PPP's first poll of the general election in the Massachusetts Senate special finds a close race, with Ed Markey leading Gabriel Gomez by a 44-40 margin.
Gomez is starting out as a pretty popular candidate, with 41% of voters rating him favorably to 27% with an unfavorable opinion. Beyond having good numbers with Republicans he's at 42/24 with independents, and actually seen narrowly positively even by Democrats at 33/32. Voters meanwhile are more divided on Markey, with 44% holding a positive view of him to 41% with a negative one. He's at 31/50 with independents.
For a Republican to be competitive in Massachusetts they need to win independents by a hefty margin and get a fair amount of crossover support from Democrats, and right now Gomez is doing both of those things. He's up 47/31 with independents and winning over 21% of Democratic voters. Both those numbers suggest that some folks who supported Stephen Lynch in the primary are being a little reticent about supporting Markey in the general.
To put Gomez's 16 point lead with independents in context though, our final poll in the 2010 special election found Scott Brown winning them by a 64/32 margin. So he still has a long way to go to replicate the formula that let Brown pull off that upset.
The good news for Markey in the poll beyond the obvious fact that he's in the lead is that Barack Obama remains pretty popular in the state. He has a 53/41 approval rating. Obama was at only 44/43 when Brown won in 2010 and the President's lack of popularity was a big contributor to the upset. He's in a much better position this time around. The pool of undecided voters also sets up well for Markey- they voted for Obama by 18 points in November, 32% are liberals compared to only 25% who are conservatives, and 61% of them are women. Those are all demographics that ought to end up favorable to him in the end.
Markey is the favorite, but it does look like this could be another closer than expected Massachusetts Senate special election.
Full results here