Gomez Courts Democrats

Gabriel Gomez, the Republican candidate in the special Senate election in Massachusetts, has clearly decided it’s better to alienate conservatives in order to try to attract union Democrats who voted against Ed Markey, his liberal opponent, in the Democratic primary.

As Katrina described below, in the second of three debates last night, Gomez couldn’t wait to endorse liberal positions from gay marriage to climate-change regulation (“some in my party want to deny science.”) He also endorsed a $10-an-hour minimum wage and the Paycheck Fairness Act, designed to make it much easier for women to sue in cases of discrimination. Even Scott Brown, the GOP senator who served Massachusetts from 2010 to 2013, opposed those measures, pointing out that making it easier for groundless lawsuits would do little to improve job creation.

Gomez is making a cynical political calculation before the June 25 vote. The latest WBUR and Suffolk University polls show him trailing among women voters by double digits, but overall he is down only seven points with all voters and holds Markey below 50 percent in both. In the WBUR poll, Markey has only 66 percent of the Democratic vote, well below the 89 percent that Elizabeth Warren won when she defeated Scott Brown last November. Among union households, a majority have a favorable opinion of Gomez, while Markey has only a 30 percent approval rating — a legacy of Markey’s bruising primary battle with union stalwart Representative Stephen Lynch. Gomez actually leads Markey in the Suffolk poll among union households by 51 percent to 41.

So that explains Gomez’s positions. He wants the higher minimum wage unions want, the pay-equity-lawsuit bill he thinks women want, and the Keystone pipeline that would create union jobs but the unpopularity of which among environmentalists has fueled Markey’s opposition to it.

At one level such a hopscotch of issues, combined with voter apathy among Democratic constituencies, could work. Suffolk pollster David Paleologos notes, “Markey’s core ballot test number has fallen below 50 percent and recent Obama administration scandals, especially the Associated Press phone records scrutiny, have touched a nerve with likely voters who are holding back or no longer supporting Markey and President Obama with the same intensity.”

But on another level, the fact that Gomez is going far beyond what Scott Brown ever did to placate the Left is risky.He only wins about 80 percent of Republican voters in the WBUR poll, far below the 95 percent Brown used to win. Democrats outnumber Republicans four-to-one in Massachusetts, but Gomez has to be careful he doesn’t create his own backlash and apathy factor within his party. 

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