DESPITE claims that he’s still undecided, Gov. Paterson is “certain” to pick Caroline Kennedy to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton in the US Senate, several unhappy contenders for the job have told friends and associates in recent days.
The contenders based their conclusion on the view that Paterson, after nearly two months of indecision, would “greatly embarrass” and “entirely humiliate” Kennedy, anger her prominent political family and even offend President-elect Barack Obama by picking someone other than President John F. Kennedy’s daughter.
As for the governor’s claim to be weighing a last-minute finalist, the contenders agree with a close Paterson friend who said, “It’s clear David is just trying to play mind games with the press.”
Some of the contenders warned, however, that the unelected Paterson, who must face the voters next year, could face a serious backlash from Democratic activists by choosing Kennedy, whose standing with the public, and with Democrats in particular, has been sliding in recent weeks.
US Rep. Carolyn Maloney of Manhattan, a would-be Clinton replacement who is backed by several women’s organizations, was the most publicly adamant in saying the fix was in, citing a scenario – first outlined in last week’s Village Voice – under which Paterson, in a deal with Mayor Bloomberg, a Kennedy friend, selects Kennedy in exchange for help for his own election bid next year.
Another potential candidate told The Post that he was convinced that Kennedy would get the job because Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, – who polls show is the public’s favorite to succeed Clinton – failed to line up the right replacement at the AG’s office.
“Andrew just couldn’t assure the governor that he could arrange for [Assembly Speaker Sheldon] Silver to provide an acceptable successor,” said the contender.
A third potential candidate claimed that Paterson’s repeated contention – told to the media in private – that there is no front-runner is “baloney.”
“It’s been a done deal from the start,” said the would-be candidate.
“David goes with Caroline with the understanding that Caroline, and her family and its resources, go with David next year. This stuff with Paterson saying he’s looking at other people is a crock,” the source continued.
Meanwhile, several Democrats pointed to Paterson’s already-declining public-opinion poll numbers to warn that selecting Kennedy could worsen his chances to be elected next year.
“The polls show Kennedy is not who the public wants, and every upstate newspaper has come out against her,” noted a longtime Democratic operative.
“Picking Caroline could turn into a disaster for Paterson,” he continued.
A little-noticed Marist College poll last week showed Paterson, who became governor last March after Eliot Spitzer resigned amid a hooker scandal, with a rapidly declining job-approval rating.
It is a shame. David Paterson is the one politician that I would have thought would rise above the pay for play and shennigans of the New York political scene. I should have known better by the company he kept in Manhattan (Charlie Rangel).
If it comes to pass that the fix was indeed in, I can assure Paterson that he will no longer have my respect among many others and we will meet both him and Caroline Kennedy at the voting booth next time around.