Gomez’s fair-weather friends damage their party

The Senate campaign of political neophyte Gabriel Gomez is off to a rough start, but Republicans writing him off are doing the party a disservice. The former Navy SEAL and private equity investor shouldn’t be ruled out simply because he offered supportive words for President Obama. In the three-man race for the GOP nomination, Gomez deserves a chance to be evaluated on his merits.

The flight from Gomez’s campaign began last week after it emerged that only two months ago he asked Governor Patrick, a Democrat, to appoint him to the Senate after the resignation of John Kerry. In a Jan. 17 letter, Gomez vowed to support Obama’s gun control and immigration agenda. Such promises infuriate some Republicans, who bridle at any sign of accommodation with a Democratic president. Two of the three co-chairs of the Women for Gomez group quit. Republican activists castigated him. Lost in the kerfuffle, though, was that Gomez never renounced his party. In the letter to Patrick, Gomez described himself as a “moderate Republican.”

Party loyalty is often an issue in primaries, and neophytes like Gomez might have even more to prove to skeptical voters; their political resumes are so thin that they have little goodwill to draw from. But ruling out a candidate because he hasn’t displayed sufficiently rigid partisanship is a recipe for continued gridlock. As a newcomer, Gomez still has a lot of explaining to do — his apparently shifting positions on gun control, for instance, are something he will need to answer for. Opponents are right to press him on important issues. But a few supportive gestures to Obama shouldn’t be one of them.