Russell Berman at The Atlantic:
Overall, the Massachusetts primary results did not fit neatly into a larger national narrative. They represented a vindication for incumbents but a mixed bag for progressives, who succeeded in protecting Markey but failed in their bid to oust long-serving Representative Richard Neal, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Neal defeated a young progressive challenger, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, in his bid for a 17th term.
Kennedy jumped into the race a year ago after a pair of polls showed him well ahead of Markey in a hypothetical matchup; the surveys were a testament to both the Kennedy brand in Massachusetts and the lack of one for Markey, despite his having represented the state in Congress since before Joe Kennedy was born. By a margin of 18 points, Democratic voters in a Boston Globe poll identified Kennedy as the more liberal candidate. The genius of Markey’s campaign was that it took his biggest vulnerability and used it as an opportunity: The senator didn’t have much of a political identity in Massachusetts, so his supporters created one for him.
Markey became “someone who most people in Massachusetts who follow politics would say is unrecognizable,” Mary Anne Marsh, a veteran Democratic strategist in the Bay State, told me.
The identity Markey’s camp created—that of a tenacious progressive fighter who often took lonely stands against his party—closely resembled Sanders’s. They dug up a vintage 1970s TV ad from when Markey first ran for Congress, in which he boasted that party bosses had thrown his desk out into a hallway. The linchpin of the strategy was Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who endorsed Markey after he partnered with her to introduce the Green New Deal just weeks after she took office in 2019. Progressive groups such as the Sunrise Movement joined her in backing Markey, rewarding his leadership on climate change while forgiving his votes for the Iraq War, NAFTA, and the 1994 crime bill. (Activists on the left assailed former Vice President Joe Biden for a similar record during the Democratic presidential primary.) A three-minute video hailing Markey as the “Green New Dealmaker” and co-opting a famous Kennedy refrain became a sensation, and an ad featuring Ocasio-Cortez ran on TV in the state more than 1,200 times.