Congressman Joe Kennedy is on the road after announcing that he is running for Senate. WGBH Morning Edition Host Joe Mathieu spoke with UMass Boston Political Science Professor Erin O'Brien to discuss Kennedy's strategy in the early days of his campaign. The transcript below has been edited for clarity.

Joe Mathieu: I'm guessing you were not surprised by Congressman Kennedy's itinerary over the last two days and now going into this third day. Are these areas that will decide the race?

Erin O'Brien: Most definitely. I mean, the vast majority of people in Massachusetts are Democrats, and every place that isn't Boston is sick of all the eyes being on Boston. So I think he's smart to go all across the commonwealth. He especially needs to show he doesn't take it for granted [and] he's not just going to run on his name, so willingness to go all over the state, I think, is important.

Mathieu: The optics are important there. I was at that event in East Boston on Saturday. I walked in before most people were there, and we're in a gymnasium. There's a sign taped to the wall, there's a little bunch of balloons and a box where he's apparently going to stand. This was not a high-profile campaign roll out, and to your point that was on purpose.

O'Brien: Yeah, definitely. I mean, he has to show he's willing to do the work, but I also think having it at an old school gymnasium [and] standing on the box conjures up some images we've seen before of other Kennedys running. So I don't think that was by accident. He doesn't need to say his last time repeatedly over and over, but if the visual images remind you of an old-school Massachusetts then I think that's compelling.

Mathieu: His district, if you look at the lines drawn around his district, will keep you guessing for a while. It's part of the reason why he ended up taking this seat, because Barney Frank said, "What do I do with this?" after it was redrawn to include everything from Brookline all the way down to Fall River. What is Joe Kennedy's base? What is his district?

O'Brien: Well, that's the question. I think in part it's how is his base different from Ed Markey's? Because sure, he's won and he's won handily, but Massachusetts voters like Ed Markey [and] that sent him to Congress and sent him to the Senate repeatedly. Many of them went in and voted for Ed Markey, and if they lived in that crazy-drawn district you were just talking about, they then voted for Joe Kennedy. Now Joe Kennedy is asking them to pick between two people that they really like.

Mathieu: Let's talk about Ed Markey's strategy. Is it a story of experience? He's been in elected office since before Joe Kennedy was born.

O'Brien: Yeah, I think it's a story of experience and what is Joe Kennedy bringing that I haven't already led on. I think that's important. And the fact that the Green New Deal is the single best thing that happened to Ed Markey in a long time, from a reelection standpoint. Joe Kennedy is trying to make a generational change argument. I mean, we just saw all the protests on Friday globally. Ed Markey is a legitimate leader on that. Young people care so much about the environment, and of the two, Ed Markey owns the environmental issue much more than Joe Kennedy. I mean, I thought it was telling at Joe Kennedy's formal announcement that he talked a heck of a lot more about Trump than he talked about Ed Markey. I think it's going to be an incredibly tight race. I think the Kennedy name goes really far in Massachusetts, maybe not as much as it used to, but the policy case is hard to make.

Mathieu: Sen. Markey, before Joe Kennedy walked out that morning on Saturday, decided to challenge Kennedy and the other two candidates to a climate debate. It would be for early November, and Markey is going out of his way to say the other two candidates have agreed to it, Kennedy has not. Is a good politics to accept it?

O'Brien: He has to accept it. He's running based on ambition. Let's just call it what it is. That's okay. Politicians are ambitious folks. But if you don't show up to a debate like that, then Markey has a very easy argument to make [that] this guy's too privileged. He doesn't think he needs to show up to those things. I'm sure Joe Kennedy is a smart guy, but he's going to be doing his homework, because like I said, Ed Markey knows environmental policy really well. That's not something Joe Kennedy has been a leader on. He's voted correctly, if you're a Democrat, but he hasn't been a legislative leader. So yes, I think he has to show up, and I think it was really smart for Ed Markey to say this is what I want to have our first debate on because it highlights their differences ... in a way that's advantageous to Ed Markey.

Mathieu: Markey tied up with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the congresswoman from New York for the Green New Deal. This is the type of thing he was thinking about, potentially a challenge along the way when that happened, I am guessing. It's hard to be called Michael Capuano — not to go into all of the background on that — when you're working with someone like a AOC.

O'Brien: That's exactly it. She is the face of generational change. Along with our own Ayanna Pressley, she's a part of "The Squad." And Democrats like "The Squad"[and] their Squad energy.

Mathieu: So is Joe Kennedy a squad of his own?

O'Brien: No. Oh, I thought you said part of "The Squad."

Mathieu: No, not at all. But that's a narrative that he needs to fight?

O'Brien: And she just endorsed Markey. He's running on squad energy when he's not of "The Squad." Again, people in Massachusetts like Joe Kennedy. But AOC came out very quickly to say that I'm with Ed Markey.

Mathieu: Joe Kennedy is leading in the polls as he enters this race. Is he the front-runner right now?

O'Brien: Gosh, I don't know. I mean, I think the polls are soft. I think Ed Markey's fatal flaw is he's kind of boring. Sorry, Ed. Voters don't know him as well, ironically because he's been a fixture in Massachusetts politics forever. And Markey's the kind of boring guy who does the homework. Joe Kennedy is the guy whose last name is Kennedy and seems to be conjuring forth something a lot of people miss.