Poll: Markey holds slim lead over GOP newcomer in Massachusetts Senate race

A new poll of the Massachusetts Senate race shows Rep. Edward Markey leading Republican Gabriel Gomez by only four percentage points, an early indication the race is much closer than expected.

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According to a poll from Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, Markey takes 44 percent support to Gomez's 40 percent.

The firm tweeted out the poll's topline numbers. It is the first survey of the general election field, following party primaries on Tuesday. 

Markey entered the race heavily favored to win the seat in blue-leaning Massachusetts, which went more than 60 percent for President Obama in 2012.

Gomez was the preferred pick among establishment Republicans, who believe he'll be able to appeal to centrist and independent voters, which make up more than half of Massachusetts's electorate. 

The son of immigrants and a former Navy SEAL, Gomez also has an appealing personal story that he highlighted throughout the primary race.

Markey maintains a strong fundraising lead and received more votes in the primary than all the Republican candidates combined. He's also got the help of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and Michelle Obama has already scheduled a fundraiser for the candidate in Boston. President Obama could help out as well.

There is precedent for a GOP upset in a Massachusetts special election, however, and Republicans privately muse that Gomez could be the next Scott Brown, who orchestrated a surprise upset over Democrat Martha Coakley in the 2010 Senate special election.

Brown ran as a Washington outsider at a time when dissatisfaction with Washington was high. Gomez is hoping to replicate that appeal in his race, attempting to turn Markey's nearly four decades of service in Congress into a liability.

Gomez senior adviser Lenny Alcivar said the poll was evidence that Massachusetts voters are looking for an outsider candidate.

"This poll is more proof that Massachusetts wants an outsider in Washington who will put aside politics to deliver results for Massachusetts, not career politicians beholden to the special interests," he said. 

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Justin Barasky dismissed the poll and cited Markey's record in comparison to Gomez's as evidence of his strength over the Republican.

"Polls will be all over the place, but Ed Markey has a strong record of fighting for issues that matter to Massachusetts voters and national Republicans are going to have a hard time propping up Gabriel Gomez who is anti-choice, sides with big banks over the middle class and supports a GOP agenda that would devastate Social Security and Medicare," he said.

The 2010 race remains fresh in the minds of Massachusetts Democrats, and they've pledged that it won't happen again. But a single-digit lead is an uncomfortable spot for the presumed frontrunner less than two months from Election Day. The election will be held June 25.