Senate shuffle

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  August 27, 2008

Family inheritance
Some are convinced that Kennedy will try to arrange for the seat to pass on to another member of the Kennedy clan. And many hope that he does. “We need a Kennedy for clout reasons alone,” says one observer.

The most obvious would be former congressman Joe Kennedy. Some sources, however, tell the Phoenix that Joe has no interest in returning to politics; others say he couldn’t pass up a chance to be senator, but aren’t sure he would be willing to go through a competitive campaign.

Others are now saying that Kennedy has long planned for his wife, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, to have the seat. True or not, observers say that some faction — with or without Ted’s blessing — seemed intent on getting that word into circulation very quickly: the New York Daily News reported it on Thursday, and Vicky’s name appeared in a Joan Vennochi column on potential successors in the Globe. “I think Vicky wants (the seat), and is making it known,” says one well-connected political observer. “But I would be surprised if Ted got involved in passing it along to Vicky.”

If Vicky is gunning for the job, it sets up a potentially awkward situation. She would need the backing of the women’s power bloc — who were publicly furious with Kennedy when he endorsed Obama over Clinton. Murray in particular accused Kennedy of betraying the Democratic women who had stood by him over the years.

One would think they would have to mend bridges and support Vicky — but more than one source in state politics says they would not be surprised to see them back another woman out of spite.

Even if she was the lone female candidate, there’s a question of whether Vicky could win. Yes, Massachusetts’s 5th District recently elected the widow of legendary Paul Tsongas to Congress, but she had long personal ties to the area herself. Some wonder whether Vicky, on the other hand, a 54-year-old Louisiana transplant, would go over well in Massachusetts.

“It’s one thing for Kennedy to want that,” says one Massachusetts political veteran, “it’s another for the people to accept it.”

Of course, few pols would dare to campaign against Kennedy’s wife. This same source suggests one who would: Capuano.

Which leads him to posit the following scenario: Kennedy gets Obama to name Kerry Secretary of State; he then bolsters Capuano to run for, and win, Kerry’s seat in a special election. Then, Vicky’s way is clear to be his successor.

And the bonus: Capuano’s congressional seat — previously held by Joe Kennedy — would be available for Joe’s son, Joe Kennedy III, who is now 26 (and thus eligible for Congress) and is rumored to want to enter politics.

There is one other Kennedy who people point to as available for a Senate run: Caroline Bouvier Kennedy, the daughter of JFK.

A New Yorker, 50-year-old Caroline would have to take up residence in Massachusetts prior to the election. She has never run for office before. For years, people have thought of her as “her mother’s daughter” — eschewing politics and the limelight.

But that seems to be changing. More than one political observer tells the Phoenix that Caroline’s Times op-ed in January endorsing Obama — the first time she has ever endorsed a presidential candidate other than her uncle — and her subsequent appearance alongside Ted at a high-profile rally, signaled her intent to get off the sidelines and into the action. One source points out that Caroline’s youngest child, Rose Kennedy Schlossberg, is about to turn 20; her desire, like Jackie O’s, to bring up her children in relative privacy is now fulfilled.

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