Harold Ford Considering Another Senate Bid… In New York

Wow, talk about a newsworthy day. Cherry, Dorgan, Ritter, Dodd, the agreement not to have a health care conference committee, and now this oddball story from the New York Times: “Harold Ford Jr., the former congressman from Tennessee, is weighing a bid to unseat Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand in this fall’s Democratic primary, according to three people who have spoken with him.“ Fundraiser Steve Rattner says he would support Ford, who moved to New York three years ago, and Indepublican Mayor Michael Bloomberg hinted that he’s open to it as well.

Charles Schumer has been, as the Times puts it, “aggressively elbowing out potential primary challengers to Ms. Gillibrand,” but I doubt that will stop Ford. Remember, this is the guy who challenged Minority Whip Nancy Pelosi for the position of Minority Leader. He doesn’t seem to pay much attention to threats from above. My guess is if he thinks he can raise the money, he’ll run.

Still, I think it’s bizarre and, as much frustration as many progressives may have with Gillibrand, I doubt Ford would beat her. For one, yes, New York may have elected “carpetbaggers” Hillary Clinton and Robert Kennedy, but neither of them had ever held office in another state before. This reminds me more of former New Hampshire Senator Bob Smith, who is again running for the Senate, but from… Florida, where he now sells real estate. Despite his past credentials, he can’t even get pollsters to take him seriously enough to include his name in their questionnaires. Ford wouldn’t be quite that much of a joke, but his blatant opportunism could make past carpet-baggers’ ambitions look downright down-home. He also has quite the lengthy verbal track record to defend as an MSNBC commentator – lots of potential oppo research there. Throw that in with his status as vice chairman of Merrill Lynch (I wonder if he got a bonus in '08 or '09?), and the man’s got far more than a simple carpetbag for new baggage. I look forward to seeing a Gillibrand-Ford poll, but for now I think the best three words to describe this potential development are “bizarre,” “quixotic,” and “silly.”

Tags: NY-SEN, harold ford (all tags)



On Ford

That might be your first thoughts, but I don't think its takes in the full picture of him.

First, he's young, so getting out there raises his name id. He'd have to lose a number of statewide races in a row to be considered a write-off. At the worst, this raises his name rec for a future race-- as does his getting talked about (which may be the only goal here).

If he does run, I expect a different sort of Ford; one a bit more liberated, not representing conservative TN voter values, but more progressive. If you've ever seen Ford speak in person, you know he's good.

I thought he ran a terrific race in 2006. His pollster also did Webb in '06, and he'll tell you that in the numbers, he ran as good as Webb, but lost because of what?  I'll tell you- because he was running for statewide federal in TN, and he is black. Name me another black person from the southern part of the US that has won a Senate seat recently.

Compared to Obama, who lost by 15% to McCain in TN in '08, Ford, losing by just 2-3% in '06, ran a pretty good race.

He'll have to ditch the southern accent though, in NY.

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-01-06 06:53AM | 0 recs
RE: On Ford
Harold Ford Jr., while in congress, voted for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. He also supported the referendum to ban gay marriage in Tennessee. All this after having assured gay leaders in 04 that he would not. He deserves no support from the LGBT community, nor from their progressive allies. Gillibrand, on the other hand, has been one of our community's greatest advocates in the senate. It will be interesting to see who our true allies our in this race.
by gaylib 2010-01-06 07:34AM | 0 recs
RE: On Ford

He's pretty awful, and not just because of his record while in office,  Every time he plays pundit, he's advocating DLC, Rahm strategies and "ideas".  No thank you.

by mikeinsf 2010-01-06 11:13AM | 1 recs
RE: On Ford
Ugh. Talk about missing the mark with this comment. I'm one of those downstate NYers who's firmly NOT on board with Gillibrand because of her crappy center-right record when she was in the House repping a very center-right upstate NY district. You wanna know how to put downstaters like me squarely behind Gillibrand? Run Harold Ford. Like I, or most anybody else, give a rat's ass about a "liberated" or any thing else Harold Ford: He's got more baggage than she does! And like downstate Dems give a rats ass about what the Democratic private equity investment community and/or my filthy rich/very unpopular mayor wants.
by JohnS 2010-01-06 12:33PM | 2 recs
RE: On Ford

I certainly agree that one high-profile loss does not a candidate in, but when it's a very recent loss from an entirely different state? And if he is "different," mightn't it seem a tad Mitt Romney-ish?

Ford did run a good race but he's picked up a lot more baggage since then. If he wants to switch states and become a different politician, he'll need more than three years.

by Nathan Empsall 2010-01-06 01:01PM | 0 recs
RE: Harold Ford Considering Another Senate Bid… In New York

I will vigorously support Ford as he ran as more conservative Democrat to win TN and it didn't get him no where in that ran. Now, he is more towards the middle where the country is and will do well enough to give Gillibrand a run for her money in the Senate race.

by olawakandi 2010-01-06 09:35AM | 0 recs
RE: RE: Harold Ford Considering Another Senate Bid… In New York

He may be more where the middle of the country is but fortunately NY isn't in the middle of the country. And I don't think you're a NYer.

by JohnS 2010-01-06 12:35PM | 1 recs
RE: RE: Harold Ford Considering Another Senate Bid… In New York

Didn't get him no where? Does that he mean won?

But grammar and bad writing aside, if he ran to the right when that was politically best and to the center/left when that was more promising, how the heck do you know where he actually stands or how he'll govern?

by Nathan Empsall 2010-01-06 12:52PM | 0 recs
The Democrats become more and more absurd each day

It is not so much that Ford is bad (he is) but that you think he has a snow balls chance of winning NY (he doesn't).

by bruh3 2010-01-06 09:55AM | 1 recs
RE: Harold Ford Considering Another Senate Bid… In New York

I would love to see Ford flame out badly here. I just read up on Gillibrand and despite her past with the Blue Dogs, she seems like a pretty decent senator. I don't care if her personal ideology is less liberal than the average democrat. Her actions seem more progressive than the average Democratic senator.

Ford on the other hand, just rubs me the wrong way. He seems so spineless and slimy.

by Pravin 2010-01-06 10:53AM | 1 recs
RE: RE: Harold Ford Considering Another Senate Bid… In New York

A lot of us don't want a second fiddle to Schumer. There were other more palatable alternatives to Gillibrand, but Obama and Schumer camps made them go away. This Ford may suggest some Obama weakness, but Schumer is not one to mess with. This is very weird and comes out of nowhere. 

by JohnS 2010-01-06 12:41PM | 0 recs
Have You Driven A Ford, Lately?

A few thoughts, since I live here, and have followed NY politics pretty much since going off to college:

  • Your list of carpetbaggers forgets William Weld, who toyed with running for GOP offices (Senator and Governor as I recall) before giving up on the idea. That's probably the best comparison to Ford, and a good indication that he looks good on paper, but less so in practice.
  • Ford, I'm guessing, is betting on lax support in minority communities for Gillibrand; that's not wrong, but Ford can't build a victory out of it alone. Unless he figures out how to thread the needle between minorities and progressive and moderate whites, she's got a good chance to carry the suburbs around NYC while he carries the Bronx, Brooklyn, and a good bit of Queens. Whether he could win Manhattan is an open question. That's not a win for him.
  • That gay marriage stuff someone else mentioned will do him in with gay folks, unless he's seriously changed his mind... and then he's got other problems. And does anyone know where he stands on transgender issues?
  • People outside New York tend not to understand the statewide dynamic: there's a division between upstate and downstate (NYC) that complicates everything, and statewide winners have to figure out how to make the equation work for them. One reason Gillibrand was picked is that she's from the Albany area, and seemed (and still seems) able to carry upstate districts. Upstate, really, looks more like Tennessee, and Ford might have potential there... but not if he presents himself as someone with the kind of NYC-centric focus he'll need to appeal to minorities in the city. In which case, to win the primary Gillibrand needs a solid showing upstate, carrying NY suburbs, and staying relatively even in the city. She can do that, I suspect. I don't think Ford can do the reverse: carry NYC strongly, make some real headway in carrying the cuburbs, and hold her close in upstate. Unless he can show some skill in that regard, I think his run will look quixotic at best.
  • And then, after you add all that... remember he comes in as a carpetbagger from a conservative, very southern state. Hard to see how that will play well to the most northern of northerners.
  • And finally... this is just about the primaries - a race between Ford and Rick Lazio in the general... may be easier to see him winning, but I'm not sure , between him and Gillibrand, that the Lazio folks wouldn't enjoy the chance to take him on.
by nycweboy1 2010-01-06 11:09AM | 0 recs
RE: Have You Driven A Ford, Lately?

Still kicking myself for not buying Ford stock when it was like $2 a share.  I tell you my next car is a Fusion Hybrid.

by the mollusk 2010-01-06 12:03PM | 0 recs
RE: RE: Have You Driven A Ford, Lately?

I bought a few shares at $2, but sold them at $4 because I feared a market-wide correction. Oops.

by Nathan Empsall 2010-01-06 12:57PM | 0 recs
RE: Have You Driven A Ford, Lately?

My dad is from upstate and most of his family still lives there. He about hit the roof when I told him about Ford. He's even more adamant that they need one from upstate and one from the city than he is about carpetbaggers.

You're right, I did forget about Weld.

by Nathan Empsall 2010-01-06 12:55PM | 0 recs
RE: Have You Driven A Ford, Lately?

I used to live in Westchester for about a dozen years.  The real divide is NYC, the suburbs and Upstate.  IIRC, 53% of NY Democrats live in NYC.  A good part of the rest live in Suffolk, Nassau, Westchester, and Putnam.  The "power" of upstate outside the state senate is way overrated.  Metro NY burbs are bad for Ford or his ilk except for some black areas.  from what I've seen the Albany area would not be a good fit either.  That leaves what?  Buffalo?  Rochester?  Nowhere near the votes.


One other carpetbagger attempt was former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey who dabbled with the idea of a run and abandoned it.  Kerry and Weld were paper candidates.  Ford is the same.  Ford and Patterson will basically run identity politics campaigns.  I hope they both lose very badly so we can bury that practice in a hurry.  Patterson seems like a terrible governor whose only skill is to threaten to run a campaign calling any opponent a racist.  Opposing a black candidate in a primary without using anti-black statements is not racist.  Patterson, otoh, is running a blatantly racist campaign and deserves to lose badly as he also sucks as a governor (I live in Jersey now so I get to see his circus).



by David Kowalski 2010-01-06 01:01PM | 0 recs
RE: RE: Have You Driven A Ford, Lately?

The only thing that makes sense to this NYCer: Corporate Dems are floating this to shore up lagging support downstate for their girl, Kirsten. 


Paterson is toast. All that remains to be done is explain that to Charlie Rangel.

by JohnS 2010-01-06 01:16PM | 0 recs
RE: RE: Have You Driven A Ford, Lately?

David - all true, which is why downstate dems can dominate statewide races... as long as they can win the city and the suburbs. That's where I think Ford is problematic. Gillibrand, though, is more like Clinton in that she can win some upstate counties, offsetting a weaker showing in the city. The other worry is that at some point an opposition - Republican or otherwise - will figure out how to appeal more directly to upstate voters (Nathan's point about upstate anger is something I know and agree with), make some headway in the suburbs, and knit a coalition of working class city residents. That's a partial lesson of the Scozzafava mess I think, and while I think the state Republicans are nowhere now (Rick Lazio? Seriously?), democrats are very vulnerable... especially while Albany remains as bad as it is now... something, btw Andrew Cuomo will not fix.

I agree Paterson has got to go, and probably will... but I think we're a long way from seeing "identity" politics die; it's just that Paterson's so bad he can't use identity to trump a less than mediocre performance. No one, I think, should kid themselves that Ford couldn't be formidable as a black community power broker. If he ran, lost, but showed real strength bringing black and hispanic voters together behind him... he'd be hard to ignore down the road. Rangel, I think, is not going to be the driver of this story for much longer, and is probably already waning... but the vacuum has to be filled. Ford's not the worst answer for filling it. Gillibrand, it seems clear, never will. And I think a number of people here, and in New York, have been pointing out for a while: we wouldn't be here, with Ford providing even a chance at an alternative, if Gillibrand really excited the party faithful. She doesn't. She can win, and probably will, because Schumer cleared the field and the GOP has no real alternative to offer. But she's not strong. And I'm at a loss to see her getting better.

by nycweboy1 2010-01-06 02:14PM | 0 recs

Since Gillibrand is having troubles securing the liberal vote, they bring in a southerner who does nothing all day but bash liberals?  Yeah, that will work....

The whole point is that Wall Street is unhappy that Democrats are even bringing in a modicum of accountability to Wall Street, and they don't like it, so they are importing one of their own guys.

Good luck.  The one thing Harold Ford knows how to do well is lose.  A primary challenge by him will certainly help Gillibrand secure that liberal base she's been struggling with. 

by LordMike 2010-01-06 11:30AM | 0 recs
I think this is a feature rather than a bug:

"  A primary challenge by him will certainly help Gillibrand secure that liberal base she's been struggling with"


How do you make an unacceptable choice for liberals more acceptable? by turnign them into the lesser of two evils. 

by bruh3 2010-01-06 11:33AM | 0 recs
RE: I think this is a feature rather than a bug:

Whoops, missed your post. Nail on the head, bruh3.

by JohnS 2010-01-06 12:50PM | 0 recs
RE: So...

The only thing that makes sense to me is that corporate Dems decided to shore up lagging downstate support for their pal Kirsten G by introducing the most vile Democratic creature available into the equation. 

by JohnS 2010-01-06 12:48PM | 0 recs
Gillibrand doesn't have an issue with liberals

she has an issue with the city, and the powers that be there that feel it is unacceptable for an Upstater to hold such a powerful seat.



by ND22 2010-01-06 07:40PM | 0 recs
Remember when....

the 2006 vintage Harold Ford of TN was, by all serious estimation by very serious people in very serious suits the future of the Democratic Party?  That was as far left as anyone serious person could possibly get and get elected.  Think about that for a minute. 

Two years later we elected a Northern, urban, liberal, black man to President.  Four leprosies of American politics rolled into one person.


by the mollusk 2010-01-06 12:09PM | 0 recs
RE: Remember when....

Actually, Obama's being from the midwest is probably what helped him the most.

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-01-06 01:29PM | 0 recs

but I remember when he was the future of the Democratic Party and was as far left as any serious person could possibly get and get elected IN TENNESSEE



by ND22 2010-01-06 07:41PM | 0 recs
Ford is not Main Street

if Ford runs, he will have no problem raising money, Wall Street likes him and  is encouraging him, which means there is no  money problem.

he will run a little more moderately than when in Tenn, but only because Wall Street is more lifestyle tolerant than Tenn. but he will still be to the right of the Clintons, which is far enough to the right already for me.

by joe in oklahoma 2010-01-06 01:30PM | 0 recs
Adding to the carpetbagger list...

...Bill Brock, one term U.S. Senator from Tennessee, ran for U.S. Senate from Maryland in 1994.  Paul Sarbanes crushed him.

by howie14 2010-01-06 01:50PM | 0 recs


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