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More: Scott Brown 'leaning strongly' toward running for Senate

“GOP officials close to Scott Brown report that the former Republican senator is ‘leaning strongly toward running’ in the special election to replace Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry,” AP reports. “They report that Brown is likely to enter the race early next week. The officials spoke Tuesday on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to share internal discussions. A Brown spokesman declined to comment.”

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is expected to announce his temporary replacement for Sen. John Kerry at 11:00 am ET this morning. Patrick’s office and DC sources have been tight lipped about who the replacement will be, though Patrick has hinted he’d like to make “history” with the pick. Former Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) has publicly lobbied for the job, but the Boston Globe reported that has turned off Patrick and he likely won’t pick Frank.

Top contenders per the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald: Businesswoman Carole Fulp and William “Mo” Cowan, Patrick’s former chief of staff, and Vicky Kennedy.

NBC Chicago: “Former Gov. George Ryan was released from prison Wednesday after six years in a federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind. Ryan, a 78-year-old father and grandfather, must report to a halfway house in Chicago at some point in the day. The former governor, convicted in 2006 of federal corruption charges, was given a strict schedule to get from the prison to the West Side facility about four hours away. There was speculation he left the prison early Tuesday morning to arrive in Chicago by 7 a.m.”

AP: “George Ryan on Wednesday will become the latest former Illinois governor to go through a prison door. This time, he's headed out. Ryan is being released from a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., after serving five-plus years for corruption. He's expected to spend the first few weeks at a halfway house in Chicago and then return to his home in Kankakee, about 60 miles to the south. Once reacclimated to life on the outside, Ryan will discover an Illinois that has grown less tolerant of the kind of wheeling and dealing that led to the imprisonment of him and his successor, Rod Blagojevich.”

Your crazy stat of the day: Four of Illinois’ last seven governors have ended up going to prison.

And at noon ET, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley delivers his “State of the State” address. Per excerpts, “When the national recession hit – wiping out jobs and revenues all across our country – other states tried to cut their way to prosperity.  Many found this only made things worse. Laying off police officers, fire fighters and teachers, cutting public education, hiking up college tuition by double digits every single year, continuing down the merry path of cutting taxes for the very wealthy, hoping against cruel experience that somehow it would trickle down to the rest of their citizens. But in Maryland, we made better choices.”