David Usborne: Caroline has more than the J-Lo effect in this race

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It is proper to query Caroline Kennedy putting herself forward as the best person to take Hillary Clinton's US Senate Seat. According to Gary Ackerman, a congressman from New York, and a Democrat, she doesn't have any qualifications, "except that she has name recognition – but so does J Lo".

That seems a little harsh, on Jennifer Lopez. If half the art of politics is holding the public's attention, it is possible the actress would do well on Capitol Hill. It is also a bit of a cheap shot as regards Ms Kennedy, who may never have held elected office but who bleeds politics whenever she cuts herself. Politics and the Kennedy family are like dogs and collars.

It is also a family which takes public service very seriously. Ms Kennedy may have not advertised it, but in recent years she has been active that way too, working energetically to raise money for schools in New York and helping with Mayor Bloomberg's education reform.

Quietly, she has been inserting herself in national politics, serving as a director of the Commission on Presidential Debates, co-chairing Barack Obama's vice-presidential search committee and delivering a primetime speech at the Democratic Convention in Denver.

The choice is Governor David Patterson's. But his dilemmas are pretty narrow, because resisting Ms Kennedy at this point is not a realistic option. She has J Lo's name recognition and much else besides, above all the necessary connections, up to and including President-elect Obama. And in 2010, she will have almost unlimited fund-raising appeal, when she and Mr Patterson will be seeking to keep their jobs.

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