Our Opinion: Primary brawl worries Democrats


Most Democrats would ruefully acknowledge that their party has a reputation for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Often it is because of the party's inclination to shoot itself in the foot. A recent example would be the email-proven effort of Hillary Clinton supporters among the leadership of the Democratic National Committee to tilt the scales in favor of the party's eventual nominee over Bernie Sanders, which divided the party going into a general election it would narrowly lose in 2016.

Democrats today are worried that the likely challenge by Massachusetts Rep. Joseph Kennedy III of incumbent Sen. Edward Markey in a primary next year will hurt the party's cause. Not in Massachusetts but in neighboring New Hampshire and elsewhere in the country.

Democratic leaders worry that a high-profile Markey-Kennedy battle will attract millions of dollars in campaign contributions that would be better spent on contested races elsewhere. While the Democratic primary winner will have a Republican challenger, the Democrat would be expected to win handily, as did Sen. Warren in 2016. "Bottom line, every dollar that's spent on a primary in a blue or a red state is a dollar less for candidates who need it in purple states," Steve Israel, the former chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told The Boston Globe. Sen. Markey would also be unlikely to employ his campaign cash to help Democrats in other states if he has to fend off a challenge at home, and Rep. Kennedy, a popular speaker at campaign fundraisers around the nation, would presumably be unable to do so while focused on his own campaign.

Party activists in politically savvy Massachusetts would be less likely to travel to other states to campaign if they are at home working for either Sen. Markey or Rep,. Kennedy, While President Trump's claims that busloads of people, primarily illegal immigrants, of course, went to New Hampshire to vote against him was without foundation, busloads of campaign workers from Massachusetts did go north to a state that Hillary Clinton narrowly won. That state will be in play again in 2020 but the busloads of campaign workers may not be.

If Rep. Kennedy, 38, the grandson of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, decides to take on the 73-year-old Sen. Markey and be successful he will need to do more than assert that there is a need for new blood. Both are liberals and there is not a lot to distinguish them on the issues of the day. The party establishment, which is largely behind the incumbent, doesn't see the need for this fight. It's a fight that could have ramifications for Democrats across the country as they bid to retake the White House and control of the U.S. Senate. Few of those ramifications are good ones for Democrats.



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