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Ford Jr. weighs longshot bid for NY-Senate

Former Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford Jr. is weighing the possibility of challenging appointed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand later this year, a longshot candidacy for the one-time rising star in Democratic politics.

Ford, according to a report in the New York Times, is being encouraged to run by a group of New York City-based Democratic donors and will make up his mind in the next 45 days.

In conversations with leading Democratic strategists, there seems to be little belief that Ford will ultimately get into the race for several reasons.

* The White House has gone out of its way to shore up Gillibrand in a Democratic primary, talking Rep. Steve Israel out of his near-certain candidacy. It's hard to imagine that the White House wouldn't be equally aggressive in trying to keep Ford out.

* Ford has only lived in New York for three years. Yes, we know there is a history of carpet-bagging in the Empire State -- see Clinton, Hillary Rodham -- but Ford's political background is in a state with very different political demographics than New York.

* Gillibrand's weakness in a primary is a challenge from her ideological left, given her past votes on immigration and gun control when she represented the conservative-tilting 20th district in Upstate New York. Ford, the current chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, is not the candidate to run that sort of campaign. During his run for Senate in 2006 -- a race he narrowly lost to Sen. Bob Corker -- Ford positioned himself right in the center of the Democratic party, taking conservative stances on guns and abortion among other issues. Already the New York branch of the NARAL Pro-Choice America has issued a statement highlighting his past stance on abortion and promising to challenge him aggressively if he tried to run.

The simple fact -- and people who follow politics closely have long known this -- is that Ford is one of the most talented politicians in the Democratic party but he was simply born and raised in the wrong state for such a figure to thrive.

Ford ran as good a campaign as can be run in Tennessee in 2006 in a very good year nationally for Democrats and still couldn't get over the top. Ford's decision not to run for the open governor's seat this November was taken by an indication that he had realized that statewide office was simply not in the cards for him in the Volunteer State.

Could Ford re-emerge as a potent political force down the line in New York? Absolutely -- there have been far less talented politicians who have made more surprising transformations. But, this cycle isn't the one where that re-emergence happens.

By Chris Cillizza  |  January 6, 2010; 3:00 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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What's so talented about Ford, that we should replace the genuinely talented Gillibrand with him?

Did you watch his NARAL tape, and do you think it's acceptable for him to now say he was ALWAYS pro-choice?

The problem with Ford isn't carpet-bagging, although to mention him in the same breath as RFK and Hillary Clinton is a nonsense. The problem is that he's the Wall Street candidate, and apparently is totally indifferent to being truthful about where he stands on issues that are important to New Yorkers.

Posted by: prettierthanyou | January 12, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Clearly, New York would benefit from having Rep. Ford Jr represent it in the congress. He has a much higher profile - hence, influence - than the appointed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. And, I would be less-concerned about his decisions - on issues that are important to the Democratic Agenda - than I would be with Gillibrand. I wouldn't be surprised if she were considering switching political parties.

Posted by: koatz1 | January 7, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Gillibrand is such a non-entity to me.
As a New Yorker one of the privileges has been to be proud of the caliber of the representatives whom we have in Washington, DC.- - whether we agree with them in detail, or not. To me, Ford fits that bill.

Posted by: frankemerritt | January 7, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

I lived in Memphis during the long Ford tenure, 1st Ford Sr. and then Jr. Dad at least understood patronage and being responsive to the voters. Jr. is a totally ineffectual pretty face, he needs to get a real job. Theoretically anyhow, in a democracy, I don't believe political seats are supposed to be inherited. Of course, one just has to look around and see how many are actually passed on and wonder if we are still a democracy.

Posted by: judithjohnson73 | January 7, 2010 8:54 AM | Report abuse

if the supposed complaint against Kristen is that she is too moderate- why would anyone vote for this guy who is if anything more conservative/moderate than she is? I will venture a guess- it has to do with his y-chromosome. It is unacceptable to have women in power to some people, even if they are more qualified. You can only move ahead if your name is Kennedy and you are otherwise unqualified except for having backed the man in the Democratic presidential race. I do realize that this was Clinton's seat- the first and only time that NY state had elected a women senator- but she is the exception more than the rule.

Posted by: NYClefty | January 6, 2010 10:28 PM | Report abuse





(Good people on the inside: PLEASE FORWARD TO JOHN BRENNAN / DENNIS BLAIR, c/o White House. They need to see this one...)

See "Reporting" section, OR, comments section, "U.S. Silently," "Witness Says..."

Posted by: scrivener50 | January 6, 2010 9:14 PM | Report abuse

If he's smart (and he is), he'll run as an independent and ride the anti-Oboobma tsunami.

Posted by: thebump | January 6, 2010 6:38 PM | Report abuse

No one running to the right of Gillibrand has a chance, period.

Posted by: drindl | January 6, 2010 5:31 PM | Report abuse

Did Hillary, before her "Listening" Tour?

Posted by: JakeD | January 6, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Does Ford realize that New York is more than just Manhattan ??

Has Ford ever even been upstate?

Does he know where the Finger Lakes are ?


Posted by: 37thand0street | January 6, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

"It seemed to be Guiliani's for the taking, and he bowed out."

Um, no it wasn't.

I'm no fan of Gillibrand, but there isn't a Republican in New York who could beat her. The only action would have been in the Democratic primary.

I'm still not happy that the Obama Administration got involved in this one as there were quite a few Democrats who could have beaten Gillibrand, but Harold Ford isn't one of them.

Posted by: Bondosan | January 6, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Gillibrand's record might have been a bit spotty from her days as a Congressman, but I don't see that liberals would have too much reason to complain about her Senate record. She's been one of the most progressive Senators during her short tenure.

Posted by: DDAWD | January 6, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

In our mobile culture, no one should worry too much about the carpetbagger label, especially after three years have elapsed, if the person did not move to a district for the clear purpose of exploiting a power vacum. And even though that is exactly what the Clintons did, she still won.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 6, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse


From Stephanopoulos' interview with King today:
"Republican Congressman Pete King today hinted today that he may not seek the New York Senate seat currently being held by a Democrat, Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand.

King told me on “Good Morning America” that he is “leaning against” it, but will decide in the next week.

What makes King so hesitant to go for the powerful Senate seat?

The GOP leader is confident that Republicans will regain control of the House this year, which would make him the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. King is currently the ranking Republican member on that committee but before Democrats gained the majority in 2006, he served as its chairman."

Posted by: mnteng | January 6, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse

This senate seat is really up in the air, but noone seems to want it. It seemed to be Guiliani's for the taking, and he bowed out. Pataki was mulling a run, but that now looks less & less likely to occur. US Rep. Peter King may well take the plunge and run. He'd have a shot to win, running to the right of Gillibrand on national security & defecit spending while running to her left on social issues such as gun control. It would be an interesting race.

Posted by: reason5 | January 6, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

The Dems obviously would prefer not to have an election fight, but Ford would probably be a stronger candidate than Gillibrand.

Posted by: parkerfl1 | January 6, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Ford would likely have to get the blessing of Schumer as well as the WH, not to mention getting all those Wall Street fatcats to pony up for his campaign coffers.

Among the "other issues" is Ford's opposition to gay marriage, which probably won't play well in a NY D primary (don't know Gillibrand's stance). If he's serious about statewide office, he'd do better to move to a more purple state. Then again, Gillibrand's "favorable" numbers are in the 30s, so a Ford challenge could be viewed as trading one Blue Dog for another.

Posted by: mnteng | January 6, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Sen. Robert Kennedy (D-NY) as well.

Posted by: JakeD | January 6, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse

"Yes, we know there is a history of carpet-bagging in the Empire State"

that was going to be my angle.


Posted by: bsimon1 | January 6, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

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