But standing next to the GOP’s maverick-in-chief, flanked by veterans and wearing his signature green bomber jacket, Gomez could make the case that his would be a personalized and pragmatic brand of Republican politics.
“Senator McCain is part of a gang of eight,” Gomez said, referring to the bipartisan group of senators who've crafted a massive immigration reform bill. “Well, I want to make that gang of eight a gang of nine…. He’s one of the few that reaches across the aisle and I want to support him on that.”
Massachusetts Republicans have always been their own breed – cool-headed, socially centrist, and never totally in lockstep with the national party establishment.
“There’s a real battle going on for the GOP’s soul right now,” says Ray La Raja, an associate professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.
On the one hand, he says, are the tea party and right-wing hardliners. On the other, there are the McCains and the Gomezes – moderates who speak a language of big-tent Republicanism that they hope will draw in the unsatisfied middle of the American electorate.
And the 47-year-old Gomez – who has never held political office and who donated to Barack Obama's campaign in 2008 – is in many ways emblematic of the new face the moderates would like to put on the party.