Who Will Replace Kennedy?

If Massachusetts changes its Romney-era law forbidding the governor to appoint a temporary successor to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, a few prospects stand out. Temporary appointments can be dangerous for those doing the appointing, particularly when the new guy or gal is replacing beloved, respected politicians. It is tempting to "promote" an up-and-coming pol from your own party -- this is what Gov. Charlie Crist might do when he announces Mel Martinez's temp tomorrow -- but Kennedy's legacy demands a different type of appointment. That's why the smart money is on former Gov. Michael Dukakis, or someone of his stature, who needs no education in the ways of policy and the Senate, and who would spend his five months faithfully tending to the senator's concerns and interests -- health care reform being paramount. (It's not clear to me whether the late Kennedy's wife, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, wants to serve in this capacity, although she, too, would bring stature.)

If Gov. Deval Patrick so desires, he can choose a well-regarded state politician who would want to run for the seat when the special election comes around in January. There are several Massachusetts Democrats who fit this bill, including Attorney General Martha Coakley, and any one of several members of Congress, current (Barney Frank, Ed Markey) and former (Marty Meehan). But Patrick might want to stay neutral in what will probably be a bruising Democratic primary in state that hasn't seen a real vacancy in more than twenty years. Time's Michael Grunwald speculates that if a Kennedy decides to run in the primary, it will clear the field. I'm not so sure if this is the case -- the state has a much more complicated relationship with the Kennedy family than is presumed; I think it will depend on which Kennedy runs, and how the announcement is handled. (Don't be so sure that there will be a unanimous choice within the family, either.)

What about Romney himself? The idea that he could win a statewide election for Senate in Massachusetts is pretty untested. First, he'd have to prove that's he's a resident of the state. So far as I can tell, he now lives elsewhere. Republicans have won gubernatorial elections for reasons having more to do with the complexion of the vote and what Massachusetts voters expect from the person in that job, but unless he reveals himself to be a former lover of Barbara Walters and has a reconversion to the pro-choice side of the ledger, it's hard to see how Romney wins -- and why Romney would risk running in the first place. Let's say that Romney wants to run -- he is not a terribly popular figure within the state Republican establishment, and he'd face an aggressive primary challenge from Republicans who are more popular than he is, including former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan. What about Andrew Card? Before Bush (BB), I'd have said yes. But AB -- After Bush -- it's hard to see Card winning statewide office unless he renounces his service to the former president.