Caroline hires flack to scare competitors

The daughter of the former president hires public relations firm.

By Thomas Schaller

Published December 16, 2008 2:03PM (EST)

I'm not as adamantly opposed as Mark is to the idea of Caroline Kennedy being appointed to the New York Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton's departure for State, but it's clear that she's increasingly adamant about seeking it.

Picking up on a brief mention in Nick Confessore's NYTimes piece that Mark mentioned, the Politico's Ben Smith and Glenn Thrush have more on the hiring of Knickerbocker SKD's Josh Isay to pick up some of the political heavy lifting . . . including trying to "scare the shit" out of others who might be interested:

After a week of coy courtship and low-key feelers, Kennedy began working the phones in earnest Monday -- and signed up major Democratic fixer Josh Isay, who has deep connections to New York powerhouses Sen. Charles Schumer, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Kennedy spoke with Sharpton on Monday, and he said he told her about another “lady that wanted to run for U.S. Senate [who] came to Harlem, to the House of Justice, and they told me she wasn’t qualified; they told me she was just there because of who she was married to -- and that was Hillary Clinton.”

Sharpton said Kennedy chuckled.

Monday’s outreach efforts came as the 51-year-old former first daughter had begun to receive withering criticism about her lack of political experience.

“She had to work to undo the buzz for the last week -- New Yorkers were starting to say, ‘We don’t know her,’ ‘She’s got no experience,’ ‘She’s presumptuous,’” said a top New York Democrat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“That’s why hiring Josh makes a lot of sense,” the person added. “She doesn’t know anybody, and he’s the guy to make the introductions and guide her through the process.”

Hiring Isay accomplishes several goals for Kennedy. It signals her seriousness to Gov. David Paterson, who has been cool to her weeklong whisper campaign; it initiates her courtship of state power brokers who know her only through the media and the History Channel; and it “scares the s--” out of lesser-known Democrats actively pursuing the appointment, the New York Democrat said.

This will be a fascinating political battle to watch from the sidelines, that's for sure.

Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the author of "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South." Follow him @schaller67.

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