MARLBOROUGH, Mass. — A WBUR poll of the U.S. Senate race out this week found Republican Gabriel Gomez struggling to rally his party’s voters in the numbers he needs to beat Democrat Ed Markey.
In the survey, 80 percent of Republicans said they would vote for Gomez. But with less than two weeks to go until the election, pollster Steve Koczela says that’s not a good sign.
“That’s lower than most even early polling typically shows for a Republican,” Koczela said.
Republican candidates in statewide elections in Massachusetts typically rally more than 90 percent of their party’s support, Koczela added.
Since winning the Republican primary, in which he campaigned as a moderate, Gomez has won the endorsement of Michael Sullivan, who had the support of the state’s conservative Republicans. But will those conservatives rally behind Gomez, or sit this election out?
It turns out the signs are good for Gomez.
For one thing, pollster Koczela finds supporters of the Tea Party say they will vote for Gomez.
“So among people who feel favorably toward the Tea Party, 78 percent are going for Gomez,” Koczela said. “Pretty much, if you like the Tea Party, you’re going for Gomez.”
The Tea Party is not what it used to be in Massachusetts. Only 22 percent of voters surveyed in the latest WBUR poll say they have a favorable view of the Tea Party.
In 2010, the party helped Republican Scott Brown to victory against Democrat Martha Coakley. Back then, a meeting of the Northborough Tea Party* filled a big room at the public library.
At the last meeting of the Greater Marlborough Tea Party before this special U.S. Senate election, the group fit into a small conference room at a hotel in Marlborough. What the group had to say bodes well for Gomez. Some, such as George Leland of Hudson, are unreserved in their support.
“I think he’s the better man,” Leland said. “As it stands right now, I want to see Gomez get it. I think he’s a good man. I think he’s got the qualifications. One of the things is is he’s not experienced and I think that’s what we all want. We don’t want an experienced politician.”
But most are like Matt O’Brien, of Marlborough. He has reservations about Gomez, but he’s behind him.
“Of course I can support him,” O’Brien said. “You can support anybody over Ed Markey, I mean, come on. Sure, he’s not ideologically pure, he’s not an ideal candidate in a lot of different ways. But, that being said, we’re adults, we’re big people.”
And that’s also Cameron Carey’s point of view. The Northborough resident calls Gomez head and shoulders above Markey.
“[Markey has] been in office too long,” Carey said. “He lives out of state. He doesn’t have a firm grip on economics. He’s way too invested in the climate change and all of that stuff, more than science would really suggest is appropriate, and so I think that Gomez is the guy to really push if we can get in there, I think. It would be good for the state and the country both.”
Jeff Gray, of Hudson, offered his qualified support for Gomez.
“I don’t have any problem,” Gray said. “I learned a long time ago that whenever you go to the polls, you’re always voting for the lesser of two evils.”
That’s also how Vince Picarello, of Hudson, sees it. ”I’m going to hold my nose and vote,” he said, adding that he won’t be campaigning for Gomez. ”I get emails asking to work for him, and I won’t work for him. I’ll vote for him because I have to.”
In a special election, when so few people turn out, Gomez may not need these conservative Republicans to campaign for him. It could be enough for him just to get their vote. And most of the people in this room say they absolutely will turn out, no matter their reservations.
Correction: An earlier version of this report incorrectly identified the group that filled the library room as the Greater Marlborough Tea Party. It was the Northborough Tea Party.