CAROLINE KENNEDY WITHDRAWS FROM CONSIDERATION…. Caroline Kennedy’s drive to replace Hillary Clinton in the Senate did not go smoothly. Her media interviews did not go well, her support from in-state political leaders was shaky, and Kennedy herself struggled at times to explain why she wanted the seat and what she’d do with it.

Nevertheless, Kennedy was considered a leading candidate, if not the leading candidate, for the gig. It came as something of a surprise, then, after some overlapping and contradictory reports, that Caroline Kennedy withdrew her name from consideration last night.

Ms. Kennedy on Wednesday called Gov. David A. Paterson, who will choose a successor to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, to inform him that she was no longer interested.

“I informed Governor Paterson today that for personal reasons I am withdrawing my name from consideration for the United States Senate,” Ms. Kennedy said in a statement released by her public relations firm.

Ms. Kennedy did not elaborate, but a person who spoke to her suggested that her concerns about the health of her uncle, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who suffers from brain cancer and was hospitalized after a seizure on Tuesday, contributed to her decision.

I won’t presume to know Caroline Kennedy’s personal motivations, but health concerns about Ted Kennedy’s health strikes me as an odd explanation for withdrawal. The senator was diagnosed with brain cancer months ago, and she nevertheless pursued New York’s seat. It seems more likely that she came to believe Paterson would pick someone else, and withdrew as a face-saving measure. That, or she came to realize this may not be the best idea after all.

Reports earlier this week indicated that Paterson would announce his selection on Friday or Saturday, and whether Kennedy’s decision changes that equation is unclear.

With Kennedy no longer interested, the leading contenders for the position appear to be state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Reps. Kirsten Gillibrand and Carolyn Maloney, and United Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, and Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi.

Steve Benen

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.