There are two Massachusetts Kennedy's who are most mentioned to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy _ former Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II, his nephew, and Kennedy's widow, Victoria Reggie Kennedy.
It seems a sentimental throwback to anoint the widow of the officeholder an instant frontrunner, but the reality is that Vicki Kennedy is, as I write this Monday night, on everyone's list as a viable contender if she wanted to jump in the Jan. 19 special election.
She took herself out of the running on Monday for an interim appointment, if, as expected, Massachusetts state lawmakers change the law to allow for the vacancy to be temporarily filled.
I talked to several friends and acquaintances of Vicki Kennedy and this is my takeaway: Until we hear from Vicki Kennedy on the subject, we just don't know if the door is open or closed for a run. We do know that two close Kennedy friends in the Senate _ Democrat Chris Dodd and Republican Orrin Hatch _ talked her up on Sunday over at CNN's "State of the Union" with John King. "Whatever Vicki wants to do, I'm in her corner," Dodd said.
Is it somehow anti-feminist to give the widow a leg up? I know it's not fair, but fair has nothing to do with politics. Anyway, I am taking a pass on weighing in against widow preferences, because that particular offense is low on my outrage list.
For as long as I've covered politics, connections and relations often vault people to the head of the line. Brother, sister, father, mother, son, daughter, in-law, widow, what's the point in picking which unfairness is most unfair?
I'm not crazy about family dynasties and if I was starting the world from scratch, I wouldn't have 'em. Well, maybe not so fast. Dynasties make good copy. I've covered Chicago political royalty for years _ the Daleys, the Jacksons, the Hynes, the Madigans, the Lipinskis.
Now before we go on, let me get you up to speed on the mechanics behind filling the Senate seat and what Vicki Kennedy told Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.
*Patrick set a special election to replace Kennedy for Jan. 19. The primary is Dec. 8.
*Massachusetts state lawmakers are poised to change the law to allow Patrick to select an interim appointee to serve until a new senator is elected in January. Under current law, the seat would just remain vacant.
Just before he died, Kennedy asked for the law to be changed so his seat was not vacant in the months prior to the election of a new senator. The deal here is that the person picked as the interim appointee would have to pledge to Patrick not to run for the seat.
"I'm going to have to get that assurance personally from the appointee," Patrick said.
*With the Kennedy death, the Senate Democrats have 59 votes, one vote short to prevent filibusters.
*At a press conference on Monday, Patrick revealed that he talked to Vicki Kennedy and she told him she did not want to be an interim appointee.
"Mrs. Kennedy is not interested in the position," Patrick said.
Q Did Mrs. Kennedy tell you directly that she is not interested?
Q In the interim seat or --
Q In the interim seat, or running?
Patrick: That is all we talked about.
Q The interim seat?
Vicki Kennedy now has some time to consider her options. Removing herself from consideration for an interim appointment keeps the bigger prize open for her if she wants to go for it. Anyway, she just buried her husband on Saturday.
She has a lot on her plate: the establishment of the Kennedy Center on the Senate, at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and the roll-out of Kennedy's memoir, "True Compass." The publication date has been moved up from October to September and I am guessing _ I just don't know _ that Vicki Kennedy will do some publicity or tour for the book.
Vicki Kennedy comes from a political Louisiana family and married into America's most famous political clan and now she is, through the sad death of her husband, in the spotlight as his possible successor _ until she opts out.