Congressman Peter King is not going to run for the Senate. And it's all the fault of Caroline Kennedy.
After an endless will-he-won't-he dance, King has announced that he won't challenge Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand next year. He would have made the race, he said "if Caroline Kennedy were the Democratic candidate. Her candidacy would have generated the media coverage and financial contributions necessary for me to run a competitive race."
But, as we all know, Kennedy took herself out of the running for the appointment to fill Hillary Clinton's empty seat. In the process, she made it impossible for Peter King to fulfill his long-standing dream of becoming a senator.
Make sense to you?
Wait, there's more.
"Senator Gillibrand generates neither strong support nor opposition. This makes it virtually impossible for me to raise the campaign funds I would need," King said, going on to cite the Democratic registration advantage, Democratic money, etc. etc.
This is a fascinating argument. Apparently Sen. Gillibrand, the sly fox, has been pursuing the super-sophisticated political strategy of being boring. If only she'd been better, a real junior superstar. Then of course King would be right in there, punching. But her averageness has proven too powerful to overcome.
Peter King is perhaps the Republican elected official with the highest name recognition in the New York City area right now - if you believe, along with the rest of the world, that Michael Bloomberg is about as Republican as Nancy Pelosi. He has been a Congressman from Long Island since 1993. He gets quoted in news stories all the time, because he is extremely quotable. (Remember his "lowlife" diatribe during the Michael Jackson mourning period?)
As a Senate candidate, King would have had some real strengths. He has strong ties with organized labor and a good record of working with Democrats when the mood strikes him. He is Irish in a state that loves ethnicity, particularly Catholic ethnicity, in its politicians. And if ever a party needed a decent vote-getter on its statewide ticket, it would be the Republicans in 2010.
But King is a political tease. He's always talking about running for something bigger, then backs off when it's time to really take the plunge.
If he was really waiting for a superstar who'd draw big donations, there was Hillary Clinton in 2000. (When Rudy Giuliani dropped out of the Senate race, King claimed he wanted in, then withdrew saying he didn't want to cause divisions within his party.) Or Hillary Clinton in 2006. (King said that while he disagreed with her on most issues, he liked her as a person.)
King, who also dropped hints that he might run for governor in 2010, now says that he's not going anywhere. He's undoubtedly waiting for that ideal opponent, a superstar who's also both beatable and unlikable.