If Senator John Kerry is nominated for Secretary of State, Governor Deval Patrick may tap former governor and Democratic presidential candidate in 1988 Michael Dukakis to replace him.
Dukakis, who is 79, has remained politically active. He campaigned for Sen.-elect Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) this fall and teaches at Northeastern University.
The Democratic primary for Kerry's seat will be intense and Patrick is expected to tap someone as an interim replacement who would promise not to run in the special election.
"He'll most likely appoint a placeholder. A lot of people speculating that's Mike Dukakis," said Jim Spencer, president of the Campaign Network, a Boston-based political consulting group. "That's the most obvious choice. Everybody thinks it's Dukakis."
David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, said he has heard Dukakis floated as an interim successor along with Vicki Kennedy, the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's (D-Mass.) widow.
Paleologos said Dukakis has been very close to Patrick ever since Patrick thought about running for governor.
"[Dukakis] was one of the first people he consulted with when he thought about running," said Paleologos.
Another Boston-based Democratic operative said he had heard both Dukakis and Kennedy mentioned as possible interim successors.
A trio of House Democrats are seen as strong possible contenders for the party's nomination in the special election: Reps. Ed Markey, Mike Capuano and Stephen Lynch.
Markey and Lynch have already reached out to Democratic operatives to feel out possible bids, according to a source familiar with private discussions.
One Democratic operative said Capuano has hinted in recent days he may instead run in 2014 to succeed Patrick as governor.
The GOP is hoping former Senator Scott Brown will run in the 2013 special election. Indeed, he may be the strongest candidate. But could he beat any of the leading Democratic contenders? Brown still enjoys high approval ratings but as was shown in 2012, sometimes the Democratic registration advantage is just too high a hill to climb. Democrats will likely be far more united and energized than they were in 2010 when Brown surprised all by winning the special election.
Brown may do better to wait for 2014 to make a run to succeed Patrick as governor. For some reason, the GOP has better luck running candidates for chief executive of the state than senator in recent years. That may play into the former senator's decision as Democrats manuever to gain advantage.