Joe Kennedy trying to avert historic loss for family dynasty

U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III is suddenly facing an historic predicament — trying to avoid becoming the first Kennedy ever in Massachusetts to lose an election.

While there’s no independent evidence that Kennedy’s Senate challenge against incumbent Democrat Ed Markey is faltering, it’s safe to say that he isn’t rolling over Markey the way some experts thought he would. And there’s a lot of pressure on the 39-year-old grandson of RFK to come through for his once powerful family political dynasty.

Even Kennedy’s own internal polling shows the Newton Democrat leading by just a 6 to 10-point margin — not enough to feel overly optimistic about the outcome.

Markey has secured the endorsements of many progressive groups and organizations like the Massachusetts Teachers Association, leading to a perception that his campaign is gaining steam.

Kennedy’s campaign is now fighting back against the speculation that Markey has narrowed the race.

“We’re energized by the reception Joe is getting from voters across the state who are ready for change, and for a Senator who actually shows up in Massachusetts outside of an election year,” campaign manager Nick Clemons said. “Joe hit over 20 small businesses last weekend, 40 stops across the state the week before, and our volunteers are firing on all cylinders in every community.”

The reality is there are just too many uncertainties for either side to get too confident.

Both candidates have run flawed campaigns and made unforced errors — like Markey posing in front of a downed American flag and Kennedy criticizing his opponent for not visiting three Massachusetts towns that are now underneath the Quabbin Reservoir.

Neither candidate shined in their most recent debate Sunday night, especially Markey, who repeatedly stonewalled attempts to get him to say how often he’s been in Massachusetts.

The primary on Sept. 1 takes place while most voters are still in summer vacation mode, making turnout difficult to predict.

The voting will also get underway in the midst of an historic coronavirus pandemic that will drive some voters away from the polls. Estimates based on other special elections show that only around two-thirds of all voters will actually cast their vote in person.

Massachusetts officials just recently mailed out applications to all 4.2 million voters to send in their vote by mail, which means voting will soon get underway a month from the primary date.

That means that thousands of votes will be cast before the candidates’ final debate clash or last-minute ad blitzes.

The uncertainty is probably why both candidates are now in the middle of TV ad campaigns even though it’s the middle of summer.

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