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Political Intelligence

Speculation swirls around nomination for Kerry

Senator John Kerry could benefit if Republicans block a Susan Rice nomination as secretary of state.

Harry Hamburg/Associated Press

Senator John Kerry could benefit if Republicans block a Susan Rice nomination as secretary of state.

The silence coming from Senator John F. Kerry about his interest in serving as secretary of state is deafening, but that does not mean others aren’t speaking up to his benefit.

Senator John McCain has joined Senator Lindsey Graham in vowing to do all they can to block the nomination of one possible Kerry rival, United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice.

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Both argue she deliberately misled Congress about the circumstances leading to terrorist attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11 that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others.

Last week, a group of 97 House Republicans, organized by freshman US Representative Jeff Duncan, sent a letter to President Obama labeling Rice “unfit” for the post.

McCain, an Arizona Republican, shares a special connection with Kerry as a fellow Vietnam War veteran.

Their relationship deepened as they pushed the United States to normalize relations with its former foe and account for prisoners of war. It has remained strong despite strain when Kerry ran for president in 2004, and McCain himself did in 2008.

Now, McCain’s complaints against Rice have the president assessing his appetite for a Senate confirmation battle.

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There have been no such objections expressed about a potential Kerry nomination, giving flight to a range of speculation.

One theory is that McCain is attacking Rice to help Kerry. The counterspin is more Machiavellian: McCain wants to hurt Rice so Obama will nominate Kerry, triggering a special election in Massachusetts for his Senate seat.

The beneficiary would be McCain’s fellow Republican Scott Brown.

He is about to surrender his title as the state’s junior senator, after losing his reelection campaign earlier this month to Democrat Elizabeth Warren, but has hinted he would run were Kerry to surrender his seat.

A McCain aide said the theories were “black helicopter stuff” and had no merit.

Scott Brown could become
a perpetual candidate

The possibility of Kerry resigning means Brown could be a perpetual candidate.

The former state legislator from Wrentham burst onto the national scene in January 2010 by winning a special election to replace the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the Democratic icon.

Brown was entitled to serve out the remainder of Kennedy’s term, which expires in January, but that meant he immediately had to start running for the full, six-year Senate term up for grabs in the 2012 general election.

Of course, he ended up losing to Warren.

Now, if Kerry resigns, Governor Deval Patrick will appoint a temporary replacement. A special election to fill the remainder of Kerry’s term — which expires in January 2015 — will have to be held, most likely by next summer.

Then, were Brown to win, he would immediately enter another reelection cycle for the full, six-year Senate term in the 2014 general election.

If he were to win, Brown would finally have the job security afforded by the longest term in US elective politics.

But only after four election campaigns in five years.

Political campaigns had little effect in the end, expert says

For everyone still recovering from the presidential campaign, a University of Rhode Island political science professor has an argument: nothing that happened since the summer had any effect on the final result.

Shanna Pearson-Merkowitz writes in Pacific Standard magazine that voters basically single out a key issue, determine with party or candidate holds the position closest to them, and then never change their mind — even if they register as independent voters, or label themselves undecided in public polling.

Pearson-Merkowitz cites an array of midsummer projections that accurately forecast the winner of not just the 2012 election, but those held in prior years.

She notes that widely discussed vote totals projected by New York Times statistician Nate Silver for Obama and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, as far back as July, ended up close to the final tally.

Romney had a spike of support after he was seen as beating Obama in their first debate in early October; it receded.

“The campaigns have a temporary effect on the polls, but their effect on the long term is less dramatic,” Pearson-Merkowitz told the Globe.

“What the effect of the campaign is really about is turnout,” the professor added. “It’s about getting more of your people out on Election Day than the other camp. In that way, campaigns have a great effect — but it’s in getting people to vote, not in making up their mind.”

Glen Johnson is lead blogger for Political Intelligence, online at www.boston.com/politics. He can be reached at johnson@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.

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