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Another Kennedy in the United States Senate?

Caroline Kennedy, daughter of a president and niece of two senators, wants to join the family business.

By Staff writer / December 16, 2008

Uncle Teddy: He’s Caroline Kennedy’s political mentor. Here, they’re at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.

Lisa Poole/AP/File


Almost overnight, Caroline Kennedy has become the front-runner to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton when the New York senator becomes secretary of State.

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The fiercely private daughter of the nation’s 35th president, Ms. Kennedy is better known for her love of poetry and writing civic books for young adults than for any expertise in the rough-and-tumble political world.

But as an heir to one of America’s political dynasties, her urge for public service is not that surprising.

From her early years as a child living in the White House, to a lifetime of quietly campaigning for family, to her more recent prominent involvement with the Obama campaign, politics and public service have saturated the air around her.

And from a New York perspective, what better candidate is there?

As pollster John Zogby puts it, this is the “original don’t-wait-your-turn” state. From Averill Harriman to Nelson Rockefeller, from Bobby Kennedy to Hillary Clinton, the Empire State is known for its love of a celebrity.

“None of these people ever sat in a city council or served in the state Assembly,” says Mr. Zogby, whose polling firm is based in Utica, N.Y. “We have a tradition of choosing people who are larger than life. This is a Kennedy – at least she lives in New York.”

But not all New Yorkers are keen on the idea, primarily because of Kennedy’s lack of political experience.

The state and city face multibillion-dollar deficits. The financial sector, the engine that has kept the Big Apple running for the past quarter of a century, has stumbled badly. Some pols and pundits say what’s needed is experience and economic expertise to help New York rebuild its economy, not a celebrity.

“It would be a singularly inappropriate appointment,” says Fred Siegel at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank. “She is someone who has no knowledge or interest in money and the underlying economic questions facing the state.”