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Let Harold Ford run

It's times like these I wish I were back slurping eggs for breakfast at the Regency in Manhattan. I'm sure the home of the power breakfast was abuzz this morning over Harold Ford's op-ed on page 5 of the New York Post. "It's true," the former Democratic representative from Tennessee wrote, "I am strongly considering running for the United States Senate." The swirl of speculation has gone on for more than a week. But what started as a tease has turned into a full come-on. And I hope he follows through.

This is not an endorsement of the man who lost his run for the Senate from his native Tennessee in 2006. But just as today's editorial pushes D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray to run against Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, I would like to see Ford get into the race to give New York State primary voters a choice in who represents them in Washington. As Ford says, "New Yorkers deserve a free election."

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand represented New York's 20th congressional district before Gov. David Paterson tapped her last year to succeed Hillary Clinton when the latter became Secretary of State. Gillibrand's selection was an ugly spectacle that highlighted the problem with replacing senators by gubernatorial appointment.

Ford faces a lot of hurdles on the path to snatching the seat from Gillibrand. The least of his worries is the carpetbagger complaint. New York is the state that sent a Clinton and a Kennedy (Robert F.) to Washington. Ford has to contend with critics who have pointed to his past stances on and present-day buffing of his record on a woman's right to choose and same-sex marriage. And some question whether he has the intellectual chops to follow in the footsteps of Clinton and the giant she replaced in the senate: Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Chris Cilizza highlights some other problems for Ford today in The Fix.

But Gillibrand also has hurdles. She's little known in the state, which, she acknowledged to Elizabeth Benjamin of the New York Daily News, is an issue. She also has switched positions on key issues since her Senate selection. What's not a problem for Gillibrand is fund raising. She has raised $7.1 million over the past year and has $5 million on hand. The goal is to scare off potential opponents.

Combine a money lead with the political muscle of the White House and the state's senior senator, Chuck Schumer, to bump challengers out of the way, and Gillibrand should still win this November. But her hold on the seat is not assured. Ford wouldn't be commanding such attention now or have a campaign tested team behind him now if there weren't considerable discontent with Gillibrand. This is a battle that ballots, not bosses, should decide.

By Jonathan Capehart  | January 12, 2010; 2:56 PM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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nothing stopping him from running..i certainly couldn't support him because of his homophobia...he seems like barack junior to me..i am surprised barack isn't backing him...i think its more of Raul's doings..

Posted by: rmcgolden | January 12, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

The intellectual chops of Hillary "that is not helpful" (her assessment of every negative world event) Clinton? Harold Ford has plenty of chops. He may not be possess the brilliance of Charles Schummer's lapdog, Gillibrand, but who does?

Posted by: hz9604 | January 12, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Sure he can run. He's rich, he can afford to. It's the only qualification needed to run for Senate anymore.

Posted by: chip6 | January 12, 2010 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Great choice, Mr. Capehart, a carpetbagging homophobe vs. a gun-toting homophobe, and both of them dynastic politicians!

Why can't one of New York's really outstanding Congresspeople run for Senate? Someone like Carolyn McCarthy or Carolyn Maloney, someone who has slogged through the trenches for years, decades even, on behalf of her State?

Oh, I forgot. Chuck Schumer and the White House already strong-armed them into dropping out.

Posted by: Itzajob | January 12, 2010 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Of all the qualified politicians and business leaders in the state of New York,I`m amazed that Ford would actually be considered.The Democrats in NY must run their turf like a fiefdom.

Posted by: bowspray | January 12, 2010 5:25 PM | Report abuse

I think he should run, and he's definately a shoe-in...after all he's "light-skinned" and has "no Negro dialect" unless he chooses to, LOL...

Just kidding, I'm always impressed with Harold Ford's opinions. He's definately got what it takes to be a legislator. One thing though; what is it with New York that folks come from all over the Country with no shame to run for office in that city? Is it me, or does this seem to hold true primarily for elected officials or hopefuls in the great State of N.Y. primarily?

Posted by: Beingsensible | January 12, 2010 6:12 PM | Report abuse

Politicians like Harold Ford and Mitt Romney have no convictions and shamelessly and radically change their positions on issues. Three years ago, Ford ran as a Christian Conservative in Tennessee. Now he's trying to position himself as a liberal to appeal to New York Democrats. How pathetic. Does Ford really think he can bamboozle that many New Yorkers?

Is Ford saying that he has always been a liberal and that he was trying to fool the voters of Tennessee? Or should the liberals of New York see him as a wolf in sheep's clothing? The thought of this ultra-slick politician becoming a U.S. Senator makes me queasy.

Sure, let him run. But, as a proudly liberal New York Democrat, I'll do everything I can to prevent Ford from becoming our nominee.

Posted by: fugitivenyc | January 12, 2010 7:07 PM | Report abuse

Harold Ford, Jr. ain't no Barack Obama. Harold Ford is 100% n1gger, and I'm sorry it's now illegal to lynch his opportunist money grabbing black @ss. And this is coming from a black man.

Posted by: playa_brotha | January 12, 2010 7:31 PM | Report abuse

A free and competitive election is not the Chicago way. You haven't learned this yet?

Posted by: Tupac_Goldstein | January 12, 2010 8:26 PM | Report abuse

Yeh, let Harold Ford run. According to Harry Reid, he's the right shade of black to get elected.

Posted by: bbwk80a1 | January 12, 2010 8:32 PM | Report abuse

Capehart, you lost me at "slurping eggs".

You're gross and Harold Ford is a loser.

Posted by: twotimetuna | January 12, 2010 9:07 PM | Report abuse

Harold Ford? No thanks. What, couldn't he get elected in any of the other places he lives? He is a good republican, after all.

Posted by: cfeher | January 12, 2010 9:28 PM | Report abuse

The team has already been formed. The players are all in place. Those with the will to go all the way in rebuilding this country into a Socialist America have already signed on. Gillibrand will vote any way Schumer tells her too. Ford has a mind of his own. There's no place on President Obama's team for independent thinkers. If Ford went on a tour of Europe apologizing for this country. Finds everything wrong with this country and hates the profits of the businesses, banks, Wall Street, and sees the only way to create jobs is with a Socialist society, then the Democrats will find favor with him. Until Ford comes out and says how much he hates capitalism and blames Bush for everything from A-Z, then he won't get any support from the Democrats. Ford has to go totally far left if he wants any type of a career in politics under this Democrat party.

Posted by: houstonian | January 12, 2010 11:49 PM | Report abuse

Good luck, New York! He couldn't beat what had to be the weakest Republican Senatorial Candidate in history in his home state so now he's going to try from NY! Fantastic news since he'd likely result in an addtional Republican in the Senate. The Ford family legacy of corruption in Memphis makes Tammany Hall and Boss Tweed seem like a bunch of Choirboys. Keep up the good work New York, you make the rest of the country glad we don't live there!

Posted by: rcoveringdem | January 13, 2010 8:49 AM | Report abuse

Nothing against Ford personally, but it's against the spirit and probably the law (if anyone cared about that) to let the upper class political elites "shop around" for a state. It was illegal when Cheney pretended to not be a Texan, it was wrong when Clinton pretended to be a New Yorker and it will be equally wrong--and one more slap in the voters' faces--if the failed Ford from Tennessee is repackaged as a New Yorker to supposedly represent them. It's not like the Empire State lacks for qualified candidates for pete's sake!

Posted by: SageThrasher | January 13, 2010 9:07 AM | Report abuse

Capehart writes that " . . . some question whether [Ford] has the intellectual chops to follow in the footsteps of Clinton and the giant she replaced in the senate: Daniel Patrick Moynihan." These are admittedly high hurdles. My personal belief (based mainly on lots of TV talking head appearances) is that Congressman Ford is preternaturally intelligent and charismatic, as Clinton is and Moynihan was. But it's true that he hasn't Clinton's knowledge or experience; nor is he an academic intellectual as DPM was, a rarity in politics.

I agree in almost every particular with Capehart. I earnestly hope Ford will make the race, even though he is highly likely to fail in this New York bid -- mainly because of his transparently opportunistic reversal on abortion and gay marriage. Of course, if opportunism in a politician were by itself disqualifying, the House, Senate, and White House would remain perennially empty. But this will be too much for New Yorkers.

Nonetheless, it is a FABULOUS political story, with a cast of titanic characters.
One of many fascinating aspects of the story is the "Harry Reid" factor. I don't refer to Ford's assertion that he won't let the majority push him around. I refer to the fact that Ford is a highly intelligent, articulate, oratorically gifted light-skinned
African American [Negro: gasp!] who doesn't use street "dialect" unless he wants to.

Hang in, Harold! Seriously.

Posted by: miglefitz | January 13, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

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