Below you will find the text of today’s CapTon morning memo. If you are not a subscriber, you might consider signing up…it’s very easy – just look for the gray button on the right-hand side of our SoP homepage.

Every morning, some time between 8:30 a.m. and 10 a.m., you’ll receive a synopsis of the CapTon show from the previous evening – complete with links to the interviews – as well as a sneak preview of what’s coming up on that night’s show, a link to our morning headline round-up “Here and Now”, and the essay of the day.

Sometimes I write it. Sometimes Nick Reisman does. It’s always worth a read. Here’s today’s offering…

Speculation that John Sampson is on his way out as leader of the Democratic conference started long before the current tussle over control of the chamber.

As far back as May, there were reports that the Democrats were unhappy with the Brooklyn lawmaker and attorney, who rose to power as a compromise candidate in the midst of the 2009 Senate coup. (At the time, Hiram Monserrate and Pedro Espada Jr. made it clear they would not return to the fold if Sen. Malcolm Smith remained in charge).

Many names have been floated as potential replacements for Sampson. Heck, it seems like half the conference is interested in the job at this point.

Almost six months ago, Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson made no secret of the fact that it had been “suggested” to her that she might make a good leader, though she insisted she had not instigated those discussions.

However, one of Hassell-Thompson’s own colleagues dismissed her chances – albeit anonymously – in an interview with the Daily News, saying: “Ruth is too old; she’s too opinionated and too aggressive. Other than that, she’s fine.”

That kind of talk illustrates perfectly just how divided and distrustful the Senate Democrats remain, and also why there’s so much concern about their ability to actually lead this time around if they manage to wrest control from the Republicans.

Sen. Kevin Parker, also of Brooklyn, has also reportedly expressed interest in leading the conference, despite his history of anger management issues.

Queens Sen. Mike Gianaris, who has headed the DSCC for the past two years and is now the Democrats’ public face after out-maneuvering the better-positioned and better-funded Republicans in this election cycle, is also a contender.

Ditto Sen. Jeff Klein, of the Bronx, head of the Independence Democratic Conference, who has never made a secret of his interest in the leadership post – not to mention his dislike of Gianaris and his disgust with Sampson. (More on this in a moment).

Since the election, I’ve heard Harlem Sen. Bill Perkins floated as possible leader material. In a rare moment of candor during an “Inside City Hall” interview on NY1, Sampson admitted he couldn’t count on Perkins’ support – even as he continued to insist his hold on the leadership is secure.

(Perkins has become unusually unreachable since Sampson made that statement, failing to return numerous phone calls and texts seeking comment).

Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins of Westchester County has been held out as a potential “compromise” leader candidate.

She has the benefit of keeping the position in the hands of the black senators, something on which they’ve put a premium since David Paterson broke the color barrier when he ousted then Minority Leader Marty Connor back in 2003.

She would also be the first woman leader of a legislative conference – no small accomplishment in the male-dominated world of New York politics.

But some Capitol observers question Stewart-Cousins’ leadership chops, and wonder whether she would merely be a front for a conference really run by white progressives like, say, Gianaris. And that, of course, is something Klein & Co. might find hard to accept – not to mention the Latinos and other black members.

Then there’s Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who just this fall sought to leave the conference altogether by running a failed primary challenge against veteran Harlem Rep. Charlie Rangel.

He also been suggested as a replacement for Samspon, and would be the first Latino to lead a legislative conference in Albany. But most people saw that as an effort by Assemblyman Keith Wright to get rid of his main rival for Rangel’s seat.

Amid all this upheaval and speculation, here’s a radical idea that has been overlooked: Keeping John Sampson right where he is – at least in the majority leader post in the event that the temporary president position needs to be given to someone else as a coalition-building bargaining chip.

After all, it was under Sampson’s leadership (granted, with a big assist from Gianaris) that the Democrats have come thisclose to taking back the majority.

And Sampson has the benefit of being a known entity to all the other leaders – including the man who is perhaps the most important piece of this whole equation, Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Before Thanksgiving, I wrote about the racial divisions in the Democratic conference and the difficulty any would-be leader faces in putting together a coalition to secure the post. If no one can manage to cobble together enough votes, it’s very possible that Sampson remains leader by default.

That’s a scenario of which Klein appears well aware, given the news that he met quietly over the weekend with Sampson to clear the air over what an IDC spokesman called the “personality differences that have cast a shadow over their relationship over the past two years.”

Klein was once Sampson’s deputy, and he split to form the IDC after Sampson replaced him with Gianaris as head of the DSCC.

A source familiar with Klein’s thinking had this assessment of the senator’s meeting with Sampson:

“Whomever Jeff decides to more fully support as part of a coalition government, he wants to maintain good relations with Sen. Sampson, who he still perceives to be the leader of the Senate Democratic conference.”

“Without that relationship, the whole idea of a coalition government would seem rather shallow.”

Of course, Klein met with Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos in the days following the Nov. 6 election.

Maybe Klein’s hedging his bets until the results of the paper ballot count in the 46th Senatorial District are final.

Or maybe he’s feeling the pressure from unions and other Democratic allies, who plan to rally today to call for a “progressive” and Democrat-controlled Senate.

Or maybe he’s just trying to drive Gianaris nuts.

Or maybe, just maybe, he’s got a plan, and knows something the rest of us don’t. Given the number of cards Klein is holding these days, that’s the option I’m going with…for now.