By Jon Keller


BOSTON (CBS) — “Eighty percent of life is showing up,” Woody Allen once said, back when he was funny.

It was a semi-disparaging reference to all the people who aspire to do big things but never get off the couch to even try.

It doesn’t seem like the sort of rhetoric you’d find in a stem-winding speech kicking off the Senate candidacy of an heir to the most famous name in American politics. Nonetheless, there it was, in the climax of Rep. Joe Kennedy III’s announcement speech this morning.

“My commitment to you,” he said, “is that I will show up.”

For those wondering how on earth Kennedy intends to differentiate himself from fellow liberal Ed Markey, there’s a partial answer.

The showing up imagery was no ad-lib. In a Commonwealth Magazine article endorsing Kennedy’s challenge, Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll and Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller write: “ As mayors, our highest priority when it comes to partners in Congress is a leader who shows up. And Joe shows up for Massachusetts.”

Why would Kennedy and his allies make this a key part of his campaign’s opening argument?

Because it slyly jabs at a vulnerable element of Markey’s political persona – the perception that for all his years of legislative service, he is a remote, even aloof figure, a creature of the Beltway who barely maintains a legal residence in Massachusetts.

Markey and his allies can and will push back hard on that, but it won’t be easy to overcome the perception, cemented by years of coverage of his tenuous toehold here, such as a 2013 Globe article documenting his near-invisibility to his Malden neighbors and noting that “Markey, even as he has cruised easily to reelection every two years, has never fully shaken questions about his residence, and by extension, his allegiance to the people he represents.”

Hoo boy. That’s not the kind of branding Markey wants hung on him as he begins what polls suggest will be an uphill struggle to keep Kennedy at bay.

But it’s exactly how the Kennedy campaign is branding him right out of the gate.

Jon Keller

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