Three years ago, Democrats lost their grip on one of Massachusetts' Senate seats when their candidate, Martha Coakley, imploded.
But it's quite a different scene for Massachusetts Democrats on Tuesday as Rep. Ed Markey heads into a special election leading political newcomer Gabriel Gomez, a Republican, in the polls by a comfortable margin.
"We're going into election day with the wind at our back," Markey press secretary Andrew Zucker told Yahoo News. The Markey campaign claims 15,000 active volunteers and planned to have close to 16,000 door-knocking shifts completed by the end of Monday.
Democrats say their get-out-the-vote campaign dwarfed Gomez's. They also had more high-profile national and state support and, perhaps most importantly, they say Markey's message of continuing his record for Massachusetts resonated with voters.
A Suffolk University poll released on Monday put Markey 10 percentage points ahead of Gomez, a businessman and veteran Navy SEAL—52 to 42 percent—among likely voters. That poll, conducted June 19-22, had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.
A Western New England University poll showed Markey 8 percentage points ahead of Gomez—49 to 41 percent—among likely voters, and 9 percent undecided. That poll was conduced June 16-20 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.
Additional independent polls have shown varied margins, but all have shown Markey in the lead—suggesting Republican hopes of replicating Scott Brown's surprise 2010 upset over Coakley are much less attainable.
Democrats began the 2013 race with a numbers advantage—36 percent of registered voters are Democrats, compared with 11 percent registered Republicans, according to October 2012 statistics from the Massachusetts secretary of the commonwealth.
And Democrats, including outgoing Sen. John Kerry—who was confirmed as secretary of state—early on rallied around Markey as their favored Kerry successor. The party also assisted Markey financially, and Democrats used high-profile politicians such as President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, former President Bill Clinton and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who defeated Brown in November, to campaign for Markey.
Additionally, Democrats believe their strategy of turning voters off to Gomez by marking him as an extreme Republican has worked in the Democratic-leaning state.
"Gabriel Gomez has spent several months trying and failing to distract voters for his strong support for the national Republican Party agenda to block common-sense gun laws, protect tax breaks for millionaires, raise the retirement age for our seniors and restrict a woman's right to choose, and that's yet another reason why Ed's going to win on Tuesday," Zucker said.
Republicans have worked to position Gomez as a fresh, vibrant alternative to a man who has since 1976 spent his career in Congress. The Gomez campaign on Monday expressed optimism about its candidate's odds.
“Gabriel Gomez is optimistic about [Tuesday] and hustling at events across the state leading up to election day," Gomez press secretary Will Ritter wrote in an email to Yahoo News. "This campaign is about putting people before politics, getting jobs back to Massachusetts and reforming Washington, D.C. Gabriel will be spreading that message across the Commonwealth until the polls close. We are confident that they’ll be more voters motivated to change Washington and get things done than those that want more of the same from Career Politician Ed Markey."
Both campaigns are fighting to increase turnout.
Voter participation for all special elections is typically low, but that trend was specifically confirmed in this race by the recent poll from Western New England University. That survey found 42 percent of registered voters had "a lot" of interest in the Massachusetts special Senate race, compared with 82 percent of registered voters who had "a lot" of interest in the 2012 presidential contest.