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Caroline Kennedy Drops Senate Bid

ROBERT SIEGEL: As Hillary Clinton goes to the State Department, the question is who will replace her in the Senate? The most prominent name on the list to replace Clinton has been that of Caroline Kennedy, and now she has withdrawn her name from consideration. To help try to sort what's going on, we're joined by Fred Dicker, who is state editor of the New York Post. He's in Albany. Welcome to the program, once again.

FRED DICKER: Thank you and greetings from Albany.

SIEGEL: NPR is reporting that Kennedy withdrew for personal reasons. What have you found out?

DICKER: Well, this is really a bombshell story here in New York. We found out that Governor Paterson, who has the right to make the decision, apparently had decided not to pick her. So, people are saying that perhaps Caroline Kennedy's citing personal reasons is a kind of cover story to explain the fact that she was being passed over.

SIEGEL: Now, there was a recent poll showing that most New Yorkers thought that David Paterson, the Governor who became governor upon the resignation of Eliot Spitzer, that he would pick Caroline Kennedy, but more of them favored the state's Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo, the son of the former governor, Mario Cuomo. Is it assumed that Andrew Cuomo would be the leading candidate to succeed Hillary Clinton, if it's not going to be Caroline Kennedy?

DICKER: It's assumed he's a leading candidate, but it's not even clear that he wants the job. Governor Paterson has not indicated any great warmth towards Andrew Cuomo. He's indicated he'd like to have a woman succeed a woman. And there are a couple of female congress members here in New York who've been mentioned as being close to the top of the list. But I would think Andrew Cuomo certainly will be seriously considered.

SIEGEL: Who are the members of congress, the women that you're talking about?

DICKER: Carolyn Maloney of Manhattan, she's a veteran congresswoman who's achieved a good deal of positive reputation with the New York delegation and Kirsten Gillibrand, a very new congress member from upstate Columbia County in Hudson. She has the distinction of having won election twice in a heavily Republican district showing that she has really cross-party appeal.

SIEGEL: Would it matter to Governor Paterson that Representative Gillibrand is from upstate and the other Senator, Chuck Schumer, is from New York City? And to pick either, well, to pick Caroline Kennedy or for that matter, Representative Maloney would have two down-state senators.

DICKER: Yeah, I think it would matter. There are right now no representatives of upstate New York anywhere on a statewide ticket for the Democrats or the Republicans, so there is a concern in upstate communities that they're not represented and I think the governor who hopes to win on his own next year running as governor would like to balance the ticket with someone, for instance, from upstate New York.

SIEGEL: Now, take us back to the story of Caroline Kennedy which is quite remarkable. She has not held a high profile at all, in politics over the years. But she very prominently, and perhaps significantly, endorsed Barack Obama for the nomination, and then how did she express her interest in the Senate seat?

DICKER: Well, she expressed it through leaks from people who are close to her. Once it became clear - once it was known that Hillary (unintelligible) becoming Secretary of State, very quickly Caroline Kennedy's name appeared in the press in our publication. First, it was leaked by people close to her and it became clear that Mayor Bloomberg, who is not Democrat, but certainly has a lot of clout in the city seemed to be favoring Caroline Kennedy and he dispatched his deputy mayor, Kevin Sheekey, to help carry the campaign for her, and it was a campaign. All of a sudden, aides who were political aides to Mayor Bloomberg also appeared as the advisers to Caroline Kennedy. So, it was really through the backing of Mayor Bloomberg and some other people that she emerged really as the front-runner very quickly.

SIEGEL: And perhaps her greatest stumble was in expressing support for Mayor Bloomberg who is not a Democrat.

DICKER: Correct, and had defeated a couple of Democrats. Now as she then back-tracked on them and said that she would likely back whoever the Democratic candidate is against him later this year, but that angered a lot of Democrats. And then she toured upstate New York and didn't do very well. Then she did a series of interviews in which she said: 'you know,' 'you know' - I think the average was once every 10 seconds, and it made her sound inarticulate. And she didn't seem all that familiar with New York issues, so her sallies into the open out to be interviewed by the press didn't go well for her.

SIEGEL: Fred Dicker of the New York Post in Albany. Thanks for talking with us.

DICKER: OK, my pleasure.

SIEGEL: And once again, the news Caroline Kennedy has told Governor David Paterson to withdraw her name from consideration to succeed Hillary Clinton in the Senate. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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