I don’t know what to say, except that I never really thought it would happen. Surely someone or something would intervene — a power play by Andrew Cuomo, maybe, or a crescendo of popular sentiment against an obviously unqualified pick — to blast through the nexus of money, influence, and backscratching that’s pushed this dial tone to the brink. As cynical as we all are about politics, we’re not so cynical that we seriously believe the governor of New York’s going to appoint Caroline Kennedy to the Senate.

But I guess we should be.

Despite claims that he’s still undecided, Gov. Paterson is “certain” to pick Caroline Kennedy to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton in the US Senate, several unhappy contenders for the job have told friends and associates in recent days.

The contenders based their conclusion on the view that Paterson, after nearly two months of indecision, would “greatly embarrass” and “entirely humiliate” Kennedy, anger her prominent political family and even offend President-elect Barack Obama by picking someone other than President John F. Kennedy’s daughter…

A third potential candidate claimed that Paterson’s repeated contention – told to the media in private – that there is no front-runner is “baloney.”

“It’s been a done deal from the start,” said the would-be candidate.

This was the PR strategy all along, of course: Turn Caroline into the presumptive appointee through sheer buzz so that Paterson’s forced to pick her lest he insult the Kennedys and break the heart of a princess who’s had her heart broken so many times before. In return, he gets re-election help from their cronies and those of Mike Bloomberg (one of whom’s already done yeoman’s work on her behalf), not to mention the gratitude of a certain risen Christ turned president who wants a cipher in the Senate who’ll reliably vote how he asks her to:

Gov. Paterson is in Barack Obama’s town – but still giving no hint whether he’ll tap the President-elect’s preferred pick for the Senate, Caroline Kennedy.

“We can’t follow the logic in his process,” an Obama administration source said Sunday.

“We want Caroline. We won’t indicate disappointment with where he ends up.”

I wonder if I start saving now how much I’ll be able to donate to Paterson’s primary opponent next year. I’m going to shoot for $1,000 — and given how many qualified Democrats will be holding grudges over being snubbed for Princess, there should be no shortage of challengers. Exit question: Now that JFK’s daughter will be in the Senate and available for regular photo ops with The One, should we expect Kennedy to join Lincoln as presidents whose flame Obama is the chosen keeper of?