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What Ed Markey's Senate win in Massachusetts means for 2014
Democrats, for one, say Markey's victory proves GOP rebranding didn't work
Ed Markey will face re-election in just 17 months.
Ed Markey will face re-election in just 17 months. Facebook.com/EdMarkeyforMA
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.S. Rep. Ed Markey defeated first-time Republican candidate Gabriel Gomez, a businessman and ex-Navy SEAL, to win a Massachusetts special election, keeping Secretary of State John Kerry's old Senate seat in the Democrats' hands. Gomez had hoped to repeat the upset Scott Brown had pulled off for the GOP when he won Ted Kennedy's seat after the liberal icon died in 2009, but Gomez lost in the heavily Democratic state by 10 percentage points.

The outcome was no big shock — Markey is well-known after serving his Boston district for 37 years, while Gomez is a newcomer; Markey spent $8.6 million, compared to Gomez's $2.3 million. For Democrats — rattled by big midterm losses in President Obama's first term — Markey's victory still came as a reassuring sign. As Alexander Burns and James Hohmann put it at Politico: "If there's a wave building for the 2014 elections, somebody forgot to tell Massachusetts."

The state that heralded the GOP wave of 2010 by sending Republican Scott Brown to the Senate decided against a repeat performance Tuesday...

It's a return to politics as usual in Democratic Massachusetts — and perhaps an early indication that after back-to-back midterm election tsunamis, the country might be in for a more conventional 2014. [Politico]

Republicans in Massachusetts say, however, that it's a mistake to expect Tuesday's results to be repeated in 2014. In this special election, turnout was low, and voters were distracted by a string of events, including the Boston Marathon bombings and the Bruins' Stanley Cup run. Those factors worked against Gomez, who needed steady coverage to introduce himself to voters. That was a big obstacle for Gomez who, as Hillary Chabot notes in the Boston Herald, was trying to counter his lack of name recognition by running on a promise to bring "a breath of fresh air to the U.S. Senate."

Despite Gomez's loss, Republican consultant Rob Willington tells the Herald that 2014 will be a different story. There will be a gubernatorial election, so turnout is expected to be heavier, and the issues the candidates will be debating will be different. "I think 2014 is a gubernatorial year where the party goes on offense," Willington says, pointing to the success of Republicans — including Mitt Romney — in past races for the governor's job. "We're more successful in races where we're talking about state issues instead of national ones."

And Gomez and his fellow Massachusetts Republicans won't have to wait long for a do-over. Markey has just 17 months before he faces re-election. The now-battle-tested Gomez might stand a chance in a rematch, and bigger GOP names, including former senator Scott Brown, might be able to mount a formidable challenge, too.

Democrats, on the other hand, are spinning Gomez's defeat as evidence that the GOP's rebranding effort, prompted by an internal report highlighting the party's need to win over women and minorities, is not working. Steve Peoples at The Huffington Post says that, "on paper, the Spanish-speaking Gomez, a former Navy SEAL with moderate views on social issues, was the kind of candidate the RNC had sought."

Still, Peoples notes, Democrats shouldn't get too comfy. "The Massachusetts contest," he says, "served as a reminder that Obama faces considerable political challenges in more competitive Senate contests in less-friendly terrain in 2014, when Democrats' grip on the Senate majority will be tested."

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami HeraldFox News, and ABC News.

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