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In this era of political upsets, not even Edward Kennedy may be safe. In 1976, the US senator from Massachusetts was so sure of victory that his campaign posters simply said, "Ted." But Kennedy now is seen as less than a shoo-in for reelection in 1982. In the last two years, Massachusetts has tilted to the political right, electing a conservative governor and passing a stringent property-tax rollback. The state even gave Ronald Reagan its 14 electoral votes for president.

Massachusetts Republicans have begun shopping early for a strong candidate to take on the liberal Kennedy. Current front-runner: Avi Nelson, an arch-conservative sometime radio commentator who waged a strong 1978 primary campaign against Sen. Edward Brooke and who, ironically, is working for Democratic Gov. Edward J. King as his "communications consultant."

A squeaker ballot victory could dash Kennedy's prospects for a 1984 presidential bid.m

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