Tuesday, May 28, 2013

MA SENATE SPECIAL: Gabriel Gomez Is Doing Something Scott Brown Never Did in 2010 - He's Losing Momentum

Massachusetts has seen a fairly rapid turnover rate in the U.S. Senate after Sen. Ted Kennedy's death in 2009. Before then, the liberal lion served with Junior Senator John Kerry since 1985. Since then, Kerry served briefly as Senior Senator along with Scott Brown (R) from 2010-2013, when Kerry was nominated as Secretary of State, and Brown lost reelection. Now, polling indicates Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey will become the new faces of the MA U.S. Senate delegation.

The Gabriel Gomez campaign for Massachusetts Senate was doused with cold water last week when both Emerson College and Public Policy Polling put a damper on what had been a slew of good polling news. While Gomez is still in a respectable position for a Republican running in one of the most liberal states in the Union, the polls are moving in the wrong direction from where he stood immediately after capturing his party's nomination for U.S. Senate last month.

In the first four surveys released following his Republican primary victory on April 30, Republican candidate and ex-Navy SEAL Gabriel Gifford never trailed his Democratic challenger Edward Markey by more than 8 points, or by less than 3 points. That is, until a Suffolk University poll emerged about a week later showing the long-term Democratic Congressman with a fairly significant, and more typical lead over Gomez of 52-35%.

As written about here at the time, the Suffolk survey appeared to be an outlier. Until then, the average of post-primary polling had Markey (D) up 45-40% on Gomez (R), while Gomez's numbers with women, men, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, whites, and non-whites were all within a strong to manageable range. But over the last two weeks, the Suffolk survey has grown to look less outlier-ish and more prophetic.

Since then, Public Policy Polling has come out with their second post-primary Massachusetts Senate poll, and while the topline still looked 'okay' for Gomez, the trend lines looked bad. In just two weeks, Ed Markey (D) managed to nearly double his lead (from 44-40 to 48-41%).

One week later, Emerson College was out with their 2nd post-primary survey, showing a different overall result from PPP, but with very similar trend lines. They too found Markey doubling his lead in just 3 weeks, from 42-36% to 45-33%. Suddenly, Suffolk University appeared to have company.

So where did Gomez's support go? Where did he experience his largest drop offs? Emerson College and PPP agree in some places on the answer, while disagreeing in others.

For example, both pollsters found the Republican Senate candidate's support among MEN slipping:

Emerson College found a net 14 point shift of support AWAY from Gomez among men, while PPP found a net 4 point shift away. Meanwhile the female vote remained largely static in both pollster's findings.

In terms of the racial splits in voting, PPP and Emerson College diverge. Though both polls find Markey gaining in the overall topline result, his surge stems from an improved standing with non-white voters per PPP, and from white voters per Emerson College. In fact, PPP finds a massive shift in Markey's favor regarding the preference of non-white voters (Markey's level of support jumped from 47 to 55%, while Gomez's level of support collapsed from 34% to 15%). See the chart below:

Emerson College and PPP also present differing trends in terms of partisan support. The former shows Markey losing support among Democrats, while the latter shows him solidifying support. Emerson College finds Gomez's level of support among Republicans static, while PPP finds him solidifying GOP support. And while Emerson finds Gomez bleeding Independent support (going from +21 to +11 with this group), PPP finds him surging (jumping from +16 to +23):

Oh, and just for fun...what would the recent PPP and Emerson College polls had looked like had they both found partisan identification similar to the 2010 Brown v. Coakley numbers (35% Democrat, 12% Republican, 53% Independent):

*These pollsters asked respondents their party "registration," and not their party "identification."

Interestingly, if Emerson College and PPP came up with the same findings all over again, except partisan I.D. was identical to the 2010 Massachusetts Special Election, Gomez (R) would cut Markey's (D) lead in half. This is largely due to the fact that Emerson and PPP are finding less Independents in the 2013 electorate than exit polls measured in 2010. And given Gomez's substantial 56-33% lead with this group, obviously, he is going to benefit from their being more Independents in the electorate.

In conclusion, there is almost no way to spin the poll results of the last two weeks in Gabriel Gomez's favor. After a seeming wave of momentum following his nomination, the race indeed appears to be settling in Ed Markey's favor. The only glimmer of hope for Gomez would be that PPP and Emerson are wrong about the partisan identification of the electorate, and old exit polling from 2010 is a more accurate representation. If that were the case, with 4 weeks until election day, Gomez could certainly make up what amounts to 3 and 6 point polling deficits.

Also working in the Republicans favor is the fact at that this stage of the 2010 Special Senate election, loser Martha Coakley (D) still led Scott Brown in both Real Clear Politics and Pollster averages. In fact, no public poll showed Scott Brown with a lead over Martha Coakley until PPP's Jan 7-9, 2010 survey, just 11 days before the election.

But unlike Gabriel Gomez, Scott Brown never lost his momentum in the race. Granted, he gained it late in the game. But once Brown gained momentum, he never ceded it, and he rode it to victory. The problem for Gomez may simply be that he peaked too soon.

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