Commentary Magazine


Topic: Gabriel Gomez

GOP Not Betting on Gomez

For all the cynicism directed at the rational self-interest of American politicians, it does serve to simplify political interpretation: when we aren’t expressly told the motives of a given political actor, we can pretty well figure them out. The upcoming special Senate election in Massachusetts is a good example.

Last month, Julio Ricardo Varela took to the pages of the Boston Globe to ask a seemingly important question: “Gabriel Gomez is the GOP’s dream. So why isn’t the party backing him?” What he meant was that Gomez, the Republican nominee for the seat vacated by John Kerry, is a pathbreaking Hispanic candidate with an impressive background in both the military and the private sector. Yet he wasn’t getting much financial help from the national Republican Party.

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For all the cynicism directed at the rational self-interest of American politicians, it does serve to simplify political interpretation: when we aren’t expressly told the motives of a given political actor, we can pretty well figure them out. The upcoming special Senate election in Massachusetts is a good example.

Last month, Julio Ricardo Varela took to the pages of the Boston Globe to ask a seemingly important question: “Gabriel Gomez is the GOP’s dream. So why isn’t the party backing him?” What he meant was that Gomez, the Republican nominee for the seat vacated by John Kerry, is a pathbreaking Hispanic candidate with an impressive background in both the military and the private sector. Yet he wasn’t getting much financial help from the national Republican Party.

Additionally, Politico reports that Scott Brown, the still popular former senator and GOP winner of the last Massachusetts special Senate election, “has been glaringly absent” from the campaign trail on behalf of Gomez, before musing about why that could be: “Whatever the reason, some Bay State Republicans believe that not fully deploying the most popular GOP pol in the state is a mistake.” At Roll Call, Stu Rothenberg provides an answer: An interesting election is not the same thing as a close election. He writes:

The current political environment in the Bay State doesn’t seem as bad for Democrats (or Obama) as it did in 2010, and Gomez lacks Brown’s political experience and proven campaign skills. For those reasons, he started with a harder road to travel than did Brown….

In addition, we have always believed that Gomez’s pro-life position on abortion gives Markey and his allies an obvious late line of attack that limits the Republican’s late appeal to undecided voters and caps his strength among self-identified Democrats. Because Brown was pro-choice, he didn’t have that problem….

Finally, we remained skeptical about Gomez’s winning coalition.

While Brown won the 2010 special election by drawing about one-fifth of Democrats, Gomez has never come close to that percentage; the Globe survey showed him winning only 12 percent. Given that, Gomez needs to win more than 60 percent of independents to have a chance to win, a very tall order. He has been winning among independents but drew only 51 percent in the Globe survey and as much as 55 percent in other polls.

The reason the national GOP isn’t putting its money on Gomez is most likely the same reason Scott Brown isn’t mugging for the cameras on Gomez’s behalf: no one thinks Gomez will win. And the polls are predicting an electoral result that bears them out. That doesn’t mean Gomez is a poor candidate–far from it. It just doesn’t matter all that much. As Rothenberg noted, not only did Brown run in unique conditions, he also held political positions that hewed to those of the voters in Massachusetts. And he still lost his reelection bid.

Those last two points are the most important. If Brown can’t win a general election despite incumbency, high approval ratings and a voting record truly representative of the state’s political identity, it will be difficult for a more conservative candidate to even keep the election close.

It can be argued that the GOP didn’t need to hold the purse strings so tightly this year because it’s an off year and there aren’t many elections demanding their funding and attention. But money spent is still money gone. And the winner of next week’s special election in Massachusetts is going to have to defend the seat next year in a 2014 general election. Few think Gomez can win this year, but even fewer think he could hold the seat next year, which means a 2013 investment in Gomez is either futile or a down payment on next year’s steep odds when the mid-term elections will stress both parties’ pocketbooks.

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Are Obama’s Scandals Hurting Markey?

Any objective analysis of the special U.S. Senate election in Massachusetts has to begin with the fact that 2013 is not 2010 and Gabriel Gomez is not Scott Brown. There are a number of reasons why Gomez is facing an uphill slog to duplicate Brown’s amazing upset in which the GOP snagged a seat in a deep blue state. With Politico reporting that Democrats are funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars into this battle, it’s clear they are going all-out to ensure that this time the GOP won’t steal a safe Democratic seat. But recent polls are showing that Gomez is still in striking distance of Democratic Representative Ed Markey in the race to replace John Kerry in a seat that will again be up for grabs in 2014.

With only two weeks to go before the June 25 vote, Markey led Gomez by seven points in a Suffolk University poll, a considerable narrowing of the 17-point margin he enjoyed just a month ago. With Gomez lacking so many of the advantages that Brown had when he upset Martha Coakley, the question is why does this political neophyte still have a chance?

The answer may be found in the problems of the man who is flying into Massachusetts tomorrow to buck up Markey: President Obama. The president’s decision to involve himself personally in the vote is a sign of Democratic confidence, since Obama would be loath to intervene if he thought Markey was really going down to defeat. But the ability of Gomez to stay in a race that ought to be a cakewalk may be more about the general growing dissatisfaction with an administration mired in a trio of scandals than distaste for the political dinosaur that Democrats have nominated for the Senate.

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Any objective analysis of the special U.S. Senate election in Massachusetts has to begin with the fact that 2013 is not 2010 and Gabriel Gomez is not Scott Brown. There are a number of reasons why Gomez is facing an uphill slog to duplicate Brown’s amazing upset in which the GOP snagged a seat in a deep blue state. With Politico reporting that Democrats are funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars into this battle, it’s clear they are going all-out to ensure that this time the GOP won’t steal a safe Democratic seat. But recent polls are showing that Gomez is still in striking distance of Democratic Representative Ed Markey in the race to replace John Kerry in a seat that will again be up for grabs in 2014.

With only two weeks to go before the June 25 vote, Markey led Gomez by seven points in a Suffolk University poll, a considerable narrowing of the 17-point margin he enjoyed just a month ago. With Gomez lacking so many of the advantages that Brown had when he upset Martha Coakley, the question is why does this political neophyte still have a chance?

The answer may be found in the problems of the man who is flying into Massachusetts tomorrow to buck up Markey: President Obama. The president’s decision to involve himself personally in the vote is a sign of Democratic confidence, since Obama would be loath to intervene if he thought Markey was really going down to defeat. But the ability of Gomez to stay in a race that ought to be a cakewalk may be more about the general growing dissatisfaction with an administration mired in a trio of scandals than distaste for the political dinosaur that Democrats have nominated for the Senate.

The Suffolk poll showed that a majority of Massachusetts’s voters are not prepared to think the worst of President Obama in terms of any direct link to the Benghazi, IRS or press snooping scandals. But the high levels of distrust in government may be depressing enthusiasm for the Democrats at time when Republicans lack the advantages they had in 2010.

Gomez can campaign on his biography as a former Navy SEAL and successful businessman who is a new face seeking to oppose a veteran politician in Markey, whose ’70s-style haircut is a standing reminder that he’s been in Congress since Gerald Ford was president. But as a neophyte, he lacks Brown’s political experience as well as his natural charm. He also doesn’t have the ability to rally both his party loyalists as well as most independents that Brown had with his campaign against ObamaCare. While Markey is no political genius, he is not easing up in the way that Coakley did once she won the Democratic primary. As Brown’s subsequent attempt to hold onto his seat last year showed, the circumstances that produced his victory in this deep blue state were unique and not necessarily capable of duplication even with the same charismatic candidate.

National Review is reporting that Gomez’s internal polling is showing him virtually even with Markey. But even if we dismiss such a poll as partisan spin, the mere fact that he is seen in more credible surveys as trailing only by single digits may show that something is going on that ought to trouble Democrats. The accumulation of scandals that seems to grow by the day has to be hurting Markey and helping Gomez. It’s highly unlikely that the impact of these problems will be enough to allow Gomez to win, but the Democratic confidence in the idea that no one outside of Washington cares about Obama’s scandals is about to be put to the test and the and the results may not provide his party with much comfort.

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A Massachusetts Race Worth Paying Attention To

A good deal of the attention on electoral politics this week focused on Elizabeth Colbert Busch’s strong debate performance against former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. In a congressional seat that has been Republican for three decades, Busch is leading by nine points less than a week before the special election (May 7). And no wonder; Sanford is a person of flawed moral character and bad judgment. (The first time Sanford’s son was introduced to the woman who broke up his parent’s marriage was on a stage after Sanford’s primary victory, where Sanford appeared with his sons and his mistress-turned-fiancee. That alone very nearly qualifies as grounds to vote against Sanford.)

But something else occurred this week that is notable, but has gotten significantly less attention. The Republican Party of Massachusetts nominated Gabriel Gomez to challenge Democratic Representative Ed Markey in a Senate race to replace John Kerry. (The election will be on June 25.) 

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A good deal of the attention on electoral politics this week focused on Elizabeth Colbert Busch’s strong debate performance against former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. In a congressional seat that has been Republican for three decades, Busch is leading by nine points less than a week before the special election (May 7). And no wonder; Sanford is a person of flawed moral character and bad judgment. (The first time Sanford’s son was introduced to the woman who broke up his parent’s marriage was on a stage after Sanford’s primary victory, where Sanford appeared with his sons and his mistress-turned-fiancee. That alone very nearly qualifies as grounds to vote against Sanford.)

But something else occurred this week that is notable, but has gotten significantly less attention. The Republican Party of Massachusetts nominated Gabriel Gomez to challenge Democratic Representative Ed Markey in a Senate race to replace John Kerry. (The election will be on June 25.) 

Gabriel Gomez is relatively young (47), Hispanic, moderate, and a former Navy SEAL and successful businessman. Ed Markey is someone who was elected to Congress in 1976, has no significant legislative achievements he can claim credit for, and is nearly a generation older than Gomez. “He’s liberal, he’s uninspiring, he’s boring, he’s completely unaccomplished,” GOP consultant Ryan Williams told National Review’s Katrina Trinko. Two separate polls have Gomez trailing Markey by four and six points respectively, with higher favorability ratings than Markey.

Representative Markey has significant advantages, from money to running in a deeply blue state, and he’s still the favorite. But it’s an off-year election, which generally favors Republicans, and anger at Washington is very high among voters in every state. Ed Markey hasn’t faced a challenging race since the mid-1990s. This time it’s different. And we saw in 2010 that Massachusetts is capable of surprises. This race is worth paying attention to. 

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Can History Repeat Itself in Massachusetts?

Yesterday’s Senate primaries in Massachusetts have set up an intriguing possibility. Is it possible for an attractive newcomer with moderate positions to steal a seat for the Republicans in a match-up against a dull, veteran Democratic politician? If that scenario sounds familiar, it should. That was the setup three years ago when Scott Brown knocked off Martha Coakley in the special election to replace the late Ted Kennedy. This year, GOP nominee Gabriel Gomez is cast in the same role as Brown and he has the biography as well as the campaign funds to put up a stiff challenge against Democrat Representative Ed Markey.

But while Gomez must be considered to have a fighting chance, there are two factors that were decisive in 2010 that seem to be missing this time. In their absence, any Republican optimism about a repeat of Brown’s historic upset should be tempered with realism.

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Yesterday’s Senate primaries in Massachusetts have set up an intriguing possibility. Is it possible for an attractive newcomer with moderate positions to steal a seat for the Republicans in a match-up against a dull, veteran Democratic politician? If that scenario sounds familiar, it should. That was the setup three years ago when Scott Brown knocked off Martha Coakley in the special election to replace the late Ted Kennedy. This year, GOP nominee Gabriel Gomez is cast in the same role as Brown and he has the biography as well as the campaign funds to put up a stiff challenge against Democrat Representative Ed Markey.

But while Gomez must be considered to have a fighting chance, there are two factors that were decisive in 2010 that seem to be missing this time. In their absence, any Republican optimism about a repeat of Brown’s historic upset should be tempered with realism.

The first factor is the lack of a crusading issue that could galvanize the electorate. In 2010, Brown had such an issue in ObamaCare, which was even more unpopular in Massachusetts because it already had its own health care insurance bill courtesy of former governor Mitt Romney. Brown ran as the man who could prevent the Democrats from getting a filibuster-proof majority. That was the sort of thing that could attract independents to his cause as well as some Democrats.

Also missing from the Republican plan is an opponent who can do an excellent impression of a cardboard cutout. Markey is a grizzled veteran with more than 36 years in Congress, but the one thing he won’t do is repeat Martha Coakley’s mistake of running as if the election was already decided. Markey won’t underestimate Gomez. He’ll fight hard and play dirty. Markey will smear Gomez as a threat to Social Security as well as putting out slurs on his business record, effectively replaying the nasty attacks Democrats used against Romney last year.

But Gomez does have one thing going for him. The match-up in terms of personalities is all in his favor. The Republican is a young, successful former Navy SEAL. Markey is a walking, talking advertisement for term limits with his ’70s haircut and the fact that he has been in Congress since Gerald Ford was president. In an off-year election with a small turnout, that gives Gomez an opportunity.

But it should be remembered that even with a more favorable match-up, Brown barely beat Coakley. Gomez is going to have to prove to be every bit the campaigner that Brown proved to be and that is not an easy lift. In the next couple of months, we’ll find out if the tiny Massachusetts Republican party can come with a second political star in the space of three years. If Gomez is that star, he might win. But nothing short of a brilliant performance by Gomez will enable the Republicans to repeat their 2010 coup.

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