Caroline Kennedy’s U.S. Senate trial balloon is already encountering flak from potential rivals and seasoned New York pols who suggest she’d be as out of place campaigning in upstate, rural, conservative New York as George Bush would be in the Upper West Side.
"I do think you have to not only be willing to be milking cows at the state fair, but you've got to like it or at least be very good at acting like you like it," said Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner, a possible mayoral candidate who is close to U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, told Politico. "If she has the gift of milking cows, it's been utterly hidden from people of the state of New York."
Weiner and others point out that Kennedy backed President-elect Barack Obama over Clinton in the presidential primaries – a position that hasn’t been forgotten by Clinton loyalists throughout the state.
"This isn't a jihad or anything, but I'd be lying to you if I said that supporters of Hillary don't remember where she was in the primary," said Weiner.
The 51-year-old lawyer, education advocate and daughter of President John F. Kennedy finally outed herself Monday as a serious candidate after dropping hints about the idea all last week. Kennedy made calls on Monday morning to alert political figures to her interest. Gov. David A. Paterson of New York confirmed that she was interested in being appointed.
“She told me she was interested in the position,” Paterson said at a news conference. “She realized it was not a campaign, but she was talking to other people because she thought that a number of people, she felt, should know that she’s interested in the position. She’d like at some point to sit down and tell me what she thinks her qualifications are.”
“Rivals — including at least three members of the New York congressional delegation — are starting to doubt Kennedy's viability and experience, and Paterson is said to be less than enthusiastic about picking her, people close to him say,” Politico reported. “Critics are even questioning the substance of her accomplishments in education, her most high profile issue.”
"I don't know what Caroline Kennedy's qualifications are, except that she has name recognition, but so does J.Lo," another Queens congressman, Gary Ackerman, said during a radio interview Monday. "I wouldn't make J.Lo the senator unless she proved she had great qualifications, but we haven't seen them yet."
Kennedy is thought to have the strong backing of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and former Mayor Ed Koch has spoken highly over her. She’s been deeply involved in education, museum and charity work, and has strong connections within the Big Apple. Some, though, wonder what the Kennedy name is worth these days in politics. To the under-40 generation, it has about as much resonance as the Roosevelt name.
"So they decided to rename the [Triboro] Bridge [after Robert F. Kennedy]," said Hank Sheinkopf, a veteran New York Democratic consultant. "But if you went to the street and asked ten people under 50 who this guy was, they wouldn't know what you're talking about."
Young, New York-based political bloggers are also chiming in as part of the Kennedy backlash.
“If Caroline Kennedy ran for office on the being-a-Kennedy platform and won, I would be deeply disappointed in the voters of the Empire State, but at least we'd have elected her,” wrote journalist Lindsay Beyerstein on her blog, Majikthise.
“But appointing Kennedy would be a double whammy of non-qualification and nepotism. The only reason Kennedy's being considered is because she's the daughter of a former president and the niece of a senator.”
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