Thursday, January 07, 2010

Things That Make You Go "Hmmmmm"

Senator Harold Ford, Jr...of New York???

His stature undoubtedly derives from his five consecutive terms as a United States representative and a bitterly contested campaign for the Senate, but Mr. Ford, 39, has introduced himself to New Yorkers as a self-assured, nattily dressed political insider on Fox, NBC and MSNBC.

Over the past two years, he become a regular on shows like "Morning Joe" and "Meet the Press," pontificating on everything from death panels to Barack Obama's popularity.

The appearances have given Mr. Ford's name a familiar ring but have revealed little about his politics, which will become the subject of intense scrutiny over the next few weeks as he decides whether to run against Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand this fall. He has given himself 45 days to sound out potential donors and party leaders about a campaign.

Attentive readers of Simply Left Behind now have an explanation to this bizarre encounter your editor had two years ago. Not in a million years would I have imagined that it was leading up to this possibility, but the fact that he met with Joe Trippi in a quiet little restaurant (albeit not in the corner) certainly intimates Ford's intention to re-enter political life.
I'm not sure how I feel about this. Ford, you may recall, had his hopes for Senate in Tennessee dashed in part by a race-baiting TV ad.So to a degree, his candidacy in a state less predisposed to listen to hate-mongering and more disposed to listening to issues is sort of "get even." Too, he's an intelligent man with good ideas who is not as liberal as many would pick him out to be, so he could be a sale in areas of New York State that Hillary Clinton carried with surprising regularity.
On the other hand, Kirsten Gillibrand has not exactly been a horrible Senator. She is, however, somewhat tainted by her unfortunate and necessary association with Governor David Patterson, whose approval ratings are abysmal, even if they have softened somewhat these past few weeks, Gillibrand has also carried a lot of the water for the Democrats in the Senate, voting strictly along party lines despite being more conservative than the party in general.
Which is saying a lot, considering how far to the right the party has had to move to pass legislation this year.
This has the earmarks of a White House wishlist, between this trial balloon and the pressure President Obama has placed on Patterson to forgo re-election. Patterson has led an oddly charmed life since that pressure was made public: no one serious, it seems, wants to run against him, except perhaps Andrew Cuomo. Republicans have shunned the race like Puritans in a sex club marathon.
My guess is, the budget outlook is so bleak, no one wants to be the one left standing when the music stops. In this regard, Patterson will likely thrive into a second term, simply because he hasn't backed down from the challenge.
But I digress.
The potential for a Gillibrand-Ford lock-up in the primary is interesting. Ford would likely capture most of the lower counties, like the city, Westchester, and Long Island, while Gillibrand would run strongly in the central parts of the state, like the Leatherstocking district and the Hudson Valley.
So the toss-ups would be the university towns way up north, like Ithaca, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo. Those are a strange admixture of blue collar whites who have suffered mightily in this Bush depression, and scholarly-types. Ford appeals to both, to be sure, but Gillibrand's support amongst the working class folks would be hard to crack.
Look for pressure brought to bear on Gillibrand to quit the race, and perhaps lock horns with Patterson for the governor's chair, or an offer of a post that would be hard to turn down (ambassador or sub-Cabinet appointment). I don't think the state party wants to have this on their hands after the 2009 state Senate debacle.