(CNN) – Outgoing Republican Sen. Scott Brown may not be gone from Capitol Hill for long, according to a new poll of Massachusetts voters.
With Democratic Sen. John Kerry considered President Barack Obama's top choice to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and with Kerry expected to sail smoothly through confirmation by his Senate peers, the Bay State will most likely hold a special election in late spring or early summer to fill the final year and a half of Kerry's term.
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A WBUR survey released Thursday indicates that Brown, who was defeated in last month's election by Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren, grabs the support of 47% of registered voters compared to 39% who say they would vote for a generic Democratic candidate in a hypothetical 2013 special election contest.
According to the poll, Brown also has double digit leads against possible Democratic candidates such as Representatives Ed Markey, Michael Capuano, and Stephen Lynch, who have all expressed interest in possibly making Senate bids.
And even though they voted him out of office in the November election, 58% of Massachusetts voters say they have a favorable opinion of Brown, with just 28% saying they view him in a negative light.
In January 2010, then Republican state lawmaker Brown upset Democratic candidate Martha Coakley, the state's attorney general, in a special election to fill the final two years of the term of longtime Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy, who died the previous summer.
Brown won the special election by five points over Coakley, but lost to Warren by eight points in his re-election bid last month. Around 2.3 million voters cast ballots in the 2010 special election, and nearly 3.2 million voting in last month's general election.
Republicans often perform better in special elections, which usually draw far fewer voters than regularly scheduled elections. But a Democratic Party source told CNN last week that a special election in 2013 "would not be a repeat of 2010," when many Democrats took the race for granted; in a state where Democratic voters greatly outnumber Republican voters.
The big question is whether the 2013 electorate will look more like that of the 2010 contest or that of last month's general election.
In his Election Night concession speech Brown said "defeat is only temporary."
And in his Senate farewell speech last week, Scott repeated that line, and also added that "depending on what happens, and where we go, all of us, we may obviously meet again, but I'm looking forward to continuing on with those friendships, with continuing on working with my staff."
If nominated by the president and confirmed by his colleagues in the Senate, Kerry would leave Congress, and Deval Patrick, Massachusetts' Democratic governor, would appoint a replacement to fill the seat.
By state law, a special general election is required to take place 145 to 160 days after a vacancy occurs. So if Kerry were nominated, confirmed, and then stepped down on January 21 (Inauguration Day), the election would take place between June 14th and 29th with primary elections being held six weeks earlier.
Whoever wins the special election would serve the final year and a half of Kerry's term and would then have to run again in 2014 for a full six-year term in office.
The WBUR poll was conducted by the Masonic polling group December 17-18, with 500 Bay State voters questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 4.4 points.