BOSTON — With a little more than a week before the special U.S. Senate election in Massachusetts, a new poll suggests Democratic Rep. Ed Markey has a 13-point lead over Republican businessman Gabriel Gomez.
The poll was conducted for The Boston Globe by The Survey Center at the University of New Hampshire.
Andrew Smith, the center’s director, said he sees no strong indicators that Gomez would be able to pull out a win along the lines of the upset notched by Scott Brown.
“You’re not seeing Gomez able to capitalize on any national Republican animosity towards Democrats like Brown was able to in 2010,” he said.
Smith also said Gomez is not receiving the funding from national sources that Brown was able to raise. However, he cautions anything can happen with a low voter turnout.
Sharon Brody: Democrats are — to understate this — mindful of the Scott Brown win over Martha Coakley in 2010. In your latest findings, do you see any indication that Gabriel Gomez could pull up that kind of an upset?
Andrew Smith: Well, there are some indications, but I think they’re not as strong as you saw back in 2010. Massachusetts is a Democratic state, and it’s extremely difficult for a Republican to win there. A Republican typically would have to win two-thirds of the unenrolled voters in order to win. We’re just not seeing that level of support for Gomez right now.
But the one key thing to keep in mind is that turnout is likely to be quite low. And anytime you have low turnout, you can have strange things happen. Over this next week, there’s the potential that things — either in the national stage or in state politics — can impact that turnout. I think that’s the reason you’re seeing the Democratic party trying to make sure the things that happened in 2010 don’t happen again, where Brown was able to ride that national wave of discontent with Democrats and Obamacare as well as a bad economy. They don’t want to see that happen again.
Gomez has been trying to label Markey as out of touch with Massachusetts residents, arguing that Markey’s been in Washington too long. Does anything in the numbers suggest that that approach is working for Gomez?
There is only minor evidence that the approach of talking about Markey being in Congress for so many years is having an impact — 24 percent of voters say they’re more likely to vote for Markey because he’s been in Congress for 37 years, and 29 percent say they’re less likely to vote for him. But half — 48 percent — say that it will have no impact on their vote.
Not surprisingly, what you see is that Republicans say they’re more likely to vote against Markey because his years in Congress, whereas Democrats are somewhat more likely to say they’ll vote for him because of his years in Congress. So it’s a bit of a wash. I think it’s something that’s rallying Republicans, but it’s not really discouraging Democrats.
With a full week of campaigning left, what’s the story on how many voters have firmly made up their minds and how many voters are still pondering?
We’re seeing that more than three-quarters have said they’ve definitely decided who they’re going to vote for — 76 percent they’re definitely decided, 10 percent say they’re leaning towards someone, and only 14 percent say they’re still trying to make up their mind.
And the way that breaks down, it’s about equal numbers. For Gomez supporters, 79 percent say they definitely made up their mind. For Markey supporters, 75 percent say they definitely made up their mind.
One of the other things that makes this a little bit harder for Gomez to thread the needle is that the percentage of undecided voters is actually quite low. It was only 4 percent who told us that they were undecided when asked about a match-up between Gomez and Markey. And then when you push those people and ask them which candidate they would lean to, it goes down to 2 percent. So it’s not like there’s a big pool of people that are out there still trying to make up their mind in this election.
How does that compare to this stage of the game in 2010?
The numbers actually don’t look that much different than 2010. Gomez is actually running a little bit closer than Brown was in 2010. But I think the differences are more on the national stage and what likely could happen over the last week.
Back in 2010, the economy was still doing very poorly, Obamacare was in the center of the news, and there was a lot of anger about that, certainly among Republicans, both here and nationally. I think we have to really emphasize how much help Brown got from national Republicans who were sending him in money. We’re not seeing that same sort of fundraising capacity on the part of Gomez.