Is Caroline Kennedy More Than A Household Name? The daughter of the late John F. Kennedy indicated this week that she'd like to be named to Hillary Clinton's soon-to-open Senate seat. That means convincing Democratic power brokers in upstate New York, as well as Gov. David Paterson, she's up to the job.

Is Caroline Kennedy More Than A Household Name?

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This is All Things Considered from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Melissa Block. Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of President John F. Kennedy, is traveling around the state of New York today. It's a trip much like Hillary Clinton made as she explored running for the Senate. This week Kennedy indicated she'd like to be named to Clinton's Senate seat, now that Clinton is likely to become secretary of state. And that means convincing not only the governor, but also Democratic powerbrokers in upstate New York that she's up to the job. NPR's Robert Smith reports.

ROBERT SMITH: Looking back at history, this New York Senate seat seems to only have a few requirements. You must be a Democrat in good standing, famous names preferred, no experience necessary. After all, Hillary Clinton and Robert Kennedy, for that matter, who held the seat 40 years ago, had never run for elected office before they came to New York. But they had been living public lives in politics for years. Caroline Kennedy has been on the sidelines of the game, at least until earlier this year, when she endorsed Barack Obama.

(Soundbite of Democratic presidential campaign rally)

Ms. CAROLINE KENNEDY (Author; Lawyer): Over the years, I've been deeply moved by the people who've told me that they wish they could feel inspired and hopeful about America the way they did when my father was president. Fortunately, there is one candidate who offers that same sense of hope and inspiration.

SMITH: The former first daughter, who had shunned publicity for most of her life, was now traveling from city to city vigorously campaigning for Obama. People who knew Kennedy said that they weren't surprised she had it in her. Greg Craig, who will serve as Obama's White House counsel, told NPR at the time...

(Soundbite of archive NPR interview)

Mr. GREG CRAIG (White House Counsel-Designate): She has been involved in public policy issues many times in her life before, so this is not something that's totally new to her. The amount of time and attention and focus that she's giving to it is unusual, and I think it's the first time that she's moved onto the national stage.

SMITH: If New York Governor David Paterson picks Kennedy for the seat, everyone will already know her name, but almost no one will know what she stands for. She's a lawyer and an author. She's written books on privacy issues and the Bill of Rights, but she's best known for her lighter fare, collections of Christmas memories and poetry.

(Soundbite of archive NPR interview, 2006)

Ms. KENNEDY: Well, I think poetry really is something that does really sustain people, and it's really those important times and those deep emotions where I think poetry really captures all of the feelings that we have.

SMITH: That's Kennedy speaking to NPR in 2006. Her most notable work in the public sector to date has been as the chief fundraiser for the New York City Department of Education, bringing in millions of dollars. But even there, she rarely appeared in public and never took positions on controversial education issues. Instead, she tends to speak more broadly about the importance of service.

Ms. KENNEDY: Only by working with each other and for each other can we make America the nation it should be for us and for our children.

SMITH: Although Caroline Kennedy and her views have remained mostly hidden over the years, she is still beloved by a generation of Democrats who watched her as a child in the Kennedy White House. Perhaps that accounts for a recent poll where about a quarter of New Yorkers say that the governor should pick her as Clinton's successor. Slightly more than that say that another famous offspring, Andrew Cuomo, son of the former governor, should be the next senator.

Whoever the governor picks will need political stamina. That person would need to run for re-election in 2010 and again in 2012. And as Hillary Clinton demonstrated twice, that would mean raising tens of millions of dollars and spending substantial time in upstate New York. Caroline Kennedy may be a household name. But in parts of the state, she's still a Manhattan lawyer who will need to work to get votes. Robert Smith, NPR News, New York.

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