With just three days remaining before Massachusetts voters select their next senator in a June 25 special election, both the Democratic and Republican candidates are barnstorming the state to make their case to voters, promising a photo finish for a closely watched race that has been characterized by a relatively stable lead for the Democrat, longtime Massachusetts Rep. Ed Markey.
In the final days of the race, Markey's opponent, former Navy SEAL Gabriel Gomez, is attempting to close the gap by working "sun up to sun down, doing events all across the state," campaign press secretary Will Ritter told CBSNews.com.
"People want to reform Washington, D.C., and they want to know how we're going to create jobs," Ritter said, "and Gabriel Gomez is going to meet as many voters as possible and push that message."
Ritter acknowledged that public polls have shown his candidate trailing in the final days of the race. Some polls have even shown Markey's lead greatly expanding - a recent UMass-Lowell/Boston Herald poll gave the Democrat a 20-point advantage, earning 56 percent compared to Gomez' 36 percent. A Boston Globe survey last week also showed Markey with a double-digit advantage, indicating the race may be slipping away from Gomez, who managed to keep the gap within single digits in the early days of the race, according to most polling data.
Ritter admitted that his candidate faces an uphill battle, but he said that people might be surprised by the outcome next Tuesday.
"Gabriel Gomez is the underdog, but we are surging, polls are tightening," he said. He confirmed that the campaign's last internal poll had Gomez down by seven points, but opined that while they do not have a more recent internal survey indicating the gap is closing, the campaign is seeing some enthusiasm at campaign events that isn't reflected in the polling data.
"What we're seeing on the ground is that...people that are motivated to vote to reform Washington and to change the status quo are more motivated to go the polls than the people who want more of the same, which is what you're going to get from Ed Markey," he explained.
Throughout the race, Gomez has tried to tar Markey with the "insider" label by pointing out Markey's 37 years of service in Congress, which remains deeply unpopular with the public.
But as he's sought to link Markey to Washington, Gomez has also had to distance himself from the national Republican party, which is not exactly popular in deep-blue Massachusetts.
That task was thrown into stark relief last week, when Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., pushed a bill restricting abortion by claiming that pregnancies resulting from rape are rare, setting off a firestorm of controversy.
Gomez, who personally identifies as "pro-life" but has said he would not seek to overturn any abortion laws currently on the books, responded by calling Franks a "moron."
The episode, according to some analysts, exemplified Gomez's need to differentiate himself from national Republicans. Ritter, though, argued it was driven more by the Republican's candor than anything else.
"Gabriel Gomez called Trent Franks a moron because he's a Navy guy who speaks from his gut," he said. "When he hears something that he doesn't agree with, he's not afraid to speak out."
On Monday, Gomez will stage his first and only campaign appearance with former Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., whose own victory in a 2010 Massachusetts special election stunned observers. If he hopes to win, Gomez would have to replicate Brown's support patterns among the Massachusetts electorate by retaining Republican partisans while cleaving moderates and blue collar voters from the Democratic fold.
The Gomez campaign, in spite of the disheartening polling data, believes people may be surprised at the outcome. "We're really only worried about the poll on June 25, and we think that people are going to be very surprised when Gomez comes out on top," Ritter said.
Despite the bullish predictions emanating from the Gomez campaign, Markey press secretary Andrew Zucker brushed off suggestions that the race is tightening, pointing to the strong Democratic field operation in Massachusetts.
"Unlike the Gomez campaign, we've been building a strong field operation since the beginning of the primaries," Zucker said during an interview with CBSNews.com.
But even with the Democrats' infrastructural advantage, Zucker stressed that the campaign is not resting on its laurels.
On Saturday and Sunday, Markey will canvas the state as part of a get-out-the-vote effort that will take him to eight cities in two days. On Saturday, Vice President Joe Biden will join the fray, accompanying Markey for events in Boston and Dartmouth. Markey's onetime Democratic primary foe, Rep. Stephen Lynch, will also be present.
It's the latest iteration in Democrats' presentation of a united front as the election approaches: Already, the Markey campaign has been aided by appearances from President Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and former President Bill Clinton.
Markey's advisers say they feel a sense of enthusiasm that makes them optimistic. "Ed Markey's been traveling across the state and holding rallies that have thousands of people at them," Zucker said. "If crowd size is any indication, clearly the momentum is in our favor."
Zucker also scoffed at Gomez's efforts to tie Markey to the morass in Washington, pointing out that the Republican has a Washington problem all his own.
"Gabriel Gomez has been tasked with a very tall order, and that's trying to distract voters across Massachusetts from his strong support for the national Republican agenda," Zucker said. He argued that Gomez, if he wins the race, would aid Republicans' efforts to block gun reforms, protect tax cuts for the wealthy, and restrict abortion rights.
"People don't want to send someone to Washington who will bring [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell and the Republican Party one step closer to controlling the agenda," he said.