Sen. Charles B. Schumer is getting out the word that, yes, his ego could survive the replacement of one oxygen-sucking celebrity junior senator, Hillary Rodham Clinton, with another, Caroline Kennedy.
“[He’s] not endorsing Caroline — or anybody else — but has told people he wouldn’t mind her being appointed; he has no problem with that,” said a Schumer confidant, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“I don’t think he gives a s—- who gets it at this point, to tell you the truth,” said another longtime Schumer friend who conceded that the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate spent years obsessing over Clinton’s fame before coming to grips with her celebrity.
“He’s in a completely different place now than he was six or eight years ago,” the person added. “He feels like he made his bones, that he already dealt with a celebrity senator and could handle another one, no problem.”
Schumer, New York’s senior senator and mastermind of the Democrats’ gains in the upper chamber as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, has spent eight years working alongside Clinton — a far more pedigreed, if arguably less accomplished, legislator than he is.
Schumer struggled with the attention paid to Clinton at first but gradually adjusted, becoming one of her most dedicated and dogged surrogates as she made her run for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Then, just as he began to adjust to a post-Hillary world — Clinton is headed to Barack Obama’s State Department — along comes Caroline Kennedy, the glamorous, instantly viable representative of an even more famous political dynasty.
Kennedy, the daughter of President John F. Kennedy and niece of onetime New York Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, has spoken with New York Gov. David Paterson about the possibility of seeking the seat but didn’t commit to seeking it, according to one top New York Democrat, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The call was arranged by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a prominent environmentalist who withdrew his name from consideration to clear the way for his cousin, according to the Democrat.
“This threatens to put Schumer, once again, in that junior-senior-senator role — at a time when he’s really making a name for himself nationally,” said Marist Polling Institute Director Lee Miringoff.
“He’s a major player, but the bright lights of Broadway would certainly shine brighter on Caroline.”
Schumer already has a good relationship with Kennedy, aides say, dating back to 1998, when she stumped for him against incumbent Al D’Amato. They aren’t close but have kept in touch in recent years, bumping into each other at events sponsored by Trinity, the exclusive private school their children attended.
That’s not to say Kennedy would have been Schumer’s first choice. Schumer has tried to stay neutral — to avoid alienating other Democratic members coveting Clinton’s seat — but he has spoken highly of second-term upstate Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, according to people familiar with the situation.
Schumer’s friends say he’s been impressed by Gillibrand’s fundraising ability and her capacity to win reelection in a GOP-tilting district once occupied by Republican John Sweeney.
But skeptics say Schumer might favor Gillibrand precisely because she’s not the household name that Clinton was or Kennedy would be.
“I think Chuck wants a relatively inexperienced person, a relatively unknown person without star power, the kind of person he can walk by the hand across the Capitol,” said a person close to Paterson.
Schumer and Paterson, who speak at least once a week, are scheduled to chat about the appointment later this week.
The pair joked about the intense interest in the appointment at the Gridiron dinner over the weekend, with Schumer tape-recording a gag voicemail that was played during the governor’s appearance.
“Hi, Dave. It’s Chuck Schumer. I thought I would let you know my view on the Senate race. I have one criteria above all. I would like a devout evangelical. That way, there will be no competition for Sunday press conferences.”
Clinton — who gave Schumer a necktie in thanks for his ego-swallowing support of her presidential bid a few months ago — recorded her own message for Paterson.
She suggested Paterson appoint Schumer: “Why does New York need two senators, anyhow? I know it’s a stretch, but I promised him I’d ask you.” Paterson responded by joking that doing so would change the country’s “one man, one vote” dictum to “one ego, one vote.”