Some politicos are wondering in the new age of the Democratic Party whether a member of the Kennedy dynasty stands a chance against a longtime incumbent senator from Massachusetts who’s reinvented himself with young progressive support by brokering the Green New Deal alongside Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Rep. Joe Kennedy III, 39, will face off against 74-year-old incumbent Ed Markey in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate on Tuesday. Just two years ago, Kennedy, who’s represented Massachusetts's 4th congressional district since 2013, was chosen to deliver the Democratic Party’s response to President Trump’s State of the Union address. Now, arguably, he’s struggling in the polls.
"With all due respect to any pollster at the moment, I wouldn't trust any of them. I don't trust my own," Kennedy told television station WPRI in an on-camera last week. "The closer you are to this race and the closer you talk to some of those pollsters that I think are following what's happening, they'll also say 'We don't know, best guess.'"
Three polls conducted within the last two weeks showed Kennedy as the underdog in the race. A Data for Progress poll showed Markey with a 50%-to-43% lead, with results just inside the margin of error. Another by YouGov and funded by UMass Lowell found Markey ahead 52% to 40%. The last by Suffolk University found Markey with a 51%-to-41% lead, according to Boston.com.
Kennedy has served in the House for only eight years compared with Markey’s 37 in Congress. Despite his septuagenarian status, Markey, though, has shown double-digit leads among young adults.
Although the two candidates each raised approximately $10 million, Markey had three times as much money as Kennedy on hand as of mid-August. An influx of cash from Markey may be behind his recent surge in the polls. While Kennedy has likely benefited from name recognition, he has struggled to articulate why he is running and where he disagrees with Markey.
The Kennedy campaign has maintained that the race is still “neck-and-neck” against Markey, and Kennedy’s campaign communications director, Emily Kaufman, addressed the polls Wednesday on Twitter.
“Our internal modeling shows a very tight race and – most critically – one that is trending in Joe's direction in the final stretch. From the start of this campaign, we have known our path to victory lies in our ground game,” she tweeted.
Markey has secured the backing of progressive star Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., the winner of the highest-profile primary battle of 2018, and he has made his support of progressive policy goals like the Green New Deal a centerpiece of his campaign. According to Politico, Markey’s campaign paid almost half a million dollars for a 30-second political ad that doesn’t feature the candidate. Instead, AOC addressed the camera directly in the ad that appeared on Bay State television 1,200 times.
Kennedy, the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, meanwhile has secured the endorsements of older establishment figures like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and the late Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. He also spent "27 hours on the road" driving around Massachusetts last week to meet potential voters, and has challenged Markey's past record on race and failure to support union workers and their families.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.