There’s a battle brewing in Massachusetts that pits the young against the old, the moderate against the liberal, and the current Democratic order against the new.
It’s none other than the senate race between Ed Markey and Joe Kennedy, which has blossomed into a full-blown war in one of the Democratic party’s most surefire strongholds.
Kennedy, boasting his namesake and characteristic looks, entered the race as a sweeping favourite to unseat the low-name-recognition Markey, but a campaign full of unexpected turns and void of quality polling could yield a surprise when it concludes on September 1.
This race is an important benchmark nationally for the Democratic party. Markey, a 74-year-old who has served in congress for 46 years, is one of the architects of the Green New Deal.
But Markey, despite his experience, had relatively low name recognition compared to other Massachusetts figures — a dynamic made only more apparent when considering the state’s other senator, Elizabeth Warren. POLITICO described Markey as “a low-key septuagenarian,” and a Boston Globe preview of the race in almost a year ago knocked Markey by stating that “stacks of legislative accomplishments don’t carry the weight they once did.”
Kennedy, riding high on his family name and developing national profile — Kennedy delivered the response to the State of the Union in 2018 — entered the race with a 14-point lead, according to a Boston Globe poll taken at the time.
Since then, the story has changed. Markey’s low name recognition and perceived weakness compared to Kennedy gave him the chance to define his candidacy on his own terms. Markey’s team portrayed the candidate as the ultimate deal-maker, never one to bend to the will of the party establishment.
“With 500 laws on the books, you think I’m gonna stop now? They wish,” Markey said in a now-viral campaign advertisement entitled Ed Markey Delivers. “They call me the dealmaker.”
For a “low-key septuagenarian,” Markey’s campaign makes him feel like anything but. Ed Markey Delivers is backed by a strong, pulsing guitar, and his campaign continues to ride high on the online support of young voters.
Although there is a dearth of public polling, Markey appears to now be leading Kennedy with young voters and polling indicates that the race is tight.
Endorsements have also been pouring in, changing the dynamic of the race as it develops. The Boston Globe endorsed Markey, as did Elizabeth Warren and many local organizations. But Kennedy netted the big-name endorsement of House speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday morning, showing that this race is still very much in flux.
In a time of COVID-19, it’s unclear how much of an impact these late changes will have — mail-in ballots are already pouring in before the September 1 deadline — but Markey’s comeback has made this race far more interesting than anyone predicted.
The New Republic has described this race as a picture of a “Democratic Party stuck between generations,” and it’s true — this battle is not so much about ideological differences as it is about identity and the future of the party. It’s the new guard against the old, the family name and the unlikely politician.
With two weeks left in this race, it’s anyone’s race.
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