by Morgan Pehme
Kirsten Gillibrand is currently enjoying a career trajectory comparable to only a select few American politicians in recent memory—the most notable of whom occupies a certain Oval Office she’s already being discussed as a viable contender for in 2016.
Just a few years ago, such rumblings would have been unthinkable. When Gov. David Paterson plucked Gillibrand out of relative obscurity to fill the enormous shoes of Hillary Clinton, she had served a mere two years in Congress—and had never even run for office prior to getting elected to the House.
Two and a half years later, Gillibrand, 45, has a 60 percent approval rating statewide and is well on her way to carving out her own national profile, with a headline-grabbing record of legislative achievement over her brief time in office, including the 9/11 health bill and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” She has stood out as one of the nation’s most ardent advocates for women in politics and built a network of admirers as one of the Democratic Party’s most formidable fundraisers. Tina Brown has hailed her as “a total winner,” Jon Stewart has gushed over her on The Daily Show, Vogue has extolled her glamour in a tasteful spread, and no less a feminist icon than Gloria Steinem has said of Gillibrand, “Like Bella Abzug and Shirley Chisholm before her, she doesn’t just hold her finger to the wind, she is
The response to Gillibrand was not always so effusive. When Paterson initially selected her, the choice was generally panned, in part because of his bungling of Caroline Kennedy’s bid for the seat, and further fueled by the public grumblings of those who felt passed over for the post and the political powerhouses perturbed it was not their pick who had been anointed.
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