That might turn out to be true, but not because Republicans can't compete in a Massachusetts statewide contest. Before Patrick won in 2006, remember that the GOP had won four straight gubernatorial elections. And Republican William Weld came within eight percentage points of incumbent John Kerry's Senate seat in 1994. Two Republicans vying for governor next year — Charlie Baker and Christy Mihos — are currently running slightly ahead of Patrick in the polls.
And a good candidate — like Baker, if he wasn't already committed to his race — would be able to make an open Senate race competitive. But even some Republican insiders concede that, right now, the state GOP has nobody of substance to put on the ballot.
In fact, political observers express amazement that, in the year-plus since Kennedy revealed he was ill, no Republicans seem to have been doing anything to position themselves as potential candidates.
One Republican consultant says that GOP party leaders in the state should stop complaining about plans to give appointment power to Governor Patrick, because "at the end of the day, if [the GOP] doesn't have a candidate, it doesn't matter."
The same consultant says that Baker is going to have enough trouble raising money for a major gubernatorial campaign, given the woeful state of the Massachusetts GOP. There's little hope that a Senate candidate could raise much money at the same time.
That's why Republicans are looking for someone with the means to self-finance. But one often-mentioned possibility, financial manager Christopher Egan, has made no attempt to establish his name and credentials. And now, coping with the tragic death last week of his father, EMC Corp. founder Richard Egan (who, according to reports, took his own life while in the final stages of lung cancer), insiders doubt he would mount a major campaign.
The other cash-cow possibility, of course, is former lieutenant governor Kerry Healey. Healey spent nearly $10 million from her own pocket on her 2006 gubernatorial campaign, and there's plenty more where that came from (i.e., her husband's management firm). But all that money only bought Healey a pathetic 35 percent of the vote in '06, and state Republicans are not enthused about having her once again represent the party.
State Senator Scott Brown appears interested in running, and while few give him much of a chance, he at least has been trying to raise his profile and demonstrate his fundraising over the past year or so. The same can't be said for other prominent Republicans in the state. When's the last time you heard anything interesting about the issues of the day from former US attorney Michael Sullivan, former lieutenant-governor candidate Reed Hillman, or former congressman and state party chair Peter Torkildsen?
The desperate depths of the party show in the names being dredged up as possible candidates. There's Andrew Card, whose years as George W. Bush's chief of staff make his candidacy in this state a non-starter. There's former party chair James Rappaport, who has lived in Arizona for more than three years. There's even former state treasurer Joseph Malone, last seen getting his clock cleaned in the Republican gubernatorial primary way back in 1998.
Open US Senate seats in Massachusetts don't come up very often — this is the first one here in a quarter-century. State Republicans may see the opportunity go by without even looking like a relevant factor.