By Jon Keller

BOSTON (AP) — Democrat Edward Markey has the backing of 48 percent of Massachusetts voters polled compared with 41 percent for Republican Gabriel Gomez as the state’s special U.S. Senate election heads into its final two weeks, a poll released Monday showed.

The Suffolk University poll, which also shows 10 percent of voters still undecided, comes as Gomez and Markey prepare to face off in Springfield on Tuesday for their second televised debate. It’s expected to include questions important to the western part of the state.

Markey’s lead has narrowed compared with an earlier poll, but he should be reassured by the latest findings, according to Suffolk University Political Research Center Director David Paleologos.

“He’s still the candidate to beat,” Paleologos said, tying Markey’s shrinking lead to high-profile problems in President Barack Obama’s administration rather than voters rushing to support Gomez.

Paleologos said those problems — including the IRS scrutiny of conservative groups, the seizure of phone records from Associated Press journalists and lingering questions about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya — have chipped away at Obama’s popularity in Massachusetts, though he is still seen favorably by 60 percent of voters here.

Markey is banking on that popularity when Obama visits Boston on Wednesday to attend a rally for Markey at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center in the city’s Roxbury neighborhood.

As for Gomez, the latest Suffolk poll “shows massive momentum on Gabriel’s side,” said campaign manager Jill Neunaber.

“It is obvious that the Markey campaign is in free-fall, and the D.C. political machine is doing everything they can to prop up Markey’s failing campaign,” Neunaber said in a statement.

Markey’s campaign declined to comment on the poll.

The poll of 500 voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points and was conducted June 6-9. One percent of those polled declined to answer while less than 1 percent backed Twelve Visions Party candidate Richard Heos.

Neither Markey nor Gomez had any scheduled public events Monday, although Gomez put out a statement faulting what he called Markey’s “record of recklessly spending our money, and our children’s money, while voting six times to raise his own pay” while promising to reach across the partisan aisle if elected.

Springfield Mayor Dominic Sarno, a Democrat, planned Monday to highlight the reasons Gomez is “wrong for the families of western Massachusetts,” according to the Markey campaign.

The one-hour Springfield debate is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. at the studios of WGBY-TV and will be broadcast live.

The first debate was held at WBZ-TV in Boston and was co-sponsored by The Boston Globe. A final debate sponsored by a consortium of Boston media outlets will be held at WGBH-TV on June 18.

The election, to fill the Senate seat left vacant by the resignation of John Kerry to become secretary of state, is June 25.


Associated Press writer Steve Peoples contributed to this report.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.


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