Clinton for a Clinton? Senate guessing game begins

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Gov. David Paterson has famous names to choose from in picking a replacement for Sen. Hillary Clinton, including a Kennedy, a Cuomo and even another Clinton, as in the former president of the United States.

Senator Hillary Clinton along with daughter Chelsea (L) and husband former President Bill Clinton (C) speaks to supporters at her North Carolina and Indiana primary election night rally in Indianapolis, Indiana, May 6, 2008. REUTERS/John Gress

Paterson also may consider relative unknowns and give additional weight to a woman, a member of a minority group or someone not from New York City, experts say.

Speculation over Bill Clinton, while intriguing, is largely dismissed as politically impractical and the consensus front-runner is Andrew Cuomo, son of former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo. The younger Cuomo was Bill Clinton’s housing secretary and now is New York’s attorney general.

The guessing game about replacing Hillary Clinton was sparked when U.S. President-elect Barack Obama named her as his choice for secretary of state.

She first must resign as New York’s junior senator, which is not expected until the Senate considers her confirmation as the nation’s top diplomat after Obama takes office on January 20.

Paterson, a Democrat like the Clintons, ascended to the governorship in March when Eliot Spitzer resigned amid a prostitution scandal. Some observers think Paterson may seek someone who could help him win election on his own in 2010, when the Senate seat also will be on the ballot.

Paterson said in a statement on Monday he was “consulting with a wide variety of individuals.” He is not expected to announce a replacement until the position becomes vacant.

“You’ve got your out-of-the-box, wild man picks. My favorite is Bill Clinton,” said political analyst Douglas Muzzio, who acknowledged it was a long shot.

A Washington Post column last week advocated naming Bill Clinton, while the New York Post has listed him as a 100-to-1 long shot. A Clinton spokesman told CNN the former president has no interest in his wife’s senator job.

A Marist Poll released on November 19 showed Cuomo was favored by 43 percent of the voters surveyed, way ahead of other candidates who all scored single digits but just one point ahead of the response “unsure.”

“Andrew Cuomo is the frontrunner. It’s a good choice politically, a good choice substantively, it’s the path of least resistance,” said political strategist Douglas Schoen.

“He’s done a good job as attorney general, but who wouldn’t take a free pass at the U.S. Senate if it is offered?”

The Post also listed Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York City at 5-to-1 odds, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown at 7-to-1, Albany-area Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand and Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of slain President John F. Kennedy, at 20-to-1.

Her cousin Robert F. Kennedy Jr., son of assassinated New York senator and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, also has been mentioned. The New York Times reported he has told Paterson he is not interested.

Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and John O’Callaghan