Gaming Out The Markey-Gomez Contest

BOSTON — It didn’t take long.

Just minutes after U.S. Rep. Edward Markey claimed victory in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary Tuesday night, he fired a shot across the bow of newly minted Republican nominee Gabriel Gomez.

“He’s a typical Republican, and the first domino for the national GOP seeking to take control of the Senate and enact an extreme agenda that’s bad for Massachusetts,” Markey’s campaign said in a statement.

Gabriel Gomez, left, and U.S. Rep. Ed Markey (WBUR file photos)

Gabriel Gomez, left, and U.S. Rep. Ed Markey (WBUR file photos)

Guns, Social Security, women’s rights. The statement called out Gomez on all of it.

The message is a familiar one.

The general election script for New England Democrats running for the House or Senate is dog-eared by now: Tie your Republican opponents to a national GOP deeply unpopular in the Northeast.

It’s a message that carries some real punch in these parts. See Warren, Elizabeth, circa 2012.

The most vital question in any local congressional race, then, is: What can the Republican do to shift the conversation?

The GOP’s Scott Brown had two answers when he scored his upset victory over Democrat Martha Coakley in the 2010 U.S. Senate special election.

First, present a compelling personal narrative. Second, grab on to a game-changing issue — Obamacare, in his case — that can disrupt the Democratic narrative.

Gomez, a 47-year-old venture capitalist, has rolled out a pretty compelling personal narrative: son of Colombian immigrants, Harvard Business School degree, former Navy SEAL.

As for the game-changing issue? The Boston Marathon bombings are the obvious candidate.

The attacks were so shocking, and the media coverage so intense, that they smothered rather than defined the Democratic and Republican primaries.

But it seems likely that the dynamic will shift in the coming months. Indeed, the bombings story is already shifting from a human drama to a more political one, with questions about intelligence failures and the like increasingly prominent.

U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch attacked Markey on homeland security in the closing days of the Democratic primary, to no avail. But Gomez’s team could decide to pick up on that thread.

At least some GOP operatives relish the idea of a campaign defined by security concerns. “The story of the day is going to define the race,” says Jennifer Nassour, former chairwoman of the Massachusetts Republican Party, “and the story of the day is terrorism in Boston.”

But Peter Ubertaccio, a political scientist and director of the Martin Institute at Stonehill College, says making the bombings a centerpiece of a GOP campaign could look opportunistic.

And he’s doubtful that the terrorism issue has the power to fundamentally alter the race. “It’s not going to move voters,” Ubertaccio said.

There is no evidence, moreover, that Gomez will make terrorism a major issue. The Republican’s early messaging has focused on his personal story. He’s said over and over again that he’s the anti-politician. And that approach would lend itself to an indictment of Markey as entrenched insider.

Gomez hit the theme hard when he accepted the Republican nomination Tuesday night.

Markey is tired, he suggested, first elected to Congress when Gomez was playing Little League baseball and the rock group Boston put out its first album.

“Washington is full of politicians,” Gomez said. “If you send another one down there, you’ll get the same result.”

The Republican, no doubt, will mine Markey’s long voting record for evidence to support the argument that the Democrat is out of touch.

In the end, the bet is that the Markey critique and Gomez’s own story will be enough to stir the independents and conservative Democrats he needs to pull off an upset.

But in a race that’s only generated interest among party stalwarts so far, the question is: will that be enough?

Earlier WBUR Profiles:

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on wbur.org.
  • jefe68

    Mr. Gomez reminds me of someone… he lost to Senator Warren.

  • TJtruthandjustice

    I predict Gomez will beat Markey, and I say that as a registered democrat. Ed Markey has been in office since 1977 and has never held a private sector job in his life. Despite his more than three decades in the U.S. House, Markey doesn’t have wide name recognition in the state. I think he’s viewed as a loyal follower, a “go along to get along” kind of inside politician. Most voters wouldn’t be able to name a single thing that he’s done. With our federal government in such a complete mess and with Congress so widely disrespected by people of all political persuasions, I think it’s Gomez’s to lose.

  • J__o__h__n

    “The general election script for New England Democrats running for the House or Senate is dog-eared by now: Tie your Republican opponents to a national GOP deeply unpopular in the Northeast.” — It works because it is true. Would Gomez not vote to make Mitch McConnell majority leader? Would Gomez not help the Republicans achieve a majority where they can pursue their extreme conservative agenda (even if he might not agree with every aspect of it personally)?

  • maraith

    The thought of sending another Scott Brown to the Senate is frightening. He never said where he stood on issues until it was clear what side would win. Then he could claim he was part of it. What I remember is that he was part of the GOP agenda right down the line. Gomez doesn’t seem likely to stand up to the GOP either. The only way to break the GOP “obstruction before people” approach is to kick them out of office and get a Democratic majority. They are not perfect but they are not owned by the right wing.

  • Flitzy

    Sorry Gomez, we learned our lesson with the disaster that was Scott Brown.

    Markey will be a fantastic Senator alongside Senator Warren.

    • TJtruthandjustice

      Why? Because he’s pro-choice and pro-gun control? The only issue I can connect with him is something to do with cable regulation. He seems to be very proud of whatever he did, but I don’t get cable because I don’t want to pay $100+ a month for TV. Unlike Warren, he’s a friend of Wall Street, having voted for the TARP bailout, repealing Glass Steagal, and abolishing commodity derivatives regulations. Did I mention that he voted for the Iraq War? I was against the war and ran into him at a local event. I expressed my deep concerns about a possible invasion and he looked at me like a deer in the head lights. I like Senator Warren very much because she goes against the grain. Markey is embedded in the grain. I’m very disappointed that this is the best the Massachusetts Democratic Party can come up with.

      • Flitzy

        And Gomez is a puppet of David Koch.. just like Scott Brown.

        Markey will be a fantastic Senator and is a wonderful choice by the Massachusetts Democratic Party.

      • J__o__h__n

        I agree but he is better than Gomez who will by his presence alone advance the national Republican agenda.

        • TJtruthandjustice

          Believe me, I’ll vote for Markey. the Republican Party is a few inches from fascism in my book. I’m sure there were some decent Nazis back in the day. Unfortunately the Democratic Party doesn’t have what it will take to fix the nation either. Profit-driven corporations are the true rulers now.

Most Popular