The general election matchup in the race to fill Secretary of State John Kerry's old Senate seat is set, and everyone wants to know: Is Republican Gabriel Gomez the next Scott Brown? The short answer: Probably not.
The winner of Tuesday night's Republican primary has a compelling backstory, and Republicans are hopeful that he can turn Rep. Ed Markey into the next Martha Coakley. But a lot more went into the 2010 surprise victory than just an attractive GOP nominee, and Bay State consultants from both sides of the aisle doubt that Republicans have the right candidate or political environment to pull off another historic upset in one of the country's bluest states.
It's easy to see why Republicans are excited about Gomez, whose biography reads like it was conceived in a Republican consultant's dream: The son of Colombian immigrants, Gomez served his country as a Navy SEAL before finding success in the business world. These characteristics, along with his more moderate tone and stances on the issues, make him a stronger general election contender than former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan, the more conservative candidate who had been considered the frontrunner until late in the primary campaign. Gomez also demonstrated in the primary an ability to raise money, although he'll likely struggle to compete with the massive warchest already amassed by Markey.
Conscious of Gomez's resume, Democrats are determined not to repeat the mistakes of 2010, when they underestimated Brown's chances of winning the special election until it was too late. Once President Obama nominated Kerry to be his secretary of State late last year, national Democrats tried to clear Markey's path to the nomination, while groups like the League of Conservation Voters went about mobilizing the state's progressive base that enthusiastically supported Obama and Sen. Elizabeth Warren in 2012. "Markey will want for nothing," Massachusetts Democratic strategist Mary Anne Marsh said. "Nobody is going to risk anything. They'll make sure the nominee has everything he needs."
The party's efforts to put some dents in Gomez's glowing biography kicked off immediately after the results were finalized Tuesday night. Markey's campaign, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Majority PAC all immediately issued releases knocking the newly-minted GOP nominee, accusing him of being too conservative for the state and labeling him "Mitt Romney Jr."
Gomez isn't without vulnerabilities. In a state that Obama carried with 61 percent of the vote last year, Democrats will remind voters of Gomez's role last year as a spokesman for a group of veterans who accused Obama of politicizing the killing of Osama bin Laden. They will also point to a letter he sent Gov. Deval Patrick in January seeking an interim appointment to the Senate and pledging to support Obama's agenda as evidence that he's a political opportunist with no core values.
Perhaps more significant than these lines of attack, Gomez is running in a political environment less conducive to an upset than the one Brown took advantage of in his special election win. In the lead-up to the 2010 special election, opposition to Obama's proposed health care law emerged as a galvanizing force, and Brown represented a chance to end the Democrats' critical supermajority in the Senate. It's difficult to identify an issue that could emerge in a similar role for Gomez's campaign between now and the June 25 general election.
Coming out of a sleepy GOP primary that was overshadowed by the Democratic contest and the Boston Marathon bombings, Gomez enters the general election relatively untested. His only previous political experience is an unsuccessful bid for Cohassett selectman 10 years ago. "Scott Brown had run for office multiple times in very difficult local races, so he had the political skills under his belt to be able to take advantage of the unique opportunity that came to be at the end of that special election," Bay State Republican strategist Rob Gray said. "I haven't seen that from Gomez as of yet, and clearly he doesn't have the experience or the gifts as a candidate that Scott Brown had."
A confluence of three forces -- a surprisingly strong GOP nominee, a lackluster Democratic campaign and a terrible political environment for Democrats -- allowed Brown to become Massachusetts' first Republican senator in more than 30 years. With that loss still fresh in Democratic minds, the likelihood of those three factors being replicated by Gomez are slim. As Massachusetts conservative radio host Michael Graham told National Review last week, "Scott Brown can't even be Scott Brown."
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