LOWELL — With less than 48 hours left before polls open in the Senate race, Republican Gabriel E. Gomez and Democrat Edward J. Markey scrambled to scoop up last-minute votes as they campaigned across the state on Sunday.
Gomez urged supporters to stay positive despite polls showing him lagging and predicted he would ride a wave of bipartisan support to victory. Upbeat and high-energy, the former Navy SEAL assured about three dozen supporters in Springfield that “the good guy is going to win.”
Markey, meanwhile, exhorted volunteers not to become complacent. He said the results on Election Day were contingent upon the final stretch of the campaign.
“We will have an excellent result on Tuesday night if we do the work for the final three days,” Markey said in Lynn. “We just have to make sure that we do it.”
A win is possible only, he said, if his voters go vote on Tuesday, when sunny weather and scorching temperatures may make an already distracted electorate even less inclined to cast a ballot.
“Ring the doorbells, hold the signs, make the calls, get out the vote!” Markey said to about 50 supporters who crowded into a campaign field office, some clutching clipboards with maps of local neighborhoods.
Compared with most Senate races, the special election campaign to replace former Senator John F. Kerry has been compressed — to fewer than six months — but it has still been long enough for both men to evolve as candidates.
Both are clearly more at ease with the retail aspects of campaigning than when they started this winter, as snowstorms blanketed Massachusetts.
Markey, who faced almost no tough elections representing a safely Democratic US House district for more than 36 years, often seemed stiff and robotic in the early days. But over the months, Markey settled into his role as campaigner, becoming more comfortable on the trail.
On Sunday, he exhibited none of his previous awkwardness. The Malden Democrat gamely gave pep talks to volunteers, schmoozed with voters, and gave fist bumps to little kids. He appeared energetic and to be enjoying the final days of his electoral effort.
Gomez too has settled into his role as a candidate. In the early days of his campaign his lack of experience running for office was obvious. His hands shook as he spoke to reporters and he was known to spend an entire campaign stop talking to just a few voters. That nervousness has morphed over the months into a more relaxed sense of confidence. Campaigning in Western Massachusetts on Sunday, he seemed to have taken to the rhythm of the trail.
At each of his stops in the morning and early this afternoon, he bounded enthusiastically from his campaign’s black SUV, shook hands at a pace that seemed nearly frenetic, and encouraged voters to show up at the polls on Tuesday.
“I couldn’t be more excited about where we are now,” Gomez told the crowd in Springfield at Sal’s Bakery & Café. “These polls go up and down, but I know that our message is resonating with independents, Democrats, and Republicans out there. And on Tuesday night, they’re going to see that a wave just hit them. And they should have seen it coming.”
Gomez said he believed the forecasts of dismal voter turnout and urged his supporters to tell their friends and relatives to vote.
“A lot of people don’t even know when the election is,” he told the crowd at Sal’s, which included police officers and veterans. “When I go to a fund-raiser, people give me a lot of money and they don’t even know when the election is. They think it’s in November or something.”
Gomez rolled from the Western part of the state toward the east. Stops included a Latin bakery in Chicopee; Sal’s, a veteran-owned bakery in Springfield; a family-style restaurant in the conservative Springfield suburb of Agawam; and a rally in Boston’s North End with Mike Milbury, a former player and coach for the Bruins.
Markey, for his part, made his way west from Lynn, rallying supporters in Lowell to make a strong final push in what his campaign called an “unparalleled” effort to get Markey voters to the polls. The Malden Democrat also made stops in Waltham, Framingham, and Worcester to kick off canvassing efforts there.
In Lowell, Markey spoke to about 100 people, a mostly Cambodian-American audience, at a function hall in the Pailin City restaurant. Posing for photos with supporters there, he encouraged more of them to cram into the shots, his arms draped around shoulders.
Markey was joined by former Massachusetts Governor Michael S. Dukakis, who told a reporter that after months of work, the last three days of grass-roots organizing were essential.
“You know, I’m still running into people that don’t know it’s Tuesday,” Dukakis said.
Republican Scott Brown won the city of Lowell in his upset 2010 Senate special election victory. Democrats have worked to ensure that the former mill city votes for their candidate this time around and Markey has held six events there this campaign season.
Brown, meanwhile, is set to appear at an event with Gomez on Monday evening in Quincy.
At the Fifties Diner in Chicopee, Gomez predicted victory on Tuesday, but sounded a valedictory note as he reflected on the experience of running in his first major race for elected office. “I ran a clean race,” he said. “I can look myself in the mirror and know that I ran an honorable race and I’m proud of that.”Joshua Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos.