Caroline Has What It Takes

Now that Caroline Kennedy has apparently told New York Governor David Paterson that she would like to be appointed to Hillary Clinton's senate seat, the Governor's short list should have only one name on it. Caroline Kennedy is, by far, the strongest possible choice Paterson could make.

For the Democratic Party, the most important qualification Paterson should consider is electability. Paterson's choice will have to run for the seat in the next election in order to earn the right to complete Clinton's term, then run again two years later to earn a new full six-year term. The worst thing the governor could do is appoint an obscure member of Congress who promptly loses the seat to the opposing party--exactly what happened the last time a New York governor appointed a senator. Andrew Cuomo is a good bet to win those two elections, but Caroline Kennedy is a better bet. And every other name that has been floated is a risky bet.

Cuomo would be shaking the same New York money tree that Paterson is counting on for his own campaign in 2010. Caroline could tap Kennedy fundraising sources and Obama money sources who are forever grateful for her endorsement and leave more of the New York money tree to Paterson and the rest of the New York Democrats who need it. Kennedy's fundraising power extends far beyond her own campaign. Upon taking the oath of office, she would instantly become the second most sought after headliner for Democratic candidates' fundraisers. If a senator couldn't get Barack Obama to come to his fundraiser, he would beg Caroline Kennedy to do it. This would give her more power in the Senate than any other freshman. Committee chairmen would give her goodies for New York not just because they like her--which they would--but because she could raise serious money for their reelection campaigns. She would be the only freshman who, through fundraising and campaigning for senate candidates, could help push the Democrats up to 60 votes in the senate.

No one has ever been elected to the senate already knowing what he had to know to be a good senator. Caroline knows much more about New York than Hillary Clinton did when she decided to run for senate. Caroline is more prepared to be a senator than Bill Bradley was when he won his seat in New Jersey. Bradley, whose only adult activity prior to running for senate was playing basketball, turned out be an exceptionally good senator. And Caroline is much older, wiser, and better prepared for the job than her Uncle Ted was when he joined the senate.

Having worked for Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, I have seen what it takes to be a good senator, to effectively represent the state of New York and to win elections there. I have no doubt Caroline Kennedy has what it takes.