I just got back from Brighton, where Boston city councilor John Connolly -- in a brand-new suit, and remembering to smile -- definitively answered the genital-related question I posed in my recent profile. So the new question is: assuming Tom Menino runs, can Connolly win?
But hey, that's a heck of a lot better than "definitely not," so let's look at the two potential pathways to victory that I can envision for him.
The first is simple. There is a non-negligible possibility that, sometime in the next eight months, Menino suffers a significant health-related setback that prompts large swaths of the electorate to decide that he's just not up to the job.
The second path is more complicated. Start with an assumption that Connolly will get the 43% of voters who chose Michael Flaherty in the last mayoral election, who should presumably fall behind another 40ish Irish-American city councilor preaching new leadership and fresh ideas against the Menino status quo.
Connolly, who is generally more credible and articulate than Flaherty about the fresh ideas -- especially regarding the school system -- can win over a good batch of additional voters. As I suggested in that profile, he's not going to win a majority of black voters and other New Bostonians, but he can legitimately hope to improve on Flaherty's 30% or so among them.
That gets Connolly perhaps to 46% or 47%. Then he needs to make up the remaining gap -- perhaps 5000 to 8000 votes -- by drawing to the polls those voters who like his message of "transformational change," but who are generally disaffected and disengaged from municipal politics. That's a tough assignment, but not necessarily unrealistic.
Of course, that path is probably tougher than I just made it sound. For one thing, Connolly isn't starting with the Flaherty 43% in the bag; not by a long shot. Bear in mind that the Flaherty election was in November 2009, amid very rough economic times that threatened all incumbents and status quo candidates. (It was just two months before the Scott Brown election.)
Also, with a few notable exceptions, candidates who hope to win by significantly expanding the electorate usually end up giving early concession speeches.
So make no mistake, Connolly starts the race -- again, assuming it's him against Menino -- as a long shot. But not an implausible one.