ALBANY—As things stand, the odds that a Republican will win election to the Senate in 2010 against Hillary Clinton's replacement, whoever that may be, are not particularly good.
But some of them say they see a way forward against one of the prospective Clinton successors: Caroline Kennedy.
Their early lines of attack are the same that have been floating off the lips of many Democrats (less frequently this week, but still floating): she's an out-of-touch elitist; she has no experience as a legislator or campaigner; she stands for nothing in particular.
Matt Walter, executive director of the Republican State Committee, said, "We think she's not the right person [for David Paterson to appoint] and I think the average New Yorker who doesn't have the benefit of a famous name or the benefit of being a New York City socialite and who has to balance hard things in their own budget and their own lives is not going to be receptive to that approach."
"It's always dangerous to get into the pick-your-opponents game, but those are things we'll be pointing out throughout the campaign," Walter continued. "It's not just that she doesn't have a deep, thorough understanding of the average New Yorker, but she didn't even take time to talk to reporters or reach out to the broader community through the media."
Most Republicans I've talked to say it's too early to speculate on who might come forward and challenge Kennedy, aside from Representative Peter King, who has already announced his interest in running.
One veteran Republican official said King – or any candidate – would face quite an uphill battle. There's a giant enrollment advantage to overcome, plus Kennedy's sure-to-be-formidable war chest, plus the "sympathy factor" of her family name and the possible retirement of Senator Ted Kennedy. King would have to run extremely well on Long Island and upstate, but could face problems for a long pro-life record and a voting record that could be tied to President Bush.
To win, the official said, Republicans would have to find several "80-20" issues and then stick to them.
Of course, that's easier said than done. As Henry Wojtaszek, the chairman of the Niagara County Republican Committee, explained: "I don't think anybody knows what those issues are. We've seen her out campaigning for other people, but not taking any major stand of her own."
Bill Nojay, a Rochester Republican and talk radio host, suggested that Andrew Cuomo would be a much more problematic candidate for Republicans, especially outside New York City.
"I don't see a Republican out there who could beat Andrew Cuomo if he were appointed, because he's a good politician," said Bill Nojay, a Rochester Republican and talk radio host. "The feeling is that she is all New York City, she is all Kennedy, and that upstate New York is going to get the shaft."