Will Kennedy leave Senate in '82 to seek presidency?

Will Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts leave his prestigious post in Congress at the end of his current term to pursue the 1984 Democratic presidential nomination?

His 18-year-old son says he feels his father will not seek re-election when his current six- year senatorial term expires at the end of 1981. Ted Kennedy Jr. told a May 19 Sacramento news conference he "would tend to think" his father would not run again for the Senate. He added that the senator "has not come up to me and said it, but I would tend to think that he does feel that he is good for doing something else."

Senator Kennedy insists he hasn't given up on 1980 yet. But many of his supporters, here in Massachusetts and elsewhere, feel that it is time to abandon this year's bid. They are concerned that if he hangs on through the remaining primaries and contests Mr. Carter at the August convention -- either for the nomination or on the party platform -- he will harm the Democratic ticket's chances in November and his own propects for the 1984 presidential nomination.

Should Mr. Kennedy decide, indeed, to leave his position as senior senator from Massachusetts and chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, it would free him to concentrate for three years -- 1982, 83, and 84 -- on his presidential quest.

No one in the Kennedy inner political circle, perhaps not even the senator himself, appears to know whether he will run for another term in 1982.

Some, like state Sen. Robert E. McCarthy, who is running for the US House this year in the 19th Massachusetts district, says he "would be very surprised if Ted Kennedy does not run for re-election."

Other Kennedy boosters say leaving the Senate might make good sense, and would not diminish his standing as a public figure.

"Unlike some who might be running, Senator Kennedy is already well known across the country, and he would not have to be holding office to command national attention," asserts Gregory Jarboe, an early organizer in last fall's Massachusetts Draft Kennedy movement.

But state Sen. Sharon Pollard, another prominent Kennedy enthusiast and early campaign organizer, said she hopes that if he does not win the presidency this year he will seek another senatorial term. She adds, however, that she "will support him in whatever his decision is."

Should Mr. Kennedy retire at term's end, there will be plenty of fellow Democrats willing to succeed him.

Some observers even think his 26-year-old nephew, Joseph P. Kennedy iii, might try to succeed his uncle just as a politically untried Teddy Kennedy succeeded his brother, John F. Kennedy, in 1962.

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