Tenn.: Harold Ford Jr. Changes Horses
Democratic Rep. Harold Ford Jr., who is running for Tennessee's open Senate seat, has jettisoned his original consultants and brought in a new team of political pros as the campaign heads into the election year.
Ford parted way with pollster Harrison Hickman of the Global Strategy Group and media consultant Marius Penczner of Penn Schoen Berland and Associates. Hickman did a poll for Ford as recently mid-October showing the five-term congressman with a huge primary lead over state Sen. Rosalind Kurita, and narrower edges over his three potential Republican rivals -- former Reps. Van Hilleary and Ed Bryant as well as former Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker.
To replace Hickman and Penczner, Ford has brought on Pete Brodnitz of the Benenson Strategy Group to handle the campaign's survey research and Jim Margolis of GMMB as his lead media consultant.
Brodnitz is one of the hottest pollsters on the Democratic side, having guided Virginia Gov.-elect Tim Kaine to victory last month. As (further) evidence of the incredibly incestuous nature of the consulting world, Brodnitz used to work for Penn Schoen.
Margolis, too, is a rising star. He was a key adviser (for a time) to the presidential bid of Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and has been in on recent strategy sessions with Senate Democrats as well as 2008 aspirant Mark Warner -- the outgoing governor of Virginia.
A consultant shake-up is rarely a good thing in the short-term for a campaign as it presents an image of chaos to the D.C political/campaign donor community. But Ford insiders insist that having made the change now ensures he will have a unified team heading into 2006 and that the personnel changes have had little effect on his fundraising.
As first reported today at my alma mater -- Roll Call, Ford held a fundraising event with former President Bill Clinton on Monday night in New York City that netted $300,000 for his Senate campaign. Ford had $1.75 million in the bank at the end of September, and his allies insist the past three months have been extremely positive on the fundraising front.
Given the statewide political dynamics of Tennessee, Ford faces an uphill fight regardless of whom Republicans eventually nominate. President Bush won the state in 2004 by 14 points, and the Volunteer State hasn't been represented by a Democrat in the Senate since 1994 when Sens. Harlan Matthews (D) and Jim Sasser (D) held the two seats.
Ford's campaign did not return several requests for comment.
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