported Stephen Lynch in the primary are being a little reticent about supporting Markey in the general.
To put Gomez’s 16 point lead with independents in context though, our final poll in the 2010 special election found Scott Brown winning them by a 64/32 margin. So he still has a long way to go to replicate the formula that let Brown pull off that upset.
And another poll, from Emerson College, finds a six-point spread:
A new survey of registered voters finds Congressman Ed Markey (D) with a 6 point lead over Republican candidate Gabriel Gomez 42 percent to 36 percent with 797 respondents. The Emerson College Polling Society (ECPS) survey is the first to look at the US Senate seat vacated by Secretary of State John Kerry since the Primary election. . . .
According to Felix Chen, President of ECPS, there is a post primary bounce for Gomez, and while the race is currently very close, it may only be a honeymoon period for the Republican who was a virtual unknown just a few months ago. . . .
The survey also suggests that Independents are breaking for Gomez at a nearly 2 to 1 rate (46% to 25%) which is typically the ratio that Republicans need to be successful in Statewide Elections here in the Bay state.
The last poll looking at potential matchups taken before the primary, when both parties were divided, had Markey up comfortably over Gomez, 51 to 36.
Of course, you can expect that these polls with rouse a lot of national Democratic attention and support, after one assumes they will generally already be on their guard after the 2010 upset. In additon, Markey is a member of Congress, and an extremely liberal one, at that; presumably he will do a better job of attracting fundraising and support from across the country — with existing connections through other channels – than Coakley, an unimpressive machine politician (she had been attorney general of the commonwealth for three years). Further, his local support will be strong, too: If he wins the Senate seat, that opens up a Massachusetts seat in Congress, which many state legislators will be eager to seek.