The news that Congressman Ed Markey will run for the US Senate seat being vacated by John Kerry signals that at least one of the heavy hitters fooled into staying on the sidelines in 2012 will not make the same mistake twice.
The fear of running against Scott Brown in 2012 was entirely unwarranted. Had Markey, or any other prominent Democratic elected official, made the run against Brown in 2012 they would now be a senator-elect looking forward to working with the president next year.
The excitement in the 2013 special election will almost certainly be confined to the nomination contests. For the actual election to be competitive, there would have to have been some very surprising “game changers” in the battle for the party nominations. Republicans are no doubt pinning their faint hopes on a divisive and bruising Democratic primary, in which the party’s establishment and progressive wings lock horns over the party’s standard bearer. The early and sustained enthusiasm for Elizabeth Warren’s candidacy among both the establishment and progressive wings of the party probably was a once in a lifetime thing.
Unfortunately for the Republicans, it is very hard to imagine progressives in the state making anything like the mistake they made in 2010 when they sat on their hands to illustrate their disappointment with President Obama’s weak leadership on the healthcare reform bill. No doubt, the fact that Martha Coakley was a thoroughly establishment choice also helped progressives justify their decision to stay home in 2010.
Barring presently unimaginable events, partisan polarization in national politics (and particularly the asymmetric nature of the partisan extremism gripping Washington) will provide the most salient context for the 2013 special election. Massachusetts voters are not going to be distracted from their fear and loathing of right wing extremism in Washington by another Republican senate candidate claiming to be the antidote to his own party’s extremism.
With Markey in, who will be the next player to take the field? Does Markey’s entrance in the race provide a reality check for Brown’s advisors, who may still be harboring hopes of a come back by their man?