BOSTON (AP) - Republican Gabriel Gomez and Democrat Edward Markey cranked up their get-out-the-vote efforts Monday, knocking on doors, calling voters and holding rallies across the state in the final hours before Massachusetts' special election for the U.S. Senate on Tuesday.
The campaigns' competing ground games are aimed at driving up each candidate's vote totals in a contest where turnout is expected to be light, a contrast to the high-profile special election in the state three years ago.
Markey capped his final full day of campaigning with stops in Springfield, Worcester and Lawrence before participating in a rally in front of the YMCA in his home city of Malden, imploring a crowd of about 250 supporters not to let up in the final hours.
"We cannot stop," said Markey, a longtime congressman who's led in polls. "The Republicans are coming. We have to make sure we stop them from having a vote for (Senate GOP leader) Mitch McConnell as the next majority leader of the United States Senate."
Gomez, a businessman, former Navy SEAL and political newcomer, focused his attention on southeastern Massachusetts.
"I've been in a lot harder situations - a lot longer odds," Gomez told two dozen supporters gathered inside a Braintree bar Monday afternoon. "We're going to make history tomorrow."
Earlier in the day, Gomez greeted commuters at a Braintree public transit stop before heading to Plymouth, Hyannis and Brockton. He would finish up the day with an evening rally with former U.S. Senator Scott Brown at a restaurant in Quincy.
Brown drew parallels to his own race in 2010 saying polls that showed him trailing Democratic candidate Martha Coakley in the closing weeks of the campaign were proven wrong.
"Is the race over? Of course it's not over," Brown said. "If you want somebody who's going to be in lock step and look at (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid and say 'Mr. Leader, how do I vote, up or down?' You send Ed Markey down there. He'll do exactly as he's told."
Gomez said if elected he would instead be able to reach across the political aisle and fight against what he called "hyper-partisanship."
"People have asked me throughout the campaign, 'Why are you running?'" Gomez said. "I tell them it's very, very simple. I want to serve."
All indications pointed to what the state's top elections official termed a "very weak" turnout at the polls, thanks in part to the timing of the election and a lack of deep interest.
"There just hasn't been the intensity in this race," said Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin, who projected that no more than 1.6 million of the state's 4.3 million registered voters - about 37 percent - would participate in the contest.
By contrast, about 2.25 million voters cast ballots in the 2010 special election to succeed the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, which Brown won.
Galvin, a Democrat, said none of the political dynamics in that race appear to have taken shape this year.
"I'm not going to deliver a political analysis, but it's obvious that some of the factors that were present in 2010 ... the national interest, the effects on the workings of the United States Senate, are simply not present this time," said Galvin.
The date of the election, coming when many people are beginning summer vacation, also could be a factor in keeping turnout low, he said. Temperatures were expected to soar into the 90s in parts of the state Tuesday.
Both campaigns are keenly aware of the importance of turning out their voters.
"Some of the pollsters and the pundits would like to say, 'Oh, it's an easy victory, Ed's got it won.' We as Democrats know we cannot trust that," Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian said at a Markey campaign stop Sunday in Framingham. "We learned a couple of years ago the hard way that if we don't do our job someone will take advantage."
Gomez supporters are equally aware of the need to get their voters to the polls.
Turnout is particularly important given the low turnout predictions, said State Sen. Robert Hedlund, a Republican who introduced Gomez at the Braintree bar.
"You can in a sense ... have the power of really three votes for the people that are sitting this one out," Hedlund said.
Gomez said voters are ready for a change.
"He's, like, twice as old as you are," Gomez said of the 66-year-old Markey while talking to an undecided voter, 18-year-old Vaughn Haynes, of Holbrook. Gomez is 47.
Haynes, who said he voted for President Barack Obama in the fall, later said he would likely vote for Gomez.
"He's the only one I've met," Haynes said.
Markey also urged his supporters to dig deep.
"There is no overconfidence in this entire operation," said Markey, explaining that his campaign has called or rang the doorbells of 3 million prospective voters in the last four days.
Tuesday's special election will fill the seat formerly held by John Kerry, who resigned from the Senate to become U.S. secretary of state.
Richard Heos, who is affiliated with the Twelve Visions Party, is also on the ballot.