Today, let’s mull a race that may never take place: The special election to fill John Kerry’s Senate seat if he becomes secretary of state. One school of thought is that, absent a Democratic candidate with the star power of a Deval Patrick or Elizabeth Warren, Republican Scott Brown would be the odds-on favorite.
So far, there's no such Democrat on the horizon. Instead, the party is gamely talking about the same congressional faces: Ed Markey, who has now been discussed as a real or possible Senate candidate for almost 30 (!) years; Mike Capuano, a partisan scrapper and failed 2009 Senate candidate who is temperamentally better suited to the House; and Steve Lynch, an edgy loner whose would-be 2009 campaign crashed back on the launching pad.
But while the Democrats might not have a better possible candidate than Brown, the Republicans do. That's one William Floyd Weld, who recently relocated from Gotham back to the Hub of the Universe, or at least to Cambridge.
Weld, of course, lost a spirited Senate race to Kerry in 1996, in no small part because a vote for him would have been a vote for conservative control of the US Senate, the same concern that bedeviled Brown in his failed reelection campaign.
That issue, however, would play a much-reduced role in a special election.
Could Weld run? One report is that the former governor turned former New Yorker had to take a No New Politics pledge as a precondition of his hiring at Mintz Levin and ML Strategies, where old friends Steve Tocco and Bob Popeo work.
"It never came up," he asserts.
So would Weld be interested in running? Weld, being Weld, is Weldian. Which is to say, Delphic.
"I think it is Scott Brown's for the asking," he says, "and I would expect to support him." Besides, he adds, "I feel like I have died and gone to heaven here at Mintz Levin." But then there's this crosscurrent: "I'm very interested in both Massachusetts politics and national politics. I feel I can make a contribution."
Followed, however, by this qualifier. "But it may be through suasion with others and not being a candidate myself."
Despite Weld's deference to Brown, the former governor would trump the defeated senator in almost every regard. He's a bigger, better thinker, a larger personality, and a more engaging figure. As someone whom Bill Clinton nominated for an ambassadorship and who endorsed Barack Obama in 2008, Weld has shown more true bipartisanship.
More comfortable speaking his mind and arguing his case than Brown, Weld says the GOP needs to move to the center and offer a broader message.
"The silver lining of the presidential results for the Republican Party may be that it is now obvious that the Republican Party cannot come with an economics-only message," he said. "So the party is going to have to sweep other issues into its plan of attack, and leading that list would be immigration."
Brown, by contrast, too often seems like a politician trying to sidestep or finesse difficult issues. Unlike Weld, who as governor loved the give-and-take of politics and set the standard for press accessibility, Brown is leery of the press and strives to limit his exposure to anyone who might ask a difficult question.
Now, it's true that as governor, Weld eventually grew bored with the job. And that when it came to choosing amber liquids, he tended to favor early cocktails over midnight oil. Still, at 67, Weld has given up spirits in favor of wine. And if ever there was a body where a person can prosper based on his intelligence, likability, and wit — and get things done in collegial conversations over dinner — it's the US Senate.
Weld has also shown he has real appeal to the kind of swing voters who ultimately found Brown underwhelming.
So while Brown is the GOP's easy answer, when you put it all together, Weld would be not just a higher-caliber senator, but also one more likely to help expand the political center.