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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Caroline Kennedy’s Experience on the Trail Limited to Obama Campaign

Michele Obama, Caroline Kennedy, Maria Shriver, and Oprah in the California primary. Photo credits: LA Times

Caroline Kennedy is openly lobbying the appropriate power brokers for Hillary Clinton’s U.S. senate seat in New York. If Gov. Paterson appoints Kennedy, she’ll have two years to learn the ropes before she’s forced to campaign for the seat the hard way in 2010.

It’s my understanding that Kennedy’s experience in campaigning is limited to her appearances, along with other members of the Kennedy clan, on behalf of Barack Obama in 2008. You’ll recall that Kennedy decided to endorse Obama at the urging of her children.

(Note: Not every member of the Kennedy clan supported Obama during the primary; one of Sen. Clinton’s most loyal supporters was Robert Kennedy, Jr., a prominent environmental activist.)

It’s hard to estimate how much good the Kennedys did for Obama, but two contests in the Democratic primary stand out in my memory. The first occurred in Massachusetts where Caroline Kennedy joined both Sen. Kennedy and Sen. Kerry as well as Gov. Deval Patrick in backing Obama.

Hillary Clinton took Massachusetts.

The second contest occurred in California where Maria Shriver, the daughter of Eunice Kennedy and Sargent Shriver and the wife of Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, teamed up with Oprah and Caroline Kennedy in heavy duty campaigning for Obama. It was deemed good political strategy for the three women to appear onstage together in opposition to Sen. Clinton.

Sen. Clinton won California.

The results of those two Democratic primary contests are probably not sufficient to predict Caroline Kennedy’s ability to campaign for a U.S. senate seat in New York. But it does give one pause.

In the meantime, by simply expressing her desire for Clinton’s soon to be vacated seat, Kennedy has stirred up the media’s interest in her influential family. Liz Robbins at the Caucus (NY Times) in fact provides a detailed portrait of the Kennedy clan’s “long political tentacles.”

Robbins begins:

When Caroline Kennedy made it known that she eagerly wants New York’s United States Senate seat left vacant by Hillary Rodham Clinton, the spotlight burned even brighter on the most famous family in American politics.

“The nine children of Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy have extended the family’s reach to both coasts and all forms of public service. And while it has been mostly Kennedy men who have held public office, Ms. Kennedy can look to her aunt, Jean Kennedy Smith, who was the United States’ ambassador to Ireland from 1993 to 1998, or her cousin, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who was the first Kennedy woman to hold an elected office, when she served as Lieutenant Governor of Maryland from 1995 to 2003.”

For a review of all the tentacles of the Kennedy family’s political influence go here.

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