There’s a danger for Barack Obama if he names Massachusetts senator John Kerry to his cabinet: he might wind up with Republican Scott Brown winning the special election that would ensue. Despite losing his Senate seat to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Brown still has a great deal of popularity in the state, and his political operation is still warm from the recent election. Brown also would benefit from a lower turnout special election than in a presidential election and the lack of a candidate with high recognition like Warren.
Massachusetts GOP strategist Rob Gray commented, “Brown’s potential advantage is he’ll have a weaker opponent and a better electorate. He starts with high favorables, a statewide organization and a huge fundraising potential — I don’t think it’s a lay-up for the guy, but I certainly think it’s winnable.”
The Democratic candidates who do have high recognition are uninterested; Gov. Deval Patrick has stated he wants to remain governor until 2014, while Rep. Barney Frank isn’t interested either.
That leaves rather slim pickings for the Democrats; Tad Devine, a Massachusetts Democratic consultant said, “Unless a governor runs, I don’t think there’s a dominant player on the political stage that would walk in there and have that advantage that Martha Coakley had.” Coakley lost to Brown in 2010.
There are Massachusetts state representatives who are possibilities, such as Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA), Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA). Capuano, who ran second to Coakley in 2010 has over $500,000 cash on hand. Lynch wants to run, but he is the most conservative, which might doom him in the primary. Markey passed in 2010 but may be the most formidable; he has $3.2 million in campaign funds left. Former Rep. Marty Meehan, who is now chancellor of the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, has nearly $5 million left in his campaign funding.
The money matters; Devine said a primary race could cost $6 million. Thus Democrats are looking at private sector successes like Bain Capital managing partner Steve Pagliuca, who finished last in the 2010 special-election primary, and David D’Alessandro, a prominent businessman. There are a ton of other prospective candidates, including, of course, the latest Kennedy fad, Joe Kennedy III, but there is truly no candidate who stands head and shoulders above the rest.
We may not see Kerry as Secretary of State or Defense after all.