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The Most Intriguing (and Probably Hopeless) Massachusetts Senate Candidate

A couple of significant developments in the race for Ted Kennedy's Senate seat. Steve Lynch, last seen getting booed off the stage at a Labor Day health-care rally, has decided not to run. Meanwhile, Alan Khazei, the founder of City Year, is getting closer and closer to announcing that he will run. In a field of candidates that's notable at this point mostly for who's not in it, Khazei is a welcome addition. He was close to Kennedy--they got to know each other through Kennedy's support of City Year--and, having spent his life in community service, he's not the typical Massachusetts political hack.

That said, his candidacy may well be hopeless. Although he'll likely be able to raise a lot of cash and count on the support of an army of young volunteers (who should be sure to take off their red jackets before they start going door-to-door for him), the reputation of the idealistic outsider--which has never been particularly strong in Massachusetts's machine-dominated political culture--is at an all-time low. For that, you can thank Deval Patrick, who rode a wave of idealistic fervor into the governor's office three years ago and is now on the verge of getting bounced out of office after one term. I think that with Patrick's troubles so fresh in Massachusetts's voters minds, Khazei is going to be a tough sell.