Will Representative Joe Kennedy announce he’s running for US Senate against incumbent Sen. Ed Markey? WGBH Morning Edition Host Joe Mathieu sat down with Democratic strategist and consultant Mary Anne Marsh to discuss her thoughts on a potential Kennedy-Markey race, as well as her prediction on who will get the Democratic nomination in the 2020 presidential race. The transcript below has been edited for clarity.
Joe Mathieu: The conventional wisdom right now is that Joe Kennedy is running. When you ask people, they say, “How can he turn back at this point?” Would you agree with that?
Mary Anne Marsh: Joe Kennedy is running for the United States Senate. Period. Full stop. It’s only a matter of when, not if, he gets into this race. And when he does, he’s the front-runner by far.
Mathieu: We’ve seen that play out before you even enter and you’re leading like this, that should say a lot. But the story’s causing a split among some in the local Democratic Party. There are a lot of vested interests here, and I don’t need to tell you that. Joe Kennedy is very popular [and] Ed Markey has been around long enough to create very deep ties in the community. Is this going to fracture the local Democratic Party?
Marsh: I don’t think so. When I was at the convention on Saturday, I think you already start to see the kind of campaign that’s going to be run by both parties. Ed Markey, ironically, seems to be running a very establishment, traditional campaign — rolling out endorsements from interest groups, individuals and legislators to try to put his stamp on this race. He addressed the convention and gave a speech. He didn’t work the floor work the delegates beforehand.
Joe Kennedy, on the other hand, has quietly been meeting with people and going around the state. At the convention he didn’t address the convention, he didn’t work the floor of the convention, but he did moderate a panel on race that was very well-attended. And he did a very artful job addressing that very difficult issue with some great political and public opinion leaders from across the state. So I think, ironically, in many ways, Markey’s leaving the outsider lane to Joe Kennedy, and that would be interesting. And you can see Joe Kennedy already not only building a grassroots organization, but assiduously courting the communities of color that could be instrumental in his win.
Last point, when you look at the poll that The Globe published now a little over a week ago, Joe Kennedy wins every demographic group in every part of the state. So in a multi-field candidate race, when you’re nine points up and you do that … Ed Markey’s in a deep, deep hole.
Mathieu: How much of this is generational versus the contest of policy proposals? Should Ed Markey talk to Mike Capuano?
Marsh: He might have already. I think this is more about a hair on fire moment in politics —what can you do to take on Trump and stop him? Who could be more effective, more aggressive [and] more front-facing in terms of stopping Donald Trump from the rampage he’s creating on this country? Many people think Joe Kennedy can do a better job than Ed Markey has. The problem for Markey is he’s been in the House and the Senate now collectively for 40 years. He has a long record of things he’s worked on. That’s the good news. The bad news is he’s still working on many of those things after 40 years,and that’s a tough sell to make.
Mathieu: You’re being pretty definitive in your commentary about Joe Kennedy here. You say he is running. You say he’s the front-runner automatically. Why jump in, then? Does he have any reason to jump in now and not wait months?
Marsh: This race will be determined like a number of others in September. So you’re a year out. This is not a November election, this is a September election. You want to give yourself a year. And one other really interesting dynamic to me is if Kennedy and Markey go the distance to September — I mean, we’ll see if Markey goes the whole way — the turnout will be so tremendously high in September, that could make it difficult for some other members of the delegation, like Richie Neal and Seth Moulton, who are facing tough primaries. A big turnout could really help their opponents.
Mathieu: I want to ask you about the presidential contest. Specifically Elizabeth Warren, who is surging in the polls right now and getting the celebrity treatment. [She was] on late night TV last night with Stephen Colbert a day after drawing about 20,000 people to a rally in Washington Square Park in Manhattan. Is this surge real?
Marsh: Elizabeth Warren will be the Democratic nominee.
Mathieu: Look at you with these definitive statements today.
Marsh: I’m willing to put myself out there on this. But you can see it already in the polls. And let’s look at what these polls mean, including the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll this morning. Elizabeth Warren has not only surged nationally, she’s surging in the states that matter. When you look at the Wall Street Journal poll, she leads with White voters and with Hispanic voters. The first four contests: Iowa, very white; New Hampshire, very white; Nevada, White and Hispanic. Then we get to South Carolina: African-American. If Elizabeth Warren wins Iowa like Kerry did in 2004 and slingshots her way to New Hampshire, she then goes on to Nevada. She’s got the infrastructure, the organization and the support that then you could see, in South Carolina, African-American voters going with her. And I think you can’t underestimate that last point. Biden has already telegraphed that they just might lose the first two or three contests. Biden’s always been a tough candidate.
Mathieu: Do you buy into the electability? Does middle of the road win this election?
Marsh: No. And it doesn’t win the nomination. This is Joe Biden’s third try for a reason. He didn’t make it to the Iowa caucuses in 1988. He dropped out after the Iowa caucuses in 2008. If you’re arguing electability — even though he’s still leading the polls, it is a soft lead — it is Elizabeth Warren who is the only candidate hitting on all cylinders and methodically working her way up the chain to the nomination.
Mathieu: Does Elizabeth Warren then, on that path to the nomination as you suggest, need to knock out Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden?
Marsh: Both, but she’s already knocked out Sanders, and he just changed up his leadership team in New Hampshire. And Biden is his own worst enemy, but she’s certainly helping him along.