GREAT BARRINGTON

Despite the fact that Massachusetts is a very blue state, Republicans regularly win elections here. That's because there are a lot of blue dog Democrats living here. These are working class folks who know that bloated government can be murderous in terms of how much they have to pay in taxes.

The Democrats learned their lesson when Attorney General Martha Coakley ran against Scott Brown and lost. Coakley ran a lackluster campaign, but was backed by the state's highest-ranking Democrats. Massachusetts had just lost its most popular politician, Ted Kennedy, but the voters rebelled and elected Brown.

To put it mildly, it was a crushing defeat and served as a signal for the Democrats to sit up and take notice. This is all very important because this Senatorial election is not about Republican Gabriel Gomez versus Democrat Ed Markey.

Rather it is a contest between Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, against Harry Reid, the present Democratic majority leader. If the McConnell forces win, it will be nearly impossible for Barack Obama to continue to lead the country.

McConnell, you will remember, is the guy who said that it was his job to make sure Obama didn't get a second term. The point is that Gabriel Gomez will assuredly vote for McConnell for leader, no matter how much he protests that he is a middle of the roader. In order to win in this kind of a contest in blue states, Republicans always have to look like "Republican Lite."

Gomez' credentials are impressive. A graduate of Annapolis, a Navy pilot, a Navy SEAL, and a business executive, Gomez comes from a Columbian family where Spanish was often spoken. He believes in a woman's right to choose, gay marriage and a host of other red letter images. Right now, he is behind in the polls, but not by that much.

As for Markey, he's another one of those near Boston congressmen who has been quite comfortable playing with the Washington establishment. My personal experience with Markey hasn't been that great.

When a public radio station that covers half the state asked him to come on and he refused, even after many good Democrats asked him, one could only wonder, "What's up?" Politicians are awfully predictable. If they are behind, they want to mix it up and debate and call names. If they are ahead, they play it safe.

Sometimes, as in this case, they might be miscalculating.

According to the latest polls, Markey is losing a lot of ground. The key demographic for him is with independents in the state. Markey started out by cleaning Gomez' clock in the polls but now he is leading by a scant 7 percent.

Gomez' attacks on Markey have been fierce. Even though he takes money from the Republicans, he attacks Markey for taking money from the Democrats. He will obviously be playing ball with all the guys who are giving him money but he screams at all the Markey connections with givers and lobbyists. Of course, McConnell will let Gomez "off the hook" on sensitive bills as long as he has the votes to do his mischief. It's really interesting.

Massachusetts voters have a long history of voting for governors who are Republicans but they understand that those Republicans are not about to tip the balance of power at the federal level. The Democrats have to watch out for who they nominate. Our voters will not be taken for granted and they know what they are doing when it comes to politics.

As for me, no matter what my gripe with Markey is, you had better believe that I am not about to vote for Mitch McConnell.

Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany.