BOSTON (CBS) — When Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Joe Kennedy meet in their first televised debate tonight on WGBH-TV, could the most important impression of their clash be drawn by viewers who keep the sound off?
The spitting image of his legendary grandfather, the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, Joe Kennedy’s sky-high family name recognition stands in contrast to Markey’s lower-key profile.
“I’m going to run on the issues that people want me to fight for and I have been fighting for on the Senate floor throughout my entire career,” said Markey early on in the race. Those include environmental protection and gun safety, among other causes that have earned Markey plenty of friends over the years.
But as Ayanna Pressley proved in her 2018 upset of longtime Congressman Mike Capuano, the rise of Trumpism has prompted younger Democrats to question if their elders have what it takes to fix the mess that fueled Trump’s rise.
“To meet this moment requires more than just defeating [Trump],” said Kennedy at his campaign kickoff last fall. “It requires taking on a broken system, the calcified structures that allowed him to win in the first place.”
Did you catch that reference to “calcified structures”? Translation:
Markey’s been in Washington longer (44 years to Kennedy’s seven) than the average Massachusetts voter has been alive. But his seniority isn’t helping him outraise Kennedy (who leads with $5.5 million cash on hand compared with Markey’s $4.6 million). And the bottom line of this race is a yawning generation gap – Markey is 73, Kennedy is 39.
“First off, my name is Joe. Hopefully, you knew that,” joked Kennedy at a recent campaign event.
For Ed Markey, it’s no laughing matter.
Markey is a tough customer and it wouldn’t be wise to count him out. But discontent with aging party establishments fueled the rise of Trump four years ago and it’s helping Bernie Sanders now. They’re not young, but Pressley’s stunning upset of Capuano and the unexpected emergence of Pete Buttigieg suggests that these days, youth trumps experience.