With less than three weeks to go until election day, the campaign for US Senate will enter a critical final phase Wednesday night as the candidates bring their message directly to voters in the first of three televised debates.
For each, the debate presents the opportunity to rewrite some of the emerging story lines of the expedited special election campaign and to set the tone for the final weeks.
GOP candidate Gabriel Gomez, who has yet to prove he can speak in-depth about complex policies, will have to display a confident command of the issues and talk beyond his usual sound bites. Gomez, a former Navy SEAL with little campaign experience, must also prove he can appeal to moderate and independent voters.
His opponent, US Representative Edward J. Markey, must show not only that he stands with the Democratic Party but that Gomez’s positions are far out of sync with the Massachusetts electorate. He also must make clear that he remains passionate and vital after nearly 37 years in Congress.
With the June 25 election fast approaching and polls showing Markey with a lead, Republicans are looking for a perfect confluence of events that would set the political world on fire, rousing the sort of anti-Washington, anti-Democrat dominance that swept Scott Brown to a stunning GOP victory in the January 2010 special election to replace the late Edward Kennedy in the Senate.
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