Massachusetts Democrats are hoping to bury the ghost of Scott Brown once and for all – or at least until 2014 – in the special election Senate contest Tuesday, which pits Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., against Gabriel Gomez, a political neophyte and former Navy SEAL.
Brown shocked Democratic party officials when he triumphed in a 2010 special election and served as an example of the potency of the tea party movement. And despite his loss in 2012 to liberal hero Elizabeth Warren during the 2012 election, Brown's success has continued to drive Bay State Democrats during the current special election.
Markey, who has benefited from millions of outside spending dollars and high-profile campaign stumpers ranging from President Barack Obama to Bill Clinton and Joe Biden, is poised to hand Gomez a defeat, according to the latest polls.
Gomez trails by 10 percent, garnering 42 percent support compared to 52 percent for Markey, according to a Suffolk University poll released Monday.
"These numbers suggest that tomorrow night Ed Markey will make the transformation from congressman to senator-elect," said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston, in a memo released with the poll. "All eyes will be watching to see how Markey's final vote tally stacks up against Elizabeth Warren's eight-point win over Scott Brown last November."
Rob Willington, former executive director of the Massachusetts Republican Party, admits Gomez remains an underdog but says turnout Tuesday could be low, making the race more volatile and unpredictable.
"It's pretty quiet compared to previous special elections," he says. "Markey is probably one of the most boring candidates out there in terms of his speaking style, his background … he's not exciting anyone other than the generic primary base of his party."
Gomez, he says, has done a much better job at generating excitement – the question is if it's enough to overcome the built-in voter registration advantage Markey has as the Democrat.
"Gomez needs more than the base, he needs more independents and I think he's done a heckuva lot better of a job of appealing to independents and having a message that resonates," Willington says. "But there's no doubt that Gomez is the underdog in this race. It's all about turnout."
Willington says northern suburban towns like Peabody, Billerica and Tewksbury will need to have a strong showing for Gomez to have a chance.
John Walsh, chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, says the turnout machine has been working overtime, buoyed by the high-profile appearances which generated excitement in the race.
"We've spent a lot of time knocking on doors and talking to people over the last couple of months and we know the folks who are with us," he says.
Democrats want to see a high turnout in the state's cities, Boston, Springfield and Worcester, but also a handful of suburban centers such as Lawrence, Lowell, Quincy, Malden, Leominster and Taunton, Walsh says.
"All those places will be an area of particular interest," he says.
Markey and Gomez are competing to replace Mo Cowan, the a place-holder appointment made by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick following John Kerry's appointment to Secretary of State.