COMMENTARY | Yahoo News and CNN claimed that Rep. Ed Markey defeated Gabriel Gomez. But that’s not entirely accurate. It was the Tea Party that kept Gomez from winning a Mass. Senate seat.
Gomez was a dynamic candidate (a Navy Seal and Harvard MBA) who upset a state legislator and a U.S. Attorney to take the Republican nomination for John Kerry’s Senate seat from the Democrats. He could have been the next Marco Rubio. Now he’ll be the next “what if?”
You see, after Gomez captured the GOP nomination, he was within striking distance of Rep. Markey, who won a bruising primary against Rep. Stephen Lynch, who would have been a more formidable candidate. Markey, who had been in Congress since Jimmy Carter won, seemed out of touch.
Polls showed the race neck-and-neck. Markey’s 19 point big lead had evaporated from double-digits to four points in a Democratic Party leaning PPP poll, and six points in an Emerson College poll.
And then…and then…and then the Tea Party stepped in, and cost the Republicans yet another Senate seat.
Right as Gomez was just about to make it a statistical dead heat, the Tea Party Express Chair declared “We are not looking at that Senate race at all. We cannot get behind someone that donated to Obama.”
Despite being thrown under the metaphorical Tea Party Express bus, Gomez did everything he could to make it a race. The fact that he kept the race at ten points is a tribute to how strong a Senate candidate he was, even though (a) it is Massachusetts, and (b) the Tea Party told his base to sit out this one.
He could have been the next Scott Brown. Instead, Republicans will have Markey, who has a more liberal voting record that even John Kerry. But we shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, Tea Party conservatives ripped Senator Scott Brown for a few votes, costing him some much needed supported in his ill-fated reelection bid.
When Republicans look back at missed opportunities of the last few elections, they will look at what could have been. There’s Nevada, Colorado, and Delaware in 2010, Massachusetts, Missouri, and Indiana in 2012, and now Massachusetts in 2013. The GOP could hold the Senate. Now all they hold is a Tea Party which keeps costing them seats.
If Democrats want to hold the Senate in 2014 and win the presidency again in 2016, they should keep funding the Tea Party.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, GA.