DARTMOUTH, Mass. (AP) - Democratic U.S. Rep. Edward Markey and Republican Gabriel Gomez kept up a busy schedule in the final weekend before the June 25 special election for the U.S. Senate, with both campaigns trying to energize their base and mobilize for a get-out-the-vote effort amid projections of a light turnout.
Markey, a member of Congress since 1976 and Gomez, a former Navy SEAL and political newcomer, are vying for the seat formerly held by John Kerry, who resigned from the Senate earlier this year to become U.S. Secretary of State.
Markey capped a day of campaigning on Saturday with a rally on the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth campus with Vice President Joe Biden, who was the latest in a string of Democratic heavy-hitters who have made campaign visits in recent weeks, following President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton.
Speaking to several hundred Markey backers, Biden repeatedly said Republicans in Washington "don't get it," and mocked Gomez's claim that he would represent a new kind of Republican.
"This is not your father's Republican party. This is not even Mitt Romney's Republican party," said Biden. "This is a different ... breed of cat. They think compromise is a dirty word. These guys aren't just conservative, they are anti-government."
Biden also tried to counter Gomez's oft-repeated claim that his opponent has been in Congress too long. Biden said Markey's experience and knowledge of issues would be a major plus.
"This is going to be the most informed freshman senator in the history of the U.S. government, Biden said.
Gomez had more than two dozen campaign stops planned over the next three days in what he has dubbed his "people over politics" tour. He began his day by running in a road race in Newton and planned more stops Saturday, hoping to sway independent voters his way.
In Wakefield, Gomez greeted volunteers at a phone bank, sitting down to make several calls himself.
"I appreciate that," he told one person on the phone who expressed support. "Please tell all your friends to vote." But he mostly reached answering machines on the warm weekend afternoon.
Gomez, accompanied by his wife and three of his four children - the fourth was playing Little League baseball - later joined about two dozen supporters at a barbecue.
He acknowledged his underdog status but said his field effort for Tuesday's election was in "phenomenal shape."
Gomez leaned on his military background to explain how he could overcome the Democratic party's potent ground game in Massachusetts.
"I remember being in SEAL school, I remember being in 'hell week' and the instructor, I could argue he had a pretty formidable plan himself, but I was one of the 21 guys to finish out of 125 that started, so I've been in worse situations," Gomez said.
Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin, a Democrat who is the state's top elections official, said this week he was extremely concerned about turnout, noting that there were plenty of distractions for would-be voters, including the start of summer vacation and the Boston Bruins' pursuit of hockey's Stanley Cup, among other things. Both sides have stressed the importance of getting their base out to the polls.
The Gomez-Markey race has seemingly failed to generate the same level of voter interest that accompanied the 2010 special election to succeed the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, which was won in an upset by Republican Scott Brown.
Brown, who lost his re-election bid in November to Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, has played little public role in the Gomez campaign to date, though Brown was scheduled to appear with the candidate at an election-eve rally on Monday.
Leonard Alcivar, a spokesman for Gomez, said Brown has spoken frequently with Gomez during the campaign and has helped with fundraising. Brown remains one of the most popular Republicans in Massachusetts.
At Saturday's rally, a confident Markey made two predictions for the next several days, the first being that the Bruins would defeat the Chicago Blackhawks to win the Stanley Cup and the second that he would be elected to the Senate.
TV viewers in Massachusetts could expect to be treated to a barrage of campaign ads in the final days. As of Friday, Democrats invested $5.2 million in television advertising compared to $3 million on the Republican side, according to the Smart Media Group, which tracks political advertising.