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Biden plays closer in Massachusetts Senate race

Vice President Joe Biden played the role of closer for Democrats in Massachusetts, becoming the latest in a long list of party leaders who have trekked to the Bay State ahead of Tuesday’s special election to fill the seat vacated by now-Secretary of State John Kerry.

President Obama has campaigned here in recent weeks, as have first lady Michelle Obama and a bevy of other high-profile Democratic leaders. Biden aimed to put an exclamation point on the effort Saturday, when he stumped for the Democratic nominee, Rep. Ed Markey, and urged labor leaders not to take victory for granted.

“There’s no reason why this guy shouldn't walk to victory,” Biden said of Markey, telling activists to “please go out and knock on that extra door.”

“Don’t put yourself in the position, at 10 o’clock next Tuesday night, saying ‘God, if I had just done that extra block,'” said the vice president.

Biden's trip to the Bay State punctuates the final weekend of get-out-the-vote efforts from both sides ahead of Tuesday's election, which pits Markey against Republican nominee Gabriel Gomez.  

Democrats are fairly confident about the outcome of the race in a state they traditionally dominate in federal elections, but they remain stung by former Republican Sen. Scott Brown's surprise win in the 2010 special election to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.

And they are taking no chances.

While the latest public opinion polls show Markey with a double digit lead over Gomez, a Republican newcomer, Democrats have remained vigilant. They've poured millions of dollars into the race and spared no surrogate to avoid another nightmare loss.

Republicans have tried to get an opening in the uphill race, hitting Markey over his 37-year career in Congress, and highlighting Gomez -- a young, Hispanic former Navy SEAL -- as a stark contrast.

But in his remarks Saturday, Biden praised Markey’s experience as an asset during a rally in Dartmouth.

“This is going to be the most informed senator in the history of U.S. government,” said Biden, praising Markey’s work on climate change and health care. “Ed has always been ahead of the curve his entire career."

Biden had already trekked to the Bay State to fundraise for Markey, and last week the president headlined a rally, telling a crowd the work wasn’t over, even after he carried the state last fall by 23 points and Democrat Elizabeth Warren beat Brown to re-take that seat.

Biden echoed the president’s remarks, reminding supporters about the stakes for the national party with Democrats needing all the Senate votes they can get.

“It’s not hyperbole to say we really need Ed Markey in the U.S. Senate,” said Biden.

For his part, Gomez took a different approach on Saturday. He kicked off his final weekend by running a race in Newton, a tack he’s taken throughout the campaign. Gomez also ran this year’s Boston Marathon, and crossed the finish line before two bombs exploded in the devastating attack that killed three and injured hundreds.

Gomez has embraced his role as an underdog, but hasn’t been able to catch the same lightning in a bottle Brown had more than two years ago in his upset. Absent a growing unrest over health care and a candidate who made serious missteps, the elements for an upset win haven’t been there, and Gomez hasn’t surged in the polls or in fundraising like Brown did in the final stretch, though the former senator will headline an election eve rally for Gomez on Monday night.

While national Republicans praised Gomez as the type of candidate they should be embracing as the GOP seeks to expand, especially among Latinos, activists haven’t followed suit. Just one super PAC, a new group called Americans for Progressive Action, spent $700,000 on ads, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee has helped with coordinated spending. But that’s been far dwarfed by the millions the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Majority PAC, the Democrats’ Senate super PAC, have spent on the race. Combined, Democratic spending has nearly doubled what Gomez and GOP-alinged groups have spent.

Gomez’s advisors have tried to make the case that the race is winnable, pleading for outside help and last-minute cash to their campaign. While they did see a spike after a strong final debate, and were able to up their airtime, even Republicans privately admit they haven't seen the movement necessary for the upset.

Throughout the race, Gomez has highlighted his key differences with his party, saying he would be an important broker across the aisle to support the immigration bill before the Senate, and notes he supports expanded gun background checks and legalizing gay marriage.

But Markey stuck to Democratic talking points to rally the base, a safe move that’s likely to work. Painting Gomez as another reliable GOP vote to back Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Markey has repeatedly pointed out Gomez opposes banning assault weapons. And while Gomez has said as a Catholic he’s personally anti-abortion wouldn’t do anything to change existing law, Markey has argued he'd be a dangerous vote to confirm Supreme Court judges who could endanger the existing laws set by Roe v. Wade.