Former Sen. Scott P. Brown's decision not to seek the Senate seat vacated by Democrat John F. Kerry has sent the Massachusetts GOP back to its wish list of candidates — a list that, for some, includes Ann Romney and Taggart "Tagg" Romney, the wife and oldest son of Mitt Romney, last year's GOP presidential nominee.
Mr. Brown's decision to forgo the race has the Massachusetts GOP looking for a "Hail Mary" candidate for the June 25 special election, which will determine who serves out the final two years of the term of Mr. Kerry, who was confirmed last week as secretary of state.
"I don't think it's impossible for a Republican to win the upcoming special election in Massachusetts for the U.S. Senate, but Scott Brown was probably the GOP's best chance," said Kevin P. Donnelly, political science professor at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts. "There are other viable Republican candidates to be sure, but at this point it will be a scramble for most anyone else to put the necessary campaign infrastructure in place. With Brown, the infrastructure was already there."
Neither of Ann or Tagg Romney has publicly indicated an interest in getting into the race, but that hasn't stopped party insiders from floating trial balloons, according to a weekend report in The Boston Herald.
Mrs. Romney was considered one of Mitt Romney's biggest assets on the campaign trail, and her story of surviving multiple sclerosis and her well-received GOP convention speech have made her a popular figure in Massachusetts.
Republicans are also talking about Tagg Romney, 42, who was one of his father's chief campaign advisers. Like his father, Mr. Romney has worked as a venture capitalist.
Political observers have also suggested Republicans might turn to state Rep. Richard Tisei, who lost a bid for a U.S. House seat last year, former Gov. William F. Weld or Charles Baker, who lost a 2010 race to Democrat Deval Patrick for governor.
Whatever the case, the GOP appears to have an uphill battle on its hands — thanks in large part to the fact that the state's well-oiled Democratic machine is coming off a strong showing in the November election, where Elizabeth Warren knocked off Mr. Brown.
The spotlight now shifts to the Democratic primary battle between Reps. Edward J. Markey, who has the support of Mr. Kerry, and Stephen F. Lynch. The two men are set to face off in the special primaries set for April 30.
Kyle D. Kondik of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics gives Mr. Markey the edge right now.
"He is much likelier to emerge from the primary against the more conservative Rep. Stephen Lynch, and while it's possible that other Democrats will now enter the primary field with Scott Brown removed from the equation, Markey has locked up establishment support," Mr. Kondik said.
Fred Bayles, Boston University communications professor, however, said that Mr. Lynch should not be counted out because "in some ways, Lynch is closer to Scott Brown than to Markey."
"He is a real Reagan Democrat in a lot of ways — at least on paper," Mr. Bayles said, pointing out that Mr. Lynch was the only member of the Massachusetts congressional delegation to vote against President Obama's health care law in 2010.
Earlier this week, Mr. Patrick tapped a former top aide, William "Mo" Cowan, for the interim Senate seat appointment and announced that a special election would be held over the summer. Mr. Cowan said he has no intention of running for the seat.
In a statement, Mr. Brown, who first attracted national attention with his upset win to fill the seat of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy in 2010, said that he received a lot of encouragement to run and that his "competitive instincts" were pushing him in that direction. Eventually, though, he decided that he needed a break from the rigors of the campaign trail.
"I was not at all certain that a third Senate campaign in less than four years, and the prospect of returning to a Congress even more partisan than the one I left, was really the best way for me to continue in public service at this time," Mr. Brown said. "And I know it's not the only way for me to advance the ideals and causes that matter most to me."
Mr. Brown has not ruled out a run for governor against Mr. Patrick in 2014.
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