The last Kennedy

People were looking for the next Kennedy. They had the next Kennedy right there.

Kennedy, at 38, is now in his fourth term, with curly bright-red hair and a baby face that can make him seem younger. At least so far, he has managed to avoid the demons and debacles that have defined many in the second political generation of his family. He met his wife at Harvard Law—they both took Professor Elizabeth Warren’s class—and the two cut a striking image together. They have two young children under 4 who they show off on their Christmas cards.

He speaks fluent Spanish, from his time in the Peace Corps in Costa Rica. He writes congratulatory emails and thank-you notes by hand, and has developed a fan base of insiders impressed with the battles he picks and how he fights them. He’s well liked by most of his colleagues (including, in an odd-couple pairing, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy), and the few who gripe about him, and the attention he gets, know they’re better off not admitting it.

Even at the end of last year, Kennedy would tell people only that he probably wasn’t going to run. He’s been a huge fundraiser for House Democrats over the years and would have been able to call on those contacts. But he’s also just a fourth-term congressman who’s spent most of his time in Washington, D.C., as a backbencher in the minority, and another white man. And just ask Hillary Clinton how dynasties fare in American politics these days.