Why, Caroline? Why?! Pundits Speculate

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Look! They're laughing at us!
Look! They're laughing at us! Photo: Getty Images

That's the question everyone is asking today after Caroline Kennedy abruptly, and mysteriously, ended her bid for Hillary Clinton's Senate seat, capping off her high-profile campaign with an extra few hours of maddening confusion. While her official statement cites "personal reasons" for withdrawing, which news reports have translated as concern about her uncle Ted Kennedy's declining health, none of the unfeeling cynics of the political world are really buying that explanation. So what's the real reason? Did she find out that Paterson wouldn't pick her and drop out to save face — even as some close confidants are claiming the job was hers if she wanted it? Was she suddenly overcome with the realization that this gig just wasn't for her after all? Nobody, except Caroline Kennedy, truly knows. But everybody has an opinion. Update: Since this morning things have become slightly more clear, after an aide told a number of news outlets that Kennedy withdrew for personal reasons unrelated to Ted Kennedy's health. But a Kennedy insider says that the damage is done, and Uncle Teddy won't appreciate being used as cover. Update 2: The Times and Post are now hearing that Kennedy was derailed by issues related to taxes and a housekeeper.

• Nate Silver wonders if Kennedy "was just not all that into being a senator in the first place." Pressured by the support of her friends and uncle, she embarked on a campaign to secure the seat, but was "nervous, indifferent, and underprepared." Finally something or someone convinced her to drop out, and she probably hasn't "felt better in months." [FiveThirtyEight]

• Jennifer Rubin says Kennedy "was the butt of too many jokes, the public had lost interest and the Republicans were licking their chops." So, needing an out, Kennedy "goes to the bedside of her relative, the noble Governor Paterson leaks a statement saying she could have had it if she wanted it, and New York is spared." [Contentions/Commentary]

• Michael Crowley doesn't buy the excuse about Ted Kennedy's health. Since she'd "known about Ted's tragic brain cancer for months," this seems more like "political cover for her potential failure to get the appointment from New York Governor David Paterson." [Plank/New Republic]

• Steve Benen guesses that, instead of concerns about her uncle's health, it's "more likely that she came to believe Paterson would pick someone else, and withdrew as a face-saving measure. That, or she came to realize this may not be the best idea after all." [Political Animal/Washington Monthly]

• Michael Tomasky suggests that maybe Kennedy "took a little dip in the fishbowl of New York political life for two months, and perhaps she found the waters a little too turbulent for her tastes." Or, he notes, sometimes people do things like this when they know "that something unflattering is about to come out." [Guardian UK]

• Andrew Malcolm thinks Kennedy "may also have belatedly realized the scale of the job and have received a heads-up that it wasn't going to be her getting the governor's nod. And he's giving her a facing-saving exit." [Top of the Ticket/LAT]

• Ed Morrissey suspects that the "specter of losing after making such a public bid for Hillary Clinton’s seat may have been too much for the Kennedy mystique, or at least the Kennedy ego." [Hot Air]

• Michelle Malkin believes that "ultimately, it was the regal sense of entitlement that [did] her in." [Michelle Malkin]

• Carol Platt Liebau points out that Ted Kennedy "is part of a family who values holding political office over almost everything else. It's impossible for me to believe that it would have been anything but a morale boost" to see his niece carry on the family's presence in the Senate. [Town Hall]

• Glenn Thrush reaches a similar conclusion: "Wouldn't her uncle's frail condition make her more eager to carry on the family legacy?" [Politico]

• Patrick Appel doesn't know why Kennedy pulled out, but thinks "this is probably for the best." [Atlantic]

• Michael Daly, meanwhile, suggests we make Kennedy New York's ambassador to Washington so as not to sour President Obama on New York. [NYDN]