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Reports that Governor Paterson is determined to appoint Caroline Kennedy to Senator Clinton’s seat may be a bit exaggerated 

Gov. David Paterson hinted Friday that he had changed his mind about whom he would appoint to fill Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat, and that he would wait until after Barack Obama’s inauguration Tuesday to make a decision.

“I’m having new thinking about who I’m going to appoint, and I’m having follow-up conversations with some of the candidates,” Mr. Paterson said.

He did not identify the candidate he had initially expected to pick, though some will undoubtedly assume he meant Caroline Kennedy. She was considered by many to be the frontrunner several weeks ago but is now viewed as far from certain to get the appointment.

Mr. Paterson said he always expected Ms. Clinton to fly through the confirmation process and become secretary of state as early as Jan. 20, but that it was nonetheless prudent for him to wait to make an appointment because cabinet nominees do occasionally withdraw. He alluded to New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson’s decision to pull out as Commerce secretary nominee.

The governor had told candidates that he did not want an appointment to in any way overshadow the inauguration of Mr. Obama. But on Thursday rumors flew that he might decide the matter as soon as this weekend, and the governor made comments that stoked them. But today he attempted to downplay that possibility, saying that he appreciated having the time to make the best choice. “Once you make the decision,” Mr. Paterson said, “you are stuck with it.”

Based on the timing, it doesn’t seem as if the governor was basing his decision on Wednesday’s Quinnipiac Poll, which showed that New Yorkers preferred Andrew Cuomo and did not think that Ms. Kennedy was qualified to be Senator, but did think that Governor Paterson was likely to appoint her anyway. 

Thursday’s Marist Poll showed more or less the same thing – more New Yorkers wanted Cuomo, and fewer thought that Kennedy would be up to the job. Doesn’t seem like enough to change Paterson’s mind.

Except for that one new question:

In making the pick, Paterson presumably would pick somebody to help his own political prospects in 2010. The Marist poll shows him with an all-time low approval rating at 44 percent — the first time he’s not received support from a majority of New Yorkers.

and if you compare Paterson’s Marist numbers from December to January, in the past month while this mess has been going on he’s lost 12 points among independents, seven points with Republicans, and a whopping 18 points upstate. For a Governor with a very conservative upstate whose base is Democrats in Manhattan, that can’t be good news. 

This is, I believe, what they call in politics a "game changer"

Bluntly, neither Kennedy nor Cuomo would be my first choice. Offhand, though, I’d say that whoever is pushing Ms. Kennedy’s bid (there are a few prime suspects) had best make it clear over the weekend that their support is serious enough to make up for, well, ours.