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Who Would Replace Hillary?

It's never too early to speculate, so...

About a year ago we were gaming possible successors for Hillary Rodham Clinton if she was elected president. Now it's time to spin the wheel again on the Secretary of State thing. (Any appointment would last only until a 2010 special election.)

The big difference now -- two key potential replacements are out: Gov. David Paterson -- who would choose Hillary's replacement if she's offered and accepts State -- and Charlie Rangel, who is lost in an ethics cloud.

Here's our improvised list of potential successors, with their pluses and minus, in no particular order:

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan, Brooklyn): Has the gravitas. Lacks the patron he had in ex-Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

Rep. Nita Lowey (D- Westchester): Stepped aside for HRC in 2000 and keeps seat in the hands of a woman. A decade older than Clinton.

Rep. Greg Meeks (D-Queens): Up-and-comer. But doesn't seem senatorial yet.

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo: Former HUD secretary has chilled out and moderated his nasty-man image -- and moving him out of the way would eliminate a potential challenger for Paterson. His old rep haunts him and nobody, except us, has really floated his name.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.:  Smart, a respected environmentalist and policy wonk, and the ultimate legacy pick. Has never sought public office and isn't an electrifying speaker.

Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi: Young, personable, attractive, great on the stump. Virtually unknown outside of the Island and wasn't on anyone's short list last time.

City Comptroller Bill Thompson: A formidable up-and-comer whose path to power is blocked by Mike Bloomberg's term-limits trick. Not clear if he's ready for prime time.

Rep. Anthony Weiner: Ditto.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown: A popular African-American from Dem from upstate who was rumored to be in the running last time. Utterly unknown outside the lake-effect snow zone.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney: A feminist whose views are in lockstep with Clinton's. Not perceived as a Congressional heavyweight.

Bill Clinton: Why not? Are you kidding?

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver: Would leave Paterson, whose greatest liability is his inexperience, as the most seasoned of the state's ruling triumvirate. Silver is probably more powerful now than he would be as senator -- and nobody's so much as whispered this scenario.

Let us know if we missed some prospects or flubbed.

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