Dukakis, who is 79, has remained politically active. He campaigned for Sen.-elect Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) this fall and teaches at Northeastern University.

The Democratic primary for Kerry’s seat will be intense and Patrick is expected to tap someone as an interim replacement who would promise not to run in the special election.

“He’ll most likely appoint a placeholder. A lot of people speculating that’s Mike Dukakis,” said Jim Spencer, president of the Campaign Network, a Boston-based political consulting group. “That’s the most obvious choice. Everybody thinks it’s Dukakis.”