BOSTON A WBUR poll (PDFs – topline, crosstabs) finds a tight race between the U.S. Senate candidates. Democratic Congressman Ed Markey leads Republican private equity manager Gabriel Gomez by six points, 41 to 35 percent, with 23 percent undecided.
How close the race is depends on how you count.
“We ask, initially, who people are going to vote for, and there we found Markey with a six-point lead, and then if people said that they were undecided, we asked who they were leaning towards, and there, we found Markey with an eight-point lead, so among the people who were initially undecided, we found a few more of them leaning towards Markey as this point,” MassINC Polling Group pollster Steve Koczela said.
So Markey leads Gomez 41 to 35 percent, but if you include leaners Markey has a bigger lead, 46 to 38 percent. However you count, the story remains the same.
“We have a real race on our hands,” Koczela said.
And there’s potential for an even closer race. That’s because Koczela finds that the candidate who is slightly behind, Gomez, has the greatest potential to win over more voters.
“He’s got just about half who don’t have either a favorable or unfavorable image of him,” Koczela said. “So he’s got some teaching to do, or some getting his message out, as far as educating voters on who he is and what he has to offer.”
Voters like Tom Murphy, at his son’s Little League practice, at the ball fields in Savin Hill, by the Dorchester Yacht Club.
“I was a Lynch guy,” said Murphy, who voted for Congressman Stephen Lynch in the Democratic primary.
“I am up for grabs, to be honest with you,” Murphy said. “Even though I was for Lynch, it doesn’t automatically mean I was going to vote for Markey, seeing he’s the Democrat, but I probably ought to look into it a little more before I do cast my vote.”
Gomez has to overcome the challenge posed by voters like Tom Lucas.
“I’m a Democrat,” Lucas said, adding that he will vote for Markey. “Even though I don’t really like him. I have to. I like that other guy [Gomez], too, a lot.”
Asked if, as a Democrat, Lucas can’t vote for Gomez, he replied: “Can’t do it.”
Gomez could overtake Markey’s advantage among Democrats with a big win among unenrolled voters. But Koczela found that Gomez is nowhere near where he needs to be with those voters.
“Right now, looking at Gomez and Markey, you have about a tie, actually, which is not good enough for what Gomez is going to need to do,” Koczela said. “Any Republican running statewide starts at the bottom of the hill, because they have a 3-1 registration disadvantage compared to a Democratic opponent, so how they have to climb that hill is by really running up the score significantly among unenrolled voters.”
Koczela said to win the seat, Gomez has to win unenrolled voters by at least 30 points.
Gomez has a four-point lead among men, 40 to 36 percent. And at the Savin Hall ball fields, it sounds like Gomez has won over Mary Cate Flaherty and Betty Curley, too.
“I feel like Markey’s done,” Curley said. “He’s been in there long enough. He’s a career politician.”
“Fresh meat,” Flaherty interjected.
“We need someone conservative to balance it out,” Curley added. “We got Warren,” she said, referring to U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren. “Now, we need someone conservative.”
But pollster Koczela found that Gomez still has a lot of work to do with women. Markey has a 15-point lead among women, 45 to 30 percent. Koczela pointed out how women made the difference between winning and losing for then-Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown.
“You look back at Brown and in 2010, he narrowed the gap in the female vote to three points, and then 2012, he lost the women vote by 18 points,” Koczela said. “Right now, Markey has a lead that looks more like a 2012 margin over Gomez among women.”
Koczela predicted both campaigns will target women in the seven weeks left until the June 25 election.