Democrats line up behind Markey in bid for Senate in Mass.

Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) received the support of three big names in Massachusetts and national Democratic politics for his Senate bid on Friday, an early sign that Democrats are aiming to clear the field to provide for an easy nominating process for the dean of the Massachusetts congressional delegation.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), whose seat will be up for grabs in a special election provided he is confirmed as secretary of State next year, threw his support behind the congressman, calling him "one of the most experienced and capable legislators in the entire Congress."

"While I began last week to formally step out of politics and it's very important that I respect the apolitical nature of the post I hope to soon occupy, as Massachusetts' senior senator today and as a colleague of Ed Markey's for 28 years, I'm excited to learn of and support his decision to run for the United States Senate," Kerry said in a statement.

"Ed's one of the most experienced and capable legislators in the entire Congress and it would be an almost unprecedented occasion for such an accomplished legislator to join the Senate able to hit the ground running on every issue of importance to Massachusetts."

Victoria Kennedy, the widow of former Sen. Ted Kennedy (D), who was also considered a possible contender for the seat, expressed her support for his bid as well, citing his experience legislating on climate, energy and technology issues and his national profile.

"As we look to the future, I believe that Congressman Ed Markey is the best person to continue in the tradition of John Kerry to serve our Commonwealth in the United States Senate," she said in a statement.

"He knows how to get things done. He will bring proven experience in the workings of Congress to his service in the Senate, and that is an enormous asset and benefit for the people of Massachusetts," she added.

And in the surest sign that Democrats are hoping to avoid a potentially damaging primary — four or five other Democrats were considered likely to throw their hats in the ring for the nomination alongside Markey — Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) endorsed Markey as well.

"He has been a leader on some of the most important issues of our time and has repeatedly taken on the special interests in Washington. At a time when the country needs real leadership that looks out for the middle class, Ed Markey always remembers where he came from and will continue the hard work needed to turn our economy around," he said in a statement.

The backing of the national Democratic Party is unusual for its timing: announced before Kerry has been confirmed and the special election has even officially begun, it seems meant to dissuade other potential candidates from joining the race.

And an early start for a Democrat might be necessary to ensure a win, as whoever is elected will likely go up against outgoing Sen. Scott Brown (R). Though he was defeated this year by Democrat Elizabeth Warren, he leaves office well-liked and with a formidable fundraising and campaign operation ready to leap into action.

—This report was originally published at 3:31 p.m. and last updated at 4:24 p.m.