New York, Swing State?

By Ross Douthat

Defending Caroline Kennedy, Michael Kinsley claims that it "is precisely the fear that she would be a formidable candidate, likely to be elected again and again, that is driving Republicans to gin up a phony issue and bully New York Gov. David [Paterson] out of appointing her." As Ramesh notes, the claim that only Republicans object to the idea of making Kennedy a Senator is specious - but even more peculiar is the notion, floated by many of Kennedy's supporters, that New York is the sort of state where liberals should be pining for (and conservatives should be terrified of) a deep-pocketed celebrity candidate to keep the Senate seat in Democratic hands. New York last elected a Republican Senator in 1992; in 2008 it went for Barack Obama by twenty-five points. It's not the safest seat in the country, but it's safe enough that almost any Democrat, once appointed, could expect to be "elected again and again," with or without the Kennedy mystique. Which is all the more reason to pick somebody more impressive than America's Princess for what's probably a long-term job - to look for the next Daniel Patrick Moynihan, in other words, rather than the next Lincoln Chafee.

Moreover, if I were a Republican Senate hopeful, I might actually prefer to run against Caroline Kennedy than against a blandly competent, non-Kennedy liberal politician. Any slight, slight hope a GOP candidate has of winning that seat in the next election depends on Obama's Presidency going very, very badly. And if it is going badly, then painting Senator Kennedy as an underqualified liberal yes-woman appointed to the Senate because of her family name and her connections to the White House - which would, in fact, be the truth - sounds like a pretty good narrative for an insurgent Republican to run on, however many gobs of money she manages to raise.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/personal/archive/2008/12/new-york-swing-state/55885/