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Your guess is as good as mine
John Kerry hasn't even been nominated for Secretary of State, let alone confirmed by the Senate, which is why I've studiously avoided almost all Massachusetts Senate stories. If I were to start chasing down every speculative ghost out there, sooner or later I'd find myself fighting Stay Puft. But Thursday, for some reason, brought two polls on a hypothetical special election, and I guess I don't have it in me to ignore actual polling data. So, to wit: First we have a survey from MassINC on behalf of WBUR, focused mostly on how outgoing Sen. Scott Brown would fare against a variety of potential Democrats. Here are the results:

• 47-40 vs. Gov. Deval Patrick

• 47-28 vs. Rep. Mike Capuano

• 48-30 vs. Rep. Ed Markey

• 49-30 vs. ex-Rep. Marty Meehan

• 51-36 vs. AG Martha Coakley

• 51-24 vs. Rep. Steve Lynch

On the one hand, you can look at these numbers and say, "Wow! Scott Brown leads all these Democrats!" On the other hand, you could observe that Brown has 100 percent name recognition and only two of these potential candidates are comparably well-known: Patrick and Coakley. Coakley, of course, brings baggage from her disastrous 2010 special election run (though she still sports a 47-27 overall favorability rating), while Patrick—who almost certainly won't run—holds Brown to 47 percent. If that number looks somewhat familiar, it's not just because of Mitt Romney: Brown took 46 percent against Elizabeth Warren in his unsuccessful bid for re-election this year, and in this poll, he prevails against Generic D 47-39. So is that his ceiling against a well-liked, strong Democratic opponent in the state of Massachusetts?

Maybe, maybe not. On the one hand, Brown wouldn't have to contend with presidential-year turnout in another special. On the other, there is literally no way Democrats will get caught sleeping like they did three years ago, and Team Blue will move heaven and earth to make sure Scott Brown doesn't pull off yet another victory—if he even runs at all. (And remember, even if he were to run in a special and somehow win, he'd be facing another general election in 2014... and then in 2016. Yikes.) Anyhow, it's a question I'll worry more about if this all comes to pass—and we're at least two if not three "ifs" away.

MassINC also tested a kitchen sink-style primary among Dems, though the results are not too surprising:

Patrick: 36
Coakley: 21
Capuano: 8
Lynch: 5
Markey: 5
Meehan 3
Other: 3
Undecided: 19

For what it's worth, Meehan's already said he won't run (phew), but he's virtually a zero. More important is that Patrick's made it pretty clear he wants to return to the private sector (though his public statements have left him a narrow, lawyerly out). That means his support would have to go somewhere... but who knows? Tons of potential candidates (Joseph P. Kennedy III! Ben Affleck! Vicki Kennedy! Honey Boo Boo!) still lurk out there who were not included in this poll, so it's hard to gauge how strong they'd be in a primary, if there even were one. See, again with the "ifs": I don't mind a little speculation now and again, but this story already has too many question marks.

Oh, and as for that other poll, from Emerson College? Well, it found completely different results! Patrick leads Brown in that survey, 48-43, and he edges Vicki Kennedy (the widow of Ted) 46-40. (For what it's worth, both Dems also beat ex-Gov. Bill Weld.) And in a different primary array, Patrick takes 20 to 16 for Kennedy, 13 for Capuano, and just 11 for Coakley.

What this all says to me is that the picture is far too unsettled for anyone to get a good handle on it—and if anyone does say with certainty that they can predict the future here, well, I'd just like to know if Amazon Prime carries the same model of crystal ball that they're using.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 12:49 PM PST.

Also republished by Massachusetts Kosmopolitans and Daily Kos.

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