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Potomac Fever is infecting Massachusetts

Deval Patrick, Joseph P. Kennedy III, Seth Moulton, Elizabeth Warren, John KerryGlobe Staff

That magic mirror — the one that allows virtually any Massachusetts politician to peer into it and see the next JFK — is working overtime. For that, you can blame President Trump.

Seth Moulton — elected in November to his second term as congressman — is preparing to headline a steak fry in Iowa. Former governor Deval Patrick put out word that Barack Obama is urging him to make a White House run. That throws a little shade on Senator Elizabeth Warren, a presidential prospect who’s not an Obama favorite.

Meanwhile, John Kerry, who tried to beat George W. Bush in 2004, hasn’t ruled anything in or out for 2020. And, this being Massachusetts, an actual heir to the Kennedy dynasty — Joseph P. Kennedy III — is also entertaining Oval Office queries.


Ever since the election of John F. Kennedy, nearly 60 years ago, Potomac Fever has deeply infected the local political ecosystem, afflicting both sides of the aisle. (See Mitt Romney 2012, and don’t rule out Charlie Baker, even if he says he isn’t running.) Today, thanks to the horror of Trump, the White House bug is spreading to Democrats across the country, earlier and more fiercely than ever.

A little-known congressman from Maryland named John Delaney became the first to officially declare his candidacy for 2020, and the National Review predicts a “coming swarm” of presidential hopefuls. As a proud center of Trump resistance, Massachusetts Democrats are happy to feed the buzz. A lengthy Politico piece about Moulton begins with an anecdote about an aide calling the junior congressman from Massachusetts, just five hours after Hillary Clinton conceded, to tell him that he should run in 2020. “I’m not running for president, man,” Moulton tells Politico. Then comes word that Moulton, along with two other Washington lawmakers, will be taking center stage at the annual Polk County Steak Fry of the Iowa Democratic party in September.

Politico also broke the news that Obama is “nudging” Patrick to run for president. Patrick isn’t shutting the door. He’s just saying it’s too early to open it. “I’m trying to think about how to be helpful, because I care about the country, and I’m a patriot first. It’s way, way, too soon to be making plans for 2020,” Patrick said.

Of course, Warren has been making the short list of presidential hopefuls since the last election cycle. She has a national following, which tried to draft her in 2016. Now that she’s up for reelection to her Senate seat in 2018, she’s resisting efforts to pin her down on future plans. However, if she’s serious about a White House run, she will have to keep her eye on Obama administration alumni who have alternative candidates in mind.


Speaking of which, Kerry, Obama’s secretary of state, not to mention a former US senator from Massachusetts, “regaled a packed house in Edgartown . . . with humor and gravitas in a speech that was a pointed call to political arms and citizen activism,” reports the Vineyard Gazette. “Nobody here has a right to sit on their rear end and not be engaged politically and actively as a citizen,” proclaimed Kerry, who recently moved his posterior from Nantucket to Chilmark.

As a past presidential nominee for the Democrats, John Forbes Kerry had the right initials. But Joe Kennedy III has the right gene pool. He’s the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy and the great nephew of John F. Kennedy and Ted Kennedy. His father, Joseph P. Kennedy II, also served in Congress. In a recent People magazine piece, written under the headline “A Kennedy Who Could Be President,” Kennedy didn’t dismiss the possibility of a future run.

And why should he? No one else around here ever does.

Joan Vennochi can be reached at vennochi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @Joan_Vennochi.