Monday, May 6, 2013

Massachusetts Senate: Gabriel Gomez (R) exhibiting similar demographic strengths to Scott Brown 2010

Massachusetts Republican Senate nominee Gabriel Gomez campaigns in Shrewsbury, MA in February, prior to his 15 point primary win last Tuesday. Photo courtesy of AP/Winslow Townson
Last week long-time Democratic Congressman Ed Markey successfully defeated his pro-life, Obamacare opposing primary challenger Stephen Lynch 57-43%, while on the Republican side, newcomer ex-Navy SEAL Gabriel Gomez defeated opponents Mike Sullivan and Dan Winslow 51-36-13%.

Fortuanately for Republicans, early polling on the race had indicated that of all the possible match-ups for the special election, a Gomez vs. Markey battle would be the most competitive. Gomez (R) performed better than Sullivan or Winslow in all pre-primary polling against Markey OR Lynch, while Lynch performed stronger against all 3 potential GOP opponents than Markey. So in terms of all the different potential match-ups, the Republicans lucked out, as a new Public Policy Polling (D) survey confirms:

The candidate for US Senate are Republican Gabriel Gomez and Democrat Ed Markey. If the election was today, who would you vote for?

Ed Markey  (D)  -  44%
Gabriel Gomez  (R)  -  40%
Undecided  -  16%

Prior to his primary win, Gomez had trailed Markey by 15 and 19 points. Since his win, two polls have shown the race within at least 6 points, WNEU and now, PPP.

In the special election three years ago, loser Martha Coakley (D) never relinquished her lead over eventual winner Scott Brown (R) until about 2 weeks before the actual election. This year's election is still 6 weeks away. So obviously, things look pretty good at the moment for Gabriel Gomez. He's starting ahead of where Scott Brown was in polling at this point in 2010, and has ample time to move ahead of Markey (or perhaps, move further behind).

The two most recent, non-presidential-electorates in Massachusetts took place in 2010. Scott Brown defeated Martha Coakley (D) 52-47% that January, while Gov. Deval Patrick (D) won reelection against Charlie Baker (R) and Tim Cahill (Independent) 48-42-8%.

How does the 2013 special election electorate compare to the one that catapulted Brown to victory in January 2010, and the one that helped Patrick survive for a 2nd term that November? They're similar in some, but not all ways.

For example, consider the racial identification PPP gound in the 2013 Senate poll:

Information compiled from 2010 Brown v. Coakley exit polling, 2010 Patrick v. Baker v. Cahill exit polling, and 2006 exit polling.

PPP finds racial identification in the 2013 special election electorate to be very much on par with 2006 Governor's race and the January 2010 special election. The November 2010 Governor's race stands out as featuring a particularly white electorate. But even if PPP had found a 93-6% white-nonwhite electorate, Markey would still lead Gomez 43-40%. That's because Markey (D) actually LEADS Gomez (R) among white Massachusetts voters, 43-41%.

If Gomez hopes to recreate the success of Scott Brown's 5 point victory, he'll have to do better than 41% among whites. Brown carried that group 55-44% in January 2010, while Republican Charlie Baker lost the white vote to Democrat Deval Patrick 50-42% in November 2010. Republican loser Kerry Healey lost the white vote to Patrick 51-39% in 2006, while losing overall by 20 points.

Another example of the similarities and differences in PPP's 2013 MA electorate and past elections can be seen in their partisan identification findings:

Information compiled from 2010 Brown v. Coakley exit polling, 2010 Patrick v. Baker v. Cahill exit polling, and 2006 exit polling.

Unlike the racial ID findings of past Massachusetts elections, partisan identification has tended to vary a bit more wildly. The 2010 and 2006 midterm elections saw roughly even turnout between Democrats and Independents, with Republicans trailing far behind under 20%. That's pretty similar to PPP's findings of an electorate that is 42% Independent, 41% Democratic, and 17% Republican. But in the special election of January 2010 (a non-midterm or presidential election, keep in mind), the number of voters identifying themselves as "Independent" shot up dramatically to 53%, while the number of Democrats dropped to a low of 35%. Only 12% identified as Republicans.

The PPP result of Markey leading Gomez 44-40% would remain largely unchanged had they found an electorate similar to the 2010 and 2006 midterms, at least in terms of party I.D. But if next month's special election is anything like the one in January 2010, the race tightens even more:

Markey would have led Gomez 42-41% in the PPP poll had they found the electorate's party I.D. to be similar to the last special election. The large increase in Independent voters from PPP's finding to 2010's finding (42% vs. 53%) benefits Gomez, because he leads Markey (D) among these voters by a significant amount (47-31%). But any Republican that hopes to win in Massachusetts has to carry these voters by significant amounts, given the large self-identification advantage Democrats hold over Republicans. Scott Brown, for example, won Independents 53-34% in 2010, or by 19 points. Gomez is almost there, being ahead with these voters by 16 points.

The largest divergence in the likely 2013 electorate found by PPP and past exit polls is seen in the Brown vs. Coakley ideological identification numbers. PPP found significantly MORE liberals in the 2013 electorate than the 2010 electorate, significantly LESS moderates, and about the same number of Conservatives.

The 2010 Patrick vs. Baker vs. Cahill exit poll did not ask respondents about their ideological I.D. Information compiled from 2010 Brown v. Coakley exit polling, 2010 Patrick v. Baker v. Cahill exit polling, and 2006 exit polling.
The more liberal, less moderate electorate being found by PPP obviously benefits Ed Markey (D), as liberals support him solidly (67-18%), while moderates do so by a much smaller margin (43-36%). In the event PPP had found an electorate identifying as 29% liberal instead of 39%, and 44% moderate instead of 33%, like exit pollsters found in the 2010 special, Markey and Gomez would be tied at 41-41%:

One of the reasons Gomez is behind Markey is that despite the fact that he's doing better with moderates than Republicans typically do in PPP surveys, he's falling well short of how Scott Brown performed with this group. Brown carried them 56-43%.

Despite all the good news, Gabriel Gomez will defy odds and expectations if he wins the special election on June 25. Resume and strong poll numbers aside, we're still talking about Massachusetts, the state that gave 61% of it's vote to Barack Obama last November, regardless of the fact that home-son and former Governor Mitt Romney was his opponent. And they rececive the dubious distinction of being the only state in the Union to support the Presidential candidacy of George McGovern (D) in 1972. But Gomez is in a strong position to do well, stronger than Brown at this same point of his race three years ago. And if the Gomez campaign can replicate the turnout models from that election, he stands a fair chance at winning.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.