01/23/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

New Poll Could Give Paterson Cover For Kennedy Appointment

New York's next Senator will be picked by Gov. David Paterson and Paterson only. But on Tuesday, Quinnipiac University released a public survey on the opinion of Empire Staters in regards to Caroline Kennedy and other potential Senate aspirants. And the results were moderately optimistic for the former first daughter and political novice.

"New York State voters split 40 - 41 percent on whether Caroline Kennedy is qualified to be a U.S. Senator, but they expect by a 48 - 25 percent margin that Gov. David Paterson will name her to the Senate seat being vacated by Hillary Clinton, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today."

The findings, which come as pressure mounts for the Governor to make a choice, could provide the political cover Paterson needs to choose Kennedy as Clinton's replacement. Criticism of Kennedy has ebbed and flowed and ebbed again, with Democratic Rep. Gary Ackerman comparing her to Sarah Palin on Sunday and Republican Rep. Peter King (a 2010 Senate contender) offering harsh, often personalized, criticisms of her candidacy on a daily basis.

There were some other good nuggets to farm from the Quinnipiac study as well. If the state were to decide the seat via a special election, Kennedy wouldn't be that poorly positioned. In a hypothetical race against Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and Rep. Kristen Gilibrand, 33 percent of respondents chose Kennedy, 29 percent went for Cuomo, four percent backed Gillibrand, 24 percent preferred anonymous and 10 percent said they had no idea.

A Siena poll from last week had Cuomo leading Kennedy by a slim margin of 30 percent to 26 percent. In that same poll 31 percent of respondents said they felt Paterson would pick her to succeed Clinton -- nearly twice as many as expected Cuomo to fill the vacancy.