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Maybe this race isn’t as close as advertised.
Despite two new public polls showing a 7-point race, the Republican-aligned outside groups that swamped the 2012 landscape with TV advertising are still nowhere to be found in the special election for Senate in Massachusetts.
American Crossroads, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other groups generally supportive of Republican candidates have so far declined to jump into the race. They have not spent a dollar in the Bay State, although the contest has become more competitive than expected in recent weeks.
Even a super PAC created specifically to support GOP nominee Gabriel Gomez, the Committee for a Better Massachusetts, has launched only a handful of radio ads on his behalf since the primary, according to Federal Election Commission filings.
There’s still time for these groups to play in the race ahead of Gomez’s June 25 showdown with Democratic Rep. Edward J. Markey. But the window is closing: Unless Tuesday night’s debate is a game-changer, the big-spending groups are on track to sit this race out.
So far, Democratic groups and candidates have spent three times as much as Republicans in the special election, according to a GOP source tracking ad buys. As of last week, national Democrats — including a prominent super PAC — had spent $1.25 million on ads to help Markey.
Ryan Williams, a New England-based Republican strategist and former aide to Mitt Romney, said Gomez’s current standing in the polls is already beyond expectations. He pointed out that President Barack Obama won the state last year by 23 points.
None of the outside groups would comment on their plans for the race, but Williams said they are no doubt still watching closely.
“For any Republican to win in Massachusetts, they have to catch lightning in a bottle in the final month,” Williams said. “And I think he has the opportunity to do that.”
Meanwhile, a band of organizations aligned with Democrats have already stormed the Massachusetts airwaves, streets, Web and mailboxes for the final sprint to boost Markey and paint their own picture of Gomez.
Obama is scheduled to headline a rally in Boston on Wednesday to raise Markey’s profile. He’ll also increase awareness about the oddly timed election, which comes as schools are letting out for the summer and families begin vacations.
The onslaught of spending and big-name Democrats on the stump is aimed at halting any potential for the second coming of Scott P. Brown. The stain of the former GOP senator’s shocking 2010 victory serves as the party’s painful reminder of the uncertainty that nearly any special election can bring — even in the blue Bay State.