Discuss as:

First Thoughts: Battle lines are drawn in Massachusetts

The Daily Rundown's Chuck Todd talks about the race between Republican Gabriel Gomez and Rep. Ed Markey.

Battle lines are already drawn in Markey-Gomez race… Specter of Scott Brown hovers over the contest (and why that’s probably a good thing for Democrats)… Why Dems are favored to hold onto the MA SEN seat: Markey’s vote total (309,487) was almost DOUBLE the votes cast in the entire Republican contest (188,375)… Obama yesterday: My job isn’t to make Congress behave… POTUS on health-care implementation: It’s already taken place for 85%-90% of Americans… Newtown victim confronts Ayotte at NH town hall… And the McDonnell-Star Scientific story isn’t helpful to Cuccinelli.

*** Battle lines are drawn in Massachusetts: Well, we now have the match-up for the June 25 general election to fill the U.S. Senate seat that John Kerry vacated to become secretary of state. In the Democratic primary last night, Congressman Ed Markey easily defeated fellow Congressman Stephen Lynch, 57%-43%. And in the GOP race, Navy SEAL-turned-businessman Gabriel Gomez triumphed over former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan, 51%-36%; state Rep. Dan Winslow got 13%. The battle lines in the Markey-vs.-Gomez contest are already drawn. Markey is out to associate Gomez -- who has called himself “an independent voice” and “a new kind of Republican” -- with the GOP and the Tea Party. "This campaign is about standing up to the special interests and the extreme Tea Party Republicans who want to stop progress and send our country in the wrong direction,” Markey said last night. Senate Majority PAC, a Democratic Super PAC, has labeled Gomez “Mitt Romney Jr.” (because of his career in private equity and because of the former Romney staffers working for him).

*** Specter of Scott Brown hovers over the race (and that’s probably a good thing for Democrats): Meanwhile, Gomez is going after Markey for his 37 years in Washington. "I want to take you back in time. The year was 1976; 37 years ago. Gerald Ford was president. Al Gore had not yet invented the Internet… That was a lifetime ago. Me, I was just playing little league baseball. And that was when Ed Markey first got elected to Congress," the Republican said last night, per NBC’s Andrew Rafferty. (The National Republican Senatorial Committee even has a web video on “Ed Markey’s Worst Hits from the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, and Today.”) For Democrats, the specter of Scott Brown -- who won the special Senate election in Massachusetts in 2010 -- is hovering over this race. But don’t forget that Brown’s victory was a perfect-storm event: It took place at the height of unpopularity over the health-care legislation moving through Congress, the unemployment rate was near 10%, and no one in Massachusetts Democratic Party circles saw Brown’s victory coming. Three years later, none of those factors have that same intensity, including the fact that Democrats won’t be taking the race for granted.

Steven Senne / AP

Republican candidate for the Senate Gabriel Gomez gives a thumbs up as he takes to the stage next to his daughter Olivia, 13, left, before addressing an audience with a victory speech at a watch party, in Cohasset, Mass., Tuesday, April 30, 2013.

*** Numbers to explain why Gomez is the underdog in this blue state: Still, here’s a little more perspective for the June 25 general election: Markey’s vote total (309,487) was almost DOUBLE the votes cast in the entire Republican contest (188,375). Heck, Lynch by himself got more votes (229,594) than the entire GOP field combined (188,375). By the way, MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown” today has interviews with both Markey and Gomez.

*** Obama: My job isn’t to make Congress behave: At his White House press conference yesterday, President Obama received questions on a number of topics -- Syria, the Guantanamo Bay detainees, the Boston bombing, and even the NBA’s Jason Collins announcing he’s gay. But to us, what stood out were the president’s comments blaming Congress at almost every turn, no matter the topic. From guns to GITMO, to health care and of course the sequester and the budget. “You seem to suggest that somehow these folks over there have no responsibilities, and that my job is to somehow get them to behave,” he said. “That’s their job. They’re elected -- members of Congress are elected in order to do what’s right for their constituencies and for the American people.” He went on to say, “The only way the problem does get fixed is if both parties sit down and they say:  How are we going to make sure that we're reducing our deficit sensibly?” And there was this: “There are common-sense solutions to our problems right now. I cannot force Republicans to embrace those common-sense solutions. I can urge them to. I can put pressure on them. I can rally the American people around those common-sense solutions. But ultimately, they, themselves, are going to have to say, we want to do the right thing.” It’s not new that the president is frustrated by Congress. The question is whether voters are in such agreement with him that they get a throw-the-bums-out mentality.

*** POTUS on health care: Implementation of the health-law has already taken place for most Americans: The other interesting answer Obama gave yesterday was on health care. Republicans have done a very good job of arguing that implementing the new health-care law is so big, so complicated. And retiring Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus only gave them more fodder when he called the implementation a potential “train wreck.” But the president tried to knock that perception down yesterday. “For the 85% to 90% of Americans who already have health insurance, this thing has already happened.  And their only impact is that their insurance is stronger, better, more secure than it was before -- full stop.  That’s it. They don’t have to worry about anything else.” He added, “So all the implementation issues that are coming up are implementation issues related to that small group of people, 10 to 15 percent of Americans -- now, it’s still 30 million Americans, but a relatively narrow group -- who don’t have health insurance right now.” Until Oct. 1 (the day enrollment for health care begins), the White House and Republicans are going to be battling over trying to define the implementation. Republicans are essentially using the same playbook from 2010, but instead of attacking health care for the number of pages that are in the bill, they will attempt to stoke fear by attacking the complexities of the system. The question is whether the White House has learned their lesson from 2010.

*** Newtown victim confronts Ayotte at town hall: The town halls are back -- this time on the issue of guns and gun control. NBC’s Kasie Hunt reports on Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s town hall yesterday in New Hampshire: “Bringing the national gun debate to a tiny New England town on Tuesday, the daughter of the slain principal of Sandy Hook Elementary confronted Sen. Kelly Ayotte at the lawmaker’s first town hall meeting since she voted against expanded background checks on all commercial gun sales… ‘You had mentioned that day the burden on owners of gun stores that the expanded background checks would harm. I am just wondering why the burden of my mother being gunned down in the halls of her elementary school isn't more important than that,’ said Lafferty, whose mother Dawn Hochsprung was gunned down by Newtown shooter Adam Lanza.” While some might dismiss these town halls as nothing but activists from the outside taking over -- tell that to the Democrats in 2009 who were arguing the same thing. Grass-tops can start a real grassroots fire.

*** McDonnell-Star Scientific story isn’t helpful to Cuccinelli: Also yesterday, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) “denied any wrongdoing in his business dealings with a family friend and donor, saying Tuesday that an FBI probe into that relationship does not impair his ability to serve as governor,” NBC’s Mike O’Brien writes. “I think it’s important for the people of Virginia to know nothing has been done with regard to my relationship with [Jonnie] Williams or his company, Star Scientific, to give any kind of special benefits to him or his company or, frankly, any other person or any other company during the time that I’ve been governor,” McDonnell said on Washington’s WTOP radio. And on the allegation that Williams paid the $15,000 catering bill for the wedding of McDonnell’s daughter: “I made the determination -- and I believe it was correct -- that it was a gift to my daughter, and therefore under the current laws it did not need to be disclosed.” Folks, this isn’t good news for GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli -- due to his own ties to Star Scientific and the fact that this McDonnell/Star Scientific story isn’t going away anytime soon.

Click here to sign up for First Read emails.
Text FIRST to 622639, to sign up for First Read alerts to your mobile phone.
Check us out on Facebook and also on Twitter. Follow us @chucktodd, @mmurraypolitics, @DomenicoNBC, @brookebrower

This story was originally published on