Just a few months ago, Gabriel Gomez was the man who had everything.
He was a former Navy SEAL with a gold-plated business career, a house out of an architectural magazine, a lovely family — and, quite possibly, a successful political future in the US Senate. He was going places.
Back then, he was the new Scott Brown — without the pickup truck. He became the Republican nominee for Senate by acclamation, basically.
Recently, though, the Gomez campaign has been the scene of an unwelcome visitor. Reality.
The first tangible sign of trouble may have been the day he called his Democratic opponent for the Senate, Congressman Ed Markey, “pond scum.”
Then came those debate performances. In the first one, he seemed content to answer every question by pointing out that he was a Navy SEAL. That wasn’t good, but it was better than he has been lately, growing more and more shrill.
And the last week has been nothing short of awful. First came the report by the Globe’s Beth Healy and Stephanie Ebbert that he didn’t really do much at that private equity firm where he made millions of dollars. He never made partner, and he never really put together a big deal. The people at the firm profess great warmth for Gomez but had much less to say about his work.
Even worse — and this is where things truly get weird — Gomez wouldn’t talk about his business career. Ebbert shot video of him refusing to answer questions about job creation, specifically, that the jobs he created were actually in China. The whole rationale for the guy’s campaign is that he has been a successful businessman who can apply those same smarts to Washington. But he won’t answer any questions about it?
In light of all this, it wasn’t a surprise to read Sunday that Gomez is trailing significantly, with little more than a week to go before the election. Markey has opened up a 13-point lead, despite running one of the least dynamic campaigns in memory. Sure, the lead narrows by a couple of points when only likely voters are counted, but still Gomez seems to be tanking.
It turns out that Gomez is no Scott Brown. Brown, for openers, could answer questions about issues. He more than held his own in his debates against Martha Coakley. I have no recollection of him refusing to discuss his career. Brown was a long shot, but he wasn’t a novice — far from it.
Andrew Smith, the Globe’s pollster, cautions against writing Gomez off, so I won’t. Smith warns that no one knows who will vote a week from Tuesday. Plus, there could be some unforeseen event that upends everything, like an invasion of swarming locusts.
Beyond that, though, it doesn’t look good. Gomez isn’t doing nearly as well among independent voters as he needs to. Female voters favored Markey by more than 20 points. I suppose if every female voter stays home, the race becomes a toss-up.
Markey should not feel great about this race. Though he has shown more life lately, he has indeed come across as a tired Washington veteran. If he does win, he will almost certainly face tougher opposition next year, when he will have to run again. Bill Weld has wanted to be a senator for a long time. Brown must go to bed every night thinking, “I could have won this election.” Markey has some work to do.
But back to Gomez. He won’t go down as the first person to discover that running for office is just a bit harder than it looks from the outside.
Plainly, he was not prepared for the scrutiny that comes with being a candidate, or even the challenge of explaining what he thinks. Like many before him, he is learning that seeking office is one of the most reliably humbling experiences America has to offer.