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John Kerry Nomination Could Create Musical Chairs for Scott Brown in Senate

State Department photo(WASHINGTON) -- News that Amb. Susan Rice withdrew her name from consideration for Secretary of State may have brightened the days of both senators from Massachusetts.

Prior to Rice’s withdrawal, she was considered one of the top two contenders for the job -- the other is Sen. John Kerry, and with Rice out of the running, Kerry is “all but certain” to get the nomination, according to ABC’s Jake Tapper.  That means a vacant seat and a special election, which could benefit out-going Sen. Scott Brown, who lost his bid for reelection to Elizabeth Warren in November.

Brown is widely expected to seek out his old job and he would be viewed as a strong contender, particularly in a special election to fill Kerry’s vacancy. Republicans have a tendency to perform better in special elections, which draw many fewer voters.

But it would be at least six months -- assuming that Kerry is indeed nominated as Secretary of State and assuming that Brown wins a special election -- before he could re-join the Senate.

Massachusetts law dictates that a special election cannot take place sooner than 145 days from the time an out-going Congress member’s resignation is effective, meaning that at least 145 days must pass between the date that member actually leaves their job and the date that the special occurs. At this juncture in time, even if Kerry is nominated tomorrow and has an incredibly quick confirmation at the beginning of the next Congress, the earliest conceivable date to reach this mark is in June 2013.

The special cannot occur more than 160 days from the time that the resignation is effective.

Brown’s victory in a special election would not be a sure thing. Although he leaves office with high approval ratings -- exit polls from the 2012 election showed him with a favorability rating of 60 percent -- but Massachusetts is a solidly Democratic state, and there are many Democrats in elected office in the state who could challenge Brown.

In an odd twist of political gamesmanship, the law requiring a special election instead of an appointment from the governor in the event of a vacant seat was passed by Democrats passed in Massachusetts in 2004 in case Kerry resigned if he won the presidency. He did not. But Democrats at the time were trying to take the appointment power away from the sitting Republican governor -- Mitt Romney.

A request for comment from Sen. Brown’s office on the news was not immediately returned.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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