Ed Markey (D), Congressman from the 7th District, was elected our state’s new Senator yesterday, defeating Gabriel Gomez (R). The final totals show the race wasn’t even close. The percentage margin was exactly 10 : 54.8 to 44.8.
642,988 people voted for Markey, 525,080 for Gomez. Add in the small vote won by a third candidate and you find that about 1,200,000 of us voted — more or less 35 % of all our registered voters. This was much less than the nearly 60 % of us that voted in January 2010, when Scott Brown (R) won his now legendary, 5 point victory over Martha Coakley.
The low turnout was no surprise. Both candidates seemed to want it that way. Markey, so that he could tiptoe to victory on Democratic enrollment numbers while keeping Republicans unaroused; Gomez, so that he might lull Democratic “low information” voters (as GOP bloggers call them) asleep while whispering “pssst, I’m a Republican” in GOP voters’ ears.
Gomez’s strategy didn’t work. Markey’s did.
The State’s Democratic party is happy to tout its estimable GOTV operation for the result. It had, so is claims, from 7500 to 15,000 volunteers — depending on who is doing the claiming — working the Markey campaign during the final week. And the state’s GOP is happy to congratulate itself on producing a mere 10 point defeat “in this deep blue state,” as it calls Massachusetts, for the party’s first-time candidate who never ran for office before. (Actually, he did — for selectman in his town of Cohasset, a race that he lost.) Of course the GOP assertion is wrong. Ten points is a big loss in any open-seat race. Major GOP statewide candidates in our state have done quite a bit better these past six years. As for the Democratic party’s claim, it too over-reaches. Volunteers cannot make votes; they can only bring voters to the polls. The voters do the deciding; and in this election, having seen and heard both Markey and Gomez in three debates, they did decide. They chose Markey.
Why did 55 % of us choose Markey ? Two reasons stand out. First, Markey touted his long experience in Washington; Gomez decried it. But Massachusetts voters value long experience in Washington. it’s how we get Federal dollars delivered to our defense and technology industries and to our educational institutions, which employee huge numbers of us. Long experience in Washington is also how the policy priorities of Massachusetts voters get enacted into law. Gomez was never able to make a case why Markey’s long experience was a detriment.
Second, Markey made clear to the voters that he fully supports (1) the rights of women to make their own reproduction decisions and (2) solid gun control legislation, including an assault weapons ban. Gomez offered half a loaf : the abortion decision, but with limitations and qualifications; on gun control, background checks but no assault weapons ban. On these two issues, our voters chose the full deal, not the half-price.
Can there be any doubt, after Scott Brown’s defeat last year, much because of his half-way on women’s issues, that Massachusetts voters will not vote for a half slice of these two issues ? And there was a deeper weakness in his campaign : as a Republican running in Massachusetts for national office, he had to bear the totally toxic blot that the national GOP means to our state’s voters today. Only by running a campaign of full insurgency, AGAINST the national GOP — including against Mitch McConnell as Senate leader — could he have made a case to Massachusetts voters. It might not have worked. Maybe it COULD not have worked. but the attempt needed to be made. It wasn’t.
The vote shows just what Gomez gave up by running a campaign of “pssst…” and issue dilution. Solid Republican towns like Douglas, Sutton, Tolland, Granville, and Charlton heard his “psst…” He carried them by 50 points — just as well as Scott Brown did in 2010. He carried some almost as Republican Merrimack valley border towns — Methuen, Dracut, Tyngsboro — by 30 points; again, very like the margins won by Brown in 2010.
Everywhere else, however — in the swing suburbs between Route 495 and 128 and in the Boston core — Gomez did worse, much worse than Brown. Brown won Peabody by 20 points; Gomez by 2. Brown won Haverhill by 30 points, Gomez by 11. Brown won Marblehead and Quincy; Gomez lost both. Brown lost Boston two to one; Gomez lost it 7 to 2. Brown lost Cambridge 4 to 1; Gomez by 8 to 1. Brown lost western Massachusetts 2 to 1; Gomez, 3 to 1 and in some towns, much worse. Gomez came nowhere near Brown’s percentages in most of our outlying, old mill cities. Brown lost Salem by 8, Gomez by 25; Lynn by 2 tlo 1 instead of 5 to 3. Brown did respectably in Springfield; Gomez lost it by 30 points. Brown almost carried Worcester; Gomez lost it by 18 points. Gomez was trounced in New Bedford and Fall River.
One formerly Democratic old mill city does seem to have moved itself to the GOP. Brown carried Chicopee by 8 points; Gomez won it b y 6. For political campaign planners, is matters. For the rest of us, looking statewide, not much considering the state’s stand on the issues that concern our voters most.
Markey’s victory speech and Gomez’s concession summed up the two campaigns. Markey talked issues; Gomez talked SEAL and veterans. Markey spoke like a Senator, Gomez like a Navy pilot returning from a deployment overseas. His heroism we applaud. But politics it isn’t and wasn’t — and won’t be, if Gomez makes another run for major office in Massachusetts.
—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere