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The rumor mill is ablaze today as sources indicate that senior Massachusetts senator (and 2004 Democratic Presidential nominee) John Kerry is being touted as a potential candidate to be the new Secretary of Defense, replacing current SoD Leon Panetta.

Kerry was thought to be one of the frontrunners to replace retiring Secretary of State Hillary Clinton but it appears that Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rise is the preferred choice amongst the Obama administration.

Before we delve into our analysis, if Kerry is confirmed this has to be a bittersweet event for the one-time Presidential nominee and war hero.  Kerry, in 2004, saw his heroism attacked by a group called “The Swift Vets and POWs For Truth” which was a political group that had Republican connections.  The term “swiftboating” is now used as a political term after the reception the ads received.

While it’s not the Presidency, Kerry does get a bit of redemption here as he has long been one of the country’s best and most prominent foreign policy advocates.  If he does get nominated and confirmed, you can’t help but feel America is getting a great public servant (which is no knock on Panetta either).

But of course there are political ramifications.  If Kerry is confirmed, he will be forfeiting a critical Senate seat that will see a temporary appointment and an eventual special election.  Kerry’s term runs out in 2014 so there would be another election for the new Senator to start a new term as well.

Governor Deval Patrick would have to appoint a temporary Senator to hold the seat before the special election.  So a top political aide to Kerry or an older statesmen, such as say Michael Dukakis, would be able to cast important votes but would be on very, very borrowed time.

So what’s the big deal?  This happens time and time again and Massachusetts is a reliable Democratic stronghold.  What could possibly go wrong (again)?

Scott Brown.

The Republican Party has one popular New England politician remaining and that is the soon-to-be-former Senator who was recently ousted by Elizabeth Warren.  Brown still has a warchest of money left and if he were to declare his interest in the vacant seat, you can surely expect that no one would bother offering a primary challenge to him.  Brown could then just fight before finding out who his Democratic rival would be.

Martha Coakley, the Attorney General who infamously “blew” the seat in the special election to replace the late Ted Kennedy, would certainly not be an option but that doesn’t mean the bench is thin.

The problem is the Democrats need to find a candidate to coalesce around immediately (to avoid a potentially bloody primary) and one that has immediate name recognition to combat Brown’s popularity.

The problem is very few options exist.  There is Deval Patrick himself of course, but there’s rumors he might be replacing AG Eric Holder, which would then create a mind-blowing circus in Massachusetts.

If it’s Massachusetts we are talking about then you have to mention a Kennedy.  Joseph Kennedy III was recently elected to a first term in Congress but his father was a former Congressman who has seemingly been itching to get back into Washington after a very public flameout in the 1990s.  Ted Kennedy’s widow, Vicki, would also probably be kicked around as an option.  Regardless of the public opinion on the Kennedys, they still are fundraising titans who would have instant advantages.

Yes though Joe Kennedy III, even with his youth, could be seen as a threat as well if neither of his more well-known family members take the plunge.

But say Joe II nor Vicki run.  Rep. Mike Capuano finished 2nd to Coakley in the primary to face off against Scott Brown and would have to be seen as a major threat to win the Democratic nomination.  Capuano serves in the Boston area which could easily see him raise millions to combat Brown.  After the Kennedys, Capuano could be the best bet though he wouldn’t be a favorite amongst progressives.

Another well-known representative would be Ed Markey.  At the age of 66 he isn’t “young” but he’d do the job in potentially winning the election and the one in 2014 which should be enough to keep Scott Brown away in future Senate elections.

Setti Warren, the Mayor of Newton, might not be as well-known but is young and seems to be a future state-level prospect in elections though it might be too soon for him to jump into the race.

But enough about Democrats, could Scott Brown win?  The answer is certainly yes but it’d be hard to imagine he did not hurt his reputation with the nasty turn his re-election bid went.  He might have a lot to offer but Warren did beat him pretty decently and people might have grown tired of seeing him in three elections in three years.

It’s also possible Brown decides to sit on his hands and wait for 2014 to run for Governor which has been much more friendlier to Republicans than Senate races have.  Then the GOP bench includes a bunch of state-level unknowns that would likely lose the special.

Either way, get ready for more politicking.

EDIT:  I truly want to thank Crooks & Liars for using this link on their site.  I really, really appreciate it and can’t thank you enough.