Washington — Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D) of Massachusetts not only is thinking seriously about running for president again in 1984 -- he is taking steps to prepare for the race.
The Monitor has learned that the senator is calling up his closest political friends around the United States and saying, in effect:
"Thanks for your help last year. But stay loose. Be ready. I'm going to be needing you again in 1984."
This view is corroborated by a prominent Democrat who spent some time with Senator Kennedy a few days ago. He told this newspaper:
"Teddy's running in 1984 was a 'given' in our conversation. Everything we talked about was against the backdrop of his intention to go again. He's already running."
Senator Kennedy will be using a committee that has been set up to raise funds to help him campaign for other candidates in 1982 as a vehicle for putting his 1984 political organization in place. According to other sources, he is putting some of his national campaign operatives onto that committee.
Earlier, the senator had planned to load his Senate Judiciary Committee with his 1984 key campaign people. But when he lost the committee chairmanship in the Republican takeover, he lost control over 60 possible jobs, too. So he couldn't move in that direction.
Some Kennedy advisers are counseling him not to get started so soon for president -- but to concentrate on his 1982 Senate race in Massachusetts so that he can see how his divorce plays among older Roman Catholic voters. But against that advice, Kennedy is plunging ahead.
The Kennedy staff -- as might be expected --groundwork for his 1984 presidential bid. In fact, the staff has heard some advice from friends of the senator along these lines: that Kennedy should wait a bit; that perhaps his defeat by Carter for the 1980 presidential nomination means the Democratic voters were rejecting him once and for all.
But key staff people are not listening to this advice. Kennedy staffers see the senator as the front-runner for the presidential nomination for 1984, and they don't want him to "blow" the opportunity by failing to make an early move.
From Kennedy's point of view, the chief possible opponent for 1984 is former Vice-President Walter F. Mondale.
Mr. Mondale has indicated his interest in running. But he obviously is waiting for a year or two before making a final decision.
Meanwhile, the prevailing thinking in the Kennedy camp goes, the senator should step into this vacuum and move his candidacy forward toward possibly getting so far out front that by 1982 there could not be a serious challenge from another Democrat.
One highly influential Democratic politician put it this way in describing Kennedy's position:
"Anyone other than Kennedy who wants the Democratic presidential nomination will have to get by Teddy. And I'm sure Teddy isn't going to let anyone by him without a tremendous fight. Furthermore, I think Teddy has already started his fight to get that nomination."