THE ‘CARETAKER’ FIX IN NEW YORK…. I don’t want over-generalize, but it seems most of the concerns about Caroline Kennedy filling New York’s Senate vacancy have to do an appointment taking the place of an election. It’s less about her and more about the process — handing over a coveted political prize without the benefit of voter scrutiny.

A “caretaker” senator would not only end the now-annoying speculation, but also set the stage for a spirited primary two years from now.

Sen. Bill Clinton? Sen. Mario Cuomo? Don’t completely rule it out. The former president and the former New York governor are among several boldface names being touted as possible “caretakers” for New York’s Senate seat — people who would serve until the 2010 elections but wouldn’t be interested in running to keep the job.

As the process of picking Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s replacement gets messier, the option may become increasingly attractive to Gov. David Paterson, who has sole authority to name a successor. […]

A big name could have an immediate impact for New York in the Senate while letting the large field of hopefuls duke it out in 2010, according to three Democratic Party advisers in New York and Washington who are close to the discussion with Paterson’s inner circle on this issue.

This may be more than just speculation; the AP spoke to two party officials who said Paterson “is still considering the caretaker option.”

I can’t say I blame him. No matter who Paterson picks, he’s bound to annoy quite a few people. Someone who’ll just keep the seat warm for two years puts the problem in voters’ hands.

Who might be in the mix? I doubt the former president would accept the gig, but the AP report said some of the name circulating in New York political circles include retired judge Judith Kaye and former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey, now president of the New School in New York City, where he’s proving to be not especially popular.

Doug Muzzio, professor of politics at Baruch College, said, “If [Paterson] is feeling trapped about this Caroline Kennedy thing, this gives him, in a sense, a way out.”

Take the way out, gov.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. 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.