The candidates for US Senate barnstormed the state on Saturday, trying to inject some fire into their campaigns and inspire voters to show up at the polls Tuesday.
The vibe was decidedly different at each candidate’s events, though.
The Democrat, Representative Edward J. Markey, brought in Vice President Joe Biden for two rallies aimed at exciting labor leaders and South Coast voters while he dispatched legions of Democratic luminaries, including Governor Deval Patrick and Senator Elizabeth Warren, to campaign for him at other locations around the state.
Republican businessman Gabriel E. Gomez reached out to voters Saturday at a road race, an ice cream shop, and a barbecue for a crowd of about 60 supporters and their families behind a hotel and office park in Wakefield. Saturday night, he was scheduled to shake hands outside a Lowell Spinners game, campaign at Latino-owned businesses in Lowell, and meet with Puerto Rican veterans.
A Massachusetts Democratic establishment humbled by its loss to Republican Scott Brown in the last special election for the Senate in 2010, staged a show of force, launching a get-out-the-vote operation attempting to reach 3 million voters over the weekend. In his remarks, the vice president tried to tie Gomez to Republican forces that would oppose the Democratic agenda in Washington, D.C., echoing an argument similar to the one Warren used to unseat Brown last year.
“He says he’s a . . . new Republican,” Biden said in Dartmouth. “I’m prepared to say he is . . . just like recent guys like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul and those guys,” he said, referring to the Tea Party-backed senators from Texas and Kentucky.
The Republicans, meanwhile, painted Gomez as the underdog, noting that Massachusetts’ vastly outnumbered GOP ranks are staring down a mighty Democratic machine. By Saturday, Gomez’s team was being fortified by foot soldiers from out of state, as young Republicans were bused in from Ohio and around New England to help make phone calls, knock on doors, and drop off literature to drive up Gomez’s vote. The Gomez campaign is attempting to contact 2 million voters this weekend, said spokesman Will Ritter.
Ritter called Biden’s remarks “the latest example of Ed Markey’s backers wishing he were running against anybody but Gabriel Gomez. Unable to debate ideas, Ed Markey distorts Gabriel Gomez’s positions and unable to stop Gomez, Markey pretends he’s running against somebody else.”
A poll released Saturday found Markey leading Gomez 49 percent to 41 percent.
The poll, sponsored by the Springfield Republican newspaper, MassLive.com, and CBS 3 Springfield, was conducted by the Western New England University Polling Institute from June 16-20. It surveyed 566 likely voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.
With turnout expected to be low on Tuesday candidates were trying to gin up enthusiasm, but Saturday’s events were hardly packed. Only about 150 came to the Ironworkers Local 7 hall in South Boston to see Biden with Markey, and the second rally, held at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, drew under 500, according to the campaign.
In Dartmouth, Markey ticked through a number of differences with Gomez.
“He says he would repeal Obamacare. I would go to Washington to ensure that Obamacare stays on the books,” Markey said.
“My opponent says he could vote for a Supreme Court justice who could overturn Roe v. Wade,” he said, vowing to back only nominees who support the ruling that legalized abortion.
At the ironworkers hall, Markey and Biden were joined by Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and former Boston mayor Raymond Flynn, a Democrat who had broken party ranks to support Brown in the past two elections. US Representative Stephen F. Lynch, a onetime ironworker who Markey beat in the Democratic primary in April, was also there.
The Democratic leaders focused on working-class values, and labor leaders reminded voters in the crowd of the importance of door-knocking and getting out the vote.
“If you want to talk about working people, Ed Markey’s the guy you want in the US Senate,” Menino said. “If you want to talk about protecting millionaires, the other guy’s your candidate.”
At the union hall, Biden spoke of Markey personally. “The thing that I admire about him the most is his character,” Biden said. “Look at this man’s record, look at his personal life, look at his public life, look at who he is. He will do exactly what he tells you.
“There’s no reason why this guy shouldn’t walk to victory,” Biden said. Still, he urged the crowd to work hard until the last minute. “Please go out and knock on that extra door,” he said. “Don’t put yourself in the position, at 10 o’clock next Tuesday night, saying ‘God, if I had just done that extra block.’ ”
Biden is the latest political celebrity to join Markey on the campaign trail, following visits by President Obama, Michelle Obama, and Bill Clinton.
Markey, 66, of Malden, focused on economic values, saying he supported a higher minimum wage and ensuring the wealthy pay their “fair share.”
“At the top of the list, this race is about jobs, jobs, jobs!” Markey said.
The winner of Tuesday’s special election will face reelection in just 17 months, finishing the term of former senator John F. Kerry, who stepped down to become secretary of state.
Gomez, 47, a private equity investor and former Navy SEAL from Cohasset, is using the short duration of the Senate term as part of his closing argument, suggesting voters should give him a try; if dissatisfied, they can soon vote him out.
“I would get more done in 17 months than he’s done in 37 years,” Gomez said.
On Friday, Markey tried to counter that argument with a new TV ad suggesting Gomez would advance GOP positions opposing an assault weapons ban and abortion rights. Gomez’s campaign adviser Leonardo Alcivar said Markey’s response shows that he is not as secure as some polls would suggest. One poll last week showed Gomez down by 20 points. “Thirty-seven-year incumbents don’t lodge negative attacks in a closing argument when they believe their campaign is doing well. They do it because they have to,” Alcivar said.
Gomez launched into the final stretch of the campaign Saturday morning at a Newton fun run with his wife and a team of eight volunteers, all wearing campaign shirts.
“You’ve got my vote, don’t worry about that,” volunteered Todd McCarthy, who clasped Gomez’s hand as he passed by with his 7-year-old son, Tommy.
McCarthy, a former Marine captain, said he’s impressed by Gomez’s Navy background. “I also like the fact that he’s a moderate Republican.”
But Democrat Gene Connors of Wellesley overheard McCarthy’s comment and weighed in with a counter opinion: “He’s a Navy SEAL. What else?” he said, suggesting Gomez’s military background is not sufficient reason to elect him. “It stops right there, right?”
After the race, Gomez stopped by his campaign offices in Watertown and Wakefield, where volunteers were making calls to get out the vote Tuesday, then headed to a barbecue with supporters in Wakefield.
Richard R. Tisei, a former state senator from Wakefield who narrowly lost a race for Congress last year, told Gomez in front of the crowd, “Take it from me, every vote counts.”
“It’s really incumbent upon all of us, to make sure that we get all our friends and our family [to vote] and really leave no stone unturned between now and Tuesday,” Tisei said.