Today’s announcement of William “Mo” Cowen as the temporary replacement for John Kerry in the US Senate was no surprise and it shows that the governor has decided to “play it safe.” All things being equal, the governor understands that this seat is the Democrats’ to lose in the upcoming election.
Anything that encourages a focus on the candidates, rather than the issue preferences of the majority of Massachusetts voters, constitutes an unnecessary risk in this context. The only conceivable way a Republican could win this seat is to VERY effectively distract voters from the larger political and policy context of the race, which is to say, make the race very personal. Even though this candidate-centered approach is much harder to successfully employ in a US House or Senate race than it is in a gubernatorial contest in the state, the governor can be forgiven for choosing not to tempt fate.
Appointing a high profile person like Barney Frank would have certainly been more entertaining and probably more impactful on the present debates in the senate, but it also would have been an unnecessary risk. While Frank might have been a positive force for the Democrat running this spring, he almost certainly would also have served as a rhetorical whipping boy for the Republican candidate, providing a handy way to rally the conservative base.