By Matt Murphy
State House News Service
---- — BOSTON — The latest poll on the special election between Congressman Ed Markey and Republican Gabriel Gomez shows the Malden Democrat leading by seven points heading into a pivotal second debate tonight, but suffering from what the pollster described as fallout from the scandals enveloping the White House.
Markey leads Gomez 48 percent to 41 percent two weeks out from the June 25 special election to replace Secretary of State John Kerry in the U.S. Senate, according to a Suffolk University poll that identified the economy and jobs as the most important issue to voters followed distantly by “fixing Congress,” immigration and federal spending.
The survey of 500 likely voters was conducted June 6 through June 9, and has a margin of error of 4.4 percent.
Twelve Visions Party candidate Richard Heos captured less than 1 percent, while 10 percent were still undecided.
“Ed Markey continues to lead, but the margin has dwindled,” Suffolk pollster David Paleologos said in a statement on the results of the survey. “Markey’s core ballot test number has fallen below 50 percent and recent Obama administration scandals, especially the Associated Press phone records scrutiny, have touched a nerve with likely voters who are holding back or no longer supporting Markey and President Obama with the same intensity.”
The two men are set to debate for the second time tonight in Springfield.
The one-hour debate is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. at the studios of WGBY-TV and will be broadcast live.
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.
Of the 21 percent who watched the first debate last week on WBZ-TV, 43 percent thought Markey won while 23 percent gave the edge to Gomez.
During that debate, Gomez said he didn’t see a problem with asking a woman to wait 24 hours before getting an abortion, but the next day said he would not vote for such a bill in Congress because he doesn’t want to change any abortion laws even though he is personally pro-choice.
Thirty-two percent of respondents said Gomez’s support for a waiting period would make it less likely they would vote for the Republican, while 59 percent said it made no difference.
Obama will come to Boston tomorrow to campaign in Roxbury for Markey with 57 percent of likely Massachusetts voters still approving of the job the president is doing, despite concern over the controversies that have embroiled the White House in recent weeks.
The president’s job approval numbers dropped from 63 percent in a May Suffolk University poll, and his favorability numbers fell from 67 percent to 60 percent.
Touching on some of the heated rhetoric being bandied in the Senate race, only 13 percent said they agreed with Gomez that Markey is “pond scum,” a comment made by the Cohasset businessman in reference to ads run by the Democrat juxtaposing his image with that of Osama bin Laden.
Another 37 percent said they agreed with Gomez that Markey is using the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre for political gain when discussing Gomez’s position on gun control, while 55 percent said he was not politicizing the tragedy.
Only 20 percent agreed with Markey’s contention that Gomez is a “tool for the extreme right wing agenda.”