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Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) released a new campaign ad Thursday night, two weeks ahead of a primary election in which he'll face Rep. Joe Kennedy III. (Photo: The Markey Committee)

'Exact Right Message': Ed Markey's Must-Watch 2020 Campaign Ad Praised for Highlighting Broken Social Contract

"With all due respect, it's time to start asking what your country can do for you."

Julia Conley

Sen. Ed Markey won applause from progressives overnight and into Friday after releasing a new campaign ad touting himself as an outspoken Senate leader with working-class roots who is better-positioned to serve Massachusetts families than his Democratic primary challenger, Rep. Joe Kennedy III. 

The three-minute video begins with a rebuke of President Donald Trump and the Republican Party, who "looked for what they could take" from the American people when the coronavirus pandemic hit earlier this year. 

Repurposing the historic phrase made famous by President John F. Kennedy, the great-uncle of Markey's opponent, the senator tells viewers that while Americans "asked what we could do for our country" by following public health guidance and donating time and money to help struggling people, the Trump administration "abandoned America."

With Americans demanding a "new deal" including racial justice, Medicare for All, far-reaching climate action, and an economy that works for working people, Markey positions himself as "The Green New Dealmaker" in the ad, noting his co-sponsorship of the landmark climate legislation with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).   

After detailing his work in the Senate during the pandemic—securing $300 million for fishing industry disaster relief in the CARES Act and rejecting Trump's attempt to "cheap out" by demanding $600 per week in enhanced unemployment benefits—Markey tells voters that he is better suited than Kennedy to fight for Massachusetts residents and all Americans in the Senate, without mentioning his opponent by name.

"I don't need to get on the phone and talk to lobbyists to know what working people think," Markey says in the narration. "I get on the streets and I listen... We've got to make sure President Biden signs the Green New Deal. We can't wait."

Kennedy, who has served in the U.S. House since 2013, has been criticized by progressives for his past work for Michael O'Keefe, who The Appeal called "one of the most regressive district attorneys in Massachusetts"; for claiming Medicare for All would be too expensive before finally signing on to the bill in 2019; and for failing to prioritize bold climate action.  

"Congressman Kennedy is a progressive in name only," Markey said in a debate in June. "When he [got] a chance to lead on Medicare-for-All, on climate change, on the militarization of the streets of this country, he was not a progressive leader."

Despite Kennedy's youth at age 39, Markey, who is 74, was shown in recent polling to have the support of 71% of Massachusetts voters under the age of 30, while Kennedy has 21% of the vote. Markey is also leading Kennedy by 19 points among voters between the ages of 30 and 54. 

UMass-Amherst released poll results this month showing that Markey is leading Kennedy by 18 points overall, ahead of the Sept. 1 primary. 

"Right now, their relative ages are the only rationale left for Kennedy's campaign, and he's pretty plainly tested the limits of its political viability," wrote Charles Pierce at Esquire on Thursday. A Markey endorsement from Ocasio-Cortez, he added, "eliminated one powerful potential weapon in Kennedy's arsenal—that he could campaign as a Squad-adjacent insurgent. Absent a connection to that national political narrative, Kennedy's rationale for running was limited largely to a couple of lines on his birth certificate... For his part, Markey has campaigned with a vigor and enthusiasm that belies his age."

In the ad released Thursday, Markey offers a final comparison between his own vision of the country's future and the family legacy on which progressives say his opponent is running. 

"With all due respect, it's time to start asking what your country can do for you," Markey says.

On Thursday evening, Markey's ad won praise for succinctly explaining to voters how the social contract has been broken by Trump, the Republican Party, and the U.S. economic system, and detailing his efforts to negotiate a "new deal" for the American people.

"Can Ed Markey just take over marketing for the DNC?" asked environmental journalist Amy Westerveldt.

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