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Kennedy: Wealthy Foe on Horizon

But No Republican Has Signaled a Run

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) is gearing up for re-election as if he were a vulnerable freshman instead of an iconic figure who has loomed over his chamber since 1962.

Nonetheless, Kennedy says he takes nothing for granted and he fully expects Bay State Republicans to field an able, and wealthy, challenger before next year’s election.

Though he coasted to re-election in 2000, he still remembers when now-Gov. Mitt Romney (R) spent $7.6 million against him, $6 million of which came from his personal fortune, in 1994.

“We’ll have that kind of opponent again,” Kennedy said in a meeting with Roll Call reporters and editors this week, adding that he expects the person to emerge late in the cycle. “We’re gearing up with that expectation.”

Kennedy ultimately spent almost $11.5 million on that race and held Romney to 41 percent of the vote.

But Romney was able to build on that performance to win the governor’s race in 2002, just as Kennedy’s 1988 opponent, Joseph Malone, positioned himself through his race against Kennedy, becoming the state treasurer two years later.

Kennedy predicted that another wealthy Republican looking to make a name for him or herself will emerge in this race with the real goal being 2008, when Sen. John Kerry (D) is up for re-election.

With Kerry contemplating another presidential bid that same year, some political watchers suspect that he could give up his Senate seat to pursue the White House.

“Someone runs against me, and runs a strong campaign, is obviously going to have a long lead in terms of the next time,” Kennedy said.

But a spokeswoman for Kerry warned wannabe Senators not to get ahead of themselves. In addition to Republicans who may be eyeing the race, several Democratic House Members have been raising money at a furious pace in anticipation of an eventual Senate vacancy.

“I think any speculation about open Senate seats [in Massachusetts] is wildly premature at this point,” said Katharine Lister, spokeswoman for Kerry’s re-election campaign. “Sen. Kerry is working very hard in the Senate. In terms of setting people up for 2008, Sen. Kerry is also helping Democratic candidates in 2005 and 2006, including Sen. Kennedy.”

But Jane Lane, spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Democratic Party, said Kennedy’s scenario is very possible.

“History has proven that the Republican Party under Mitt Romney will find any sacrificial lamb with deep pockets that will run,” Lane said. “We suspect that they will follow the same pattern and will find someone who wants to make their mark.”

One former operative said that Kennedy is smart to be cautious and raise as much money as possible.

Kennedy, who has been on a fundraising tear, was sitting on $4.7 million at the end of 2004.

“Every candidate worth his salt is always concerned with the possibility of someone saying, ‘I could take out the Senator,’ so when a Mitt Romney shows up out of nowhere, you have the money to fight a fight,” said Michael Goldman, a former Bay State Democratic strategist who now works for Bloomberg Radio New York.

That being said, Goldman said he does not foresee any Republican candidate on the horizon who could beat the man known as the “liberal lion.”

“The Romney race was THE race for him, — either you survive and are in for good or you get bumped out after so many terms — that ’94 race was the race that if anyone was ever going to beat Ted,” it would have been then, Goldman said.

“It re-energized him in a way he hadn’t been for a long time,” Goldman added.

Some young turk may come along and see a Kennedy race as a way to get known, but Goldman said he doubts it.

“Is there a businessman willing to piss away $12 million of their own money to set themselves up for next time? No one hates [Kennedy] that much anymore,” Goldman said.

Lane agreed, saying that Kennedy will face a well-funded opponent, but that a losing race in 2006 will not help the person down the road.

“If they do find someone who is willing to be that sacrificial lamb, that experience can not only be humbling, but also humiliating; it’s likely we’ll never hear from that person again,” she said. “I don’t think this race will be any different.”

No Republican candidate has come forward yet.

One Republican operative said that GOP leaders hope state party Chairman Darrell Crate will enter the race.

Crate, who the operative described as an “up and comer,” has been chairman since 2003. Prior to that, he was the finance chairman for Kerry Healey’s 2002 successful lieutenant governor’s race.

Crate, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Affiliated Managers Group Inc., a management holding company, seems to fit Kennedy’s description of a Republican candidate capable of burning some of his own money.

Kennedy said that his opponent would likely be “out of Bain & Co.”

Romney was vice president of the Boston-based managing consulting firm Bain & Co. Inc. until he founded Bain Capital, an investment company, in 1984.

The Massachusetts Republican Party did not return calls for this article.

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