Obama’s Trip to Boston May Be More About 2014

The president will visit the city for Ed Markey next week, according to reports.

President Barack Obama will reportedly make an Ed-ifying trip to Boston for Congressman Markey next week (don’t you think there has been too little punny use of his name in the campaign?), and Gabriel Gomez would like to depict it as a sign of desperation. Mmm, I don’t think so, at least, not exactly.

Surely part of it is leftover paranoia from the Martha Coakley-Scott Brown debacle; nobody wants to be guilty this time of waiting until too late to pull any useful triggers—as with the last-minute, actually desperate Obama trip for Coakley.

But what I’m getting is not really concern that Markey might lose, but that he might not win by enough.

If Markey wins by single digits—and certainly if he wins by only around five points—over an unknown, uncredentialed, poorly-funded opponent, the GOP is very likely to take another, better shot at him in November 2014, when this Senate seat is due for its normal election.

That might mean a more seasoned, better-funded Gomez rematch, or it might mean a bigger, better Republican who took a pass this time. Scott Brown? Bill Weld? Kerry Healey? Charlie Baker? A deep-pocketed businessman? Who knows—but someone will likely take the shot with a full six-year term at stake if Markey finishes this race looking beatable.

And, while the Democratic machinery can probably drag Markey across the finish line again, they would have to expend a lot of resources doing it—resources the national Democratic party types have other places for in the 2014 cycle.

So, from Washington, I think the calculation is to do what they can to generate Democratic turnout in this special election, in hopes of putting Markey’s winning margin up high enough that the GOP won’t commit to making it competitive in 2014, so the Democrats don’t have to commit to defending it in 2014.

Much easier to find time for an Obama visit in June 2013 than in October 2014, after all.