State politicos are focused on this year’s Senate race, but there are already polls and speculation about the next big Senate race in 2012, when Senator Joe Lieberman’s re-election to a fifth term is anything but a sure bet.
There is a name that hasn’t surfaced publicly yet in any talk about 2012 but it is a name everbody knows: Kennedy. Ted Kennedy, Junior was described to me by one prominent Democrat as the “dream candidate” for the ’12 Connecticut Senate race.
Kennedy, who lives in Branford and runs a financial services group in New York, has indicated he has thought of running for office “in the future” suggesting it could happen when his children are older. In 2012 his daughter will be college age and his son, ready for high school. Kennedy himself will turn 51 in ’12. If Kennedy chooses not to run, the next opportunity would be 2016, assuming Republicans win the seat this year. It is unlikely Kennedy would challenge a Senator Blumenthal should the Attorney General win this November.
If Ted Kennedy, Junior wants to run for the Senate, 2012 might be the perfect year to do it.
Connecticut Democratic party chairwoman Nancy DiNardo admits the Kennedy name would be a big boost to the party, although she refrained from lavishing too much praise on the late senator’s son. “We have several great potential candidates in our party,” DiNardo said.
Right off the bat, there is the congressional delegation of Rosa DeLauro, John Larson, Joe Courtney, Chris Murphy and Jim Himes. Conventional wisdom says DeLauro and Larson are not interested in the Senate because 0f the seniority both have built up in the House. It is hard to believe DeLauro would walk away from being one of the most powerful women in the House to be a 70 year old freshman senator. Ditto for Larson, who is three slots away from House Speaker.
Murphy has admitted he is interested in the Senate “down the road,” and because of that revelation he seems to be the only Democrat polled in matchups against Lieberman. However, Murphy could face a tough re-election battle this fall and the results could impact 2012.
After Scott Brown’s upset victory in Massachusetts, Republicans are confident they can do well where President Obama and his policies are not popular. Where is Obama the least popular in Connecticut? Murphy’s 5th congressional district. According to Doug Schwartz of the Quinnipiac Poll, President Obama’s approval rating in the 5th is only 50%. Republicans will most assuredly make Murphy’s Senate ambitions an issue, telling voters that a vote for Murphy is a vote for a man who could begin campaigning for the Senate as soon as the next Congress is sworn in. If Murphy loses this fall, it would be difficult to see him as a strong candidate for the Senate in ’12, and even a narrow re-election might give Democrats pause.
A few Democrats have told me the one to really watch in the delegation to try to move up to the Senate is Courtney, whose district covers half the state, and includes some of Connecticut’s fastest growing towns. He tends to be more independent than the rest of the delegation, and could be more appealing to independent voters and Lieberman supporters than Murphy. Courtney voted against the Wall Street bailout and has refused to take part in the generous health care plan afforded to members of Congress. The con for Courtney is that in his 2nd district, the President has only a slightly higher approval rating of 51%. For the record, Courtney has shown no interest yet in running for the Senate only in being re-elected this year.
Himes could also face a tough re-election this fall. Another thing to keep in mind: The 2nd, 4th and 5th districts were all held by Republicans not long ago. If either Himes, Murphy or Courtney is re-elected big in what is seen to be a Republican year, he could vault to the front of the line in the next Senate race.
Another potential candidate in ’12 is Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, now running for Attorney General.
But the person who could clear the ’12 Senate field of Democrats is the scion of the most famous political family in America.
WFSB Democratic Political Analyst Duby McDowell told me, “While our party has a terrifically strong bench in Connecticut, there’s no doubt that if Ted got into the 2012 Senate race he would be among the front-runners immediately. It’s not just his name and pedigree; he and his wife Kiki have earned a lot of good will in this state for work they have done for candidates and causes. There are plenty of people who would be thrilled to see him make a move onto the political stage.”
Some might argue “wouldn’t Kennedy run in Massachusetts?” I’m told Kennedy considers himself a Connecticut guy. Granted he has a summer home on the family campound in Hyannis Port, but what would the justification be for running in Massachusetts over Connecticut? Republicans would say Kennedy would be running in the Bay State because he sees Scott Brown’s seat as his “father’s seat.” Brown won arguing it is the “people’s seat.”
Not too long ago Howard Fineman of Newsweek declared an end to the Kennedy era in Massachusetts. The next Kennedy era could begin in Connecticut.
We put a request in to Kennedy’s office for a comment on our story, but we had not received a response by publication time.