The day after Robert Kennedy said "all things being equal a local Democrat should run against Senator Kenneth Keating," he came to New York on a speaking tour--acting every bit the candidate. He made four speeches, chatted with party leaders, and returned to Washington admittedly uncertain about his plans.
Kennedy's political future is in doubt. He has repeatedly said that he plans to resign as Attorney General after the November elections. Friends have insisted that he would accept the Vice-Presidential nomination but President Johnson seems unenthusiastic about the prospect. His younger brother's campaign for reelection to the Senate eliminates the possibility for elective office in Massachusetts this year.
New York's Democratic party badly needs a popular candidate to run against the well-entrenched Keating. Mayor Robert Wagner of New York City had been the obvious choice but he has made absolutely clear his determination not to seek the Senate seat. A plethora of other local politicians have expressed interest in the nomination but none, with the possible exception of Franklin Roosevelt, Jr., has the necessary stature to fight a successful campaign. Some New York City Democrats suggested Adlai Stevenson, but his own reluctance, combined with his crushing loss of New York to Eisenhower in 1956, has made him an improbable candidate.
When a few county chairmen close to Kennedy said he might be available, party leaders were relieved. Here was a candidate with an impressive name, unquestioned experience and a liberal record--particularly in the vital area of civil rights.
But he is also an outsider, and editorials in forty-eight New York newspapers immediately pointed this out. Although constitutionally he is eligible as long as he is a resident of the state at the time of the election, many have questioned his knowledge of New York state problems. Other opposition has come from the city's reform Democrats and Liberal party officials who have been irritated by his strong support of embattled Congressman Charles Buckley.
Despite this opposition, the nomination is Kennedy's for the asking. Even those unhappy about the prospect face the inevitable problem of an alternative, Should Kennedy be the nominee, it would be a sad commentary on the state of New York's Democratic party that it can find no one from its ranks of sufficient reputation willing to run against Keating.