Forcing Paterson’s hand?

FORCING PATERSON’S HAND?…. It’s tempting to say Caroline Kennedy was “campaigning” in upstate New York yesterday, but that’s probably the wrong word. At this point, there isn’t an election, per se, but rather one voter who’ll make one decision, in private, whenever he wants.

That said, while kinda sorta on the campaign trail, Kennedy said something interesting yesterday.

In her first visit to Rochester, U.S. Senate hopeful Caroline Kennedy met Wednesday with Mayor Robert Duffy and Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-Fairport, asking questions about upstate but not asking for an endorsement. […]

“It’s my first time in Rochester, but I’ll be back as many times as Chuck Schumer,” Kennedy said, referring to New York’s other Democratic senator, who coincidentally also stopped in Rochester on Wednesday.

Asked whether she would run for the office if Gov. David Paterson doesn’t appoint her, she replied: “Absolutely.”

Maybe there was some additional context, but if that’s right, it’s an interesting development.

Paterson will fill the vacancy, and in two years, there will be a special election to finish out Hillary Clinton’s term. Presumably, the governor wants a Democrat who’ll do well in the Senate for two years and then win in 2010.

But if Caroline Kennedy is “absolutely” going to run for the seat in 2010, it puts Paterson in an awkward position, doesn’t it? It leaves him with three choices: pick Kennedy, pick a placeholder who’ll step aside in two years, or pick someone who’ll face a primary challenge from Kennedy.

It’s unclear if this was part of a deliberate strategy, but I wonder if Caroline Kennedy is trying to force Paterson’s hand — and how he might react to this.

Washington Monthly - Donate today and your gift will be doubled!

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.