The race for former Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry's seat could be tighter than expected, with a Cook Political Report analysis shifting its prediction from "leaning Democrat" to "toss up."
The report said it's still leaning toward Democrat Edward Markey, an 18-term congressman, for the seat, reports The Christian Science Monitor
Markey is squaring off against Republican businessman Gabriel Gomez, who is running a race in a state where Democrats out-rank Republicans by a margin of three-to-one.
However, Markey's long time serving in Congress may actually work against him, said Jennifer Duffy of Cook.
"In truth, we have had a difficult time accepting the idea that this race might get close," Duffy wrote. "At the same time, Democrats nominated a long-serving member of Congress at a time when Congress is an almost universally unpopular institution. It doesn’t help that Markey has not had a competitive race in decades."
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Although the report indicates the race may be close, Gomez still has some issues that he will need to overcome. He has less money and does not have the political power that Markey has gained over the years. Markey's fundraising has included bringing first lady Michelle Obama to Boston for a lunch that ended up raising more than $700,000.
Voter turnout will be a key in the race, though, as more than half of Massachusetts' voters are registered independents. If Gomez can get as a strong turnout of independents for the special election, set for June 25, it could turn the race in his favor.
In a Public Policy Polling survey released in May, Gomez had attracted 56 percent of the independent vote, up from 47 percent. Similar independent support led to a 2010 win for Republican Scott Brown, who gained independents by a 2-1 margin over Democrat Martha Coakley.
The Cook analysis points out that the polls for special elections are hard to read, because of the difficulty in predicting who will actually vote. This has led to polls that show Markey ahead by margins ranging from three to 17 points.
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