The NY Post's Albany czar Fred Dicker adds an obvious, but important element to reports over the weekend that Steve Israel took Gov. David Paterson on his surprise Codel to Iraq.
Apparently -- gasp -- the pair whiled away their marathon trek with talk about the Senate seat.
"The governor will be talking to Steve about his interest in the Senate, and you could say this gives Steve Israel a leg up on Caroline," said a source close to Paterson.
Dicker's intel has been especially good lately, although the "leg up" deal is not consistent with what we've been hearing -- or what Israel himself has been telling friends.
Then again, Paterson insiders have continue to push back on the notion that anyone, even Caroline, is a frontrunner. And the governor, known for a sly sense of humor, is developing a wicked habit of toying with reporters' breathless speculations.
The Long Island rep, known as one of the best fundraisers in the New York delegation and a canny operative, has played it cool up to this point, content to be mentioned among the top four candidates, along with Kennedy, AG Andrew Cuomo and Upstate Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand.
Even if Israel doesn't whisper a word about the seat to Paterson, the invite was clever: Paterson's most glaring re-election weakness is Upstate -- and he will almost certainly meet with soldiers from that region, perhaps even the Army’s 10th Mountain Division, whose operations base is Fort Drum.
Queens Rep. Anthony Weiner, who may run against Michael Bloomberg next year, is also headed to the combat zone.