From The New York Times:
Under assault from allies of Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, former Congressman Harold E. Ford Jr. fired back on Friday afternoon, saying he would be not be “bullied or intimidated” by “party bosses” as he considers challenging her in this fall’s Democratic primary.
Mr. Ford’s interest in the race is triggering a growing sense of alarm within the Gillibrand camp, which has quickly sought to portray him as out of step with New York Democratic voters and, through supporters like Senator Charles E. Schumer, tried to dissuade him from entering the race.
In a swipe at those who have asked Mr. Ford to stay out of the primary contest, [Ford spokesman Davidson] Goldin said that New York needed a senator with the “independence to stand up and do what is right for our state, regardless of what the party bosses in Albany and Washington want.”
Yeah, ’cause it should be all about Harold Ford and what Harold Ford wants!
The vivid language and assertiveness in the statement suggest that, unlike other Democrats who considered challenging Ms. Gillibrand, Mr. Ford will not retreat because of pressure from party leaders or the White House. In fact, he seemed to openly question their intrusion into a potential primary fight. The possibility of a Ford candidacy has won backing from about a dozen influential Democratic donors in the state who regard Ms. Gillibrand as lackluster and untested and believe she has aligned herself too closely with Mr. Schumer. They include the financier Steven Rattner and his wife, Maureen, and the co-president of HBO, Richard Plepler. Mr. Ford, a five-term Tennessee congressman, moved to New York three years ago for a job in the banking industry.
Also of concern for Ms. Gillibrand are signs that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a billionaire with close ties to Wall Street, may favor Mr. Ford. On Thursday, two of the mayor’s top campaign strategists had lunch with Mr. Ford to help him map out a campaign strategy.
Mr. Bloomberg has clashed with Ms. Gillibrand over legislation, and has done little to hide his dissatisfaction with her.
Anxiety about a Bloomberg-Ford alliance prompted Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic majority leader, to call the mayor on Thursday to discourage him from aiding Mr. Ford if he chooses to run, according to a senior Democratic official and an aide to Mr. Bloomberg.
At the urging of Ms. Gillibrand’s aides, a number of traditional Democratic constituencies — abortion rights advocates, gay rights groups and labor unions — have described Mr. Ford as too conservative for the state. They point to his support for restrictions on abortion and opposition to same-sex marriage.
Representative Jerrold Nadler, who has endorsed Ms. Gillibrand, called Mr. Ford’s record “a disaster.”
From Megan Carpentier at Air America:
Four years ago, popular centrist Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford took at shot at becoming the first black Senator from the South since Reconstruction, a mere year after he finally got old enough to run and four years after he attempted to take on Nancy Pelosi for the coveted spot of Democratic Minority Leader. He failed, and more or less faded away from the political scene. Apparently, with time has not come wisdom.
Ford’s record as a Congressman is hardly the stuff liberals’ dreams are made of: he voted for constitutional amendments banning flag burning and allowing prayer in schools; calls himself pro-life and advocates for a federal ban on all abortions; voted for legislation limiting gun manufacturers’ liability in the courts; voted for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage; and criticized the Obama Administration on pursuing health care reform during a recession like a good little Republican. Today, he refused to say whether he would have even voted for health care, though he’s apparently flip-flopped on a federal ban on abortions now that he’s running in New York. And that’s to say nothing of his many other conservative votes on everything from the PATRIOT Act to REAL ID to the Partial Birth Abortion Ban to the Iraq War and, of all horrible things, to intervene in the case of Terri Schiavo. His record reads like a conservative even as he swears he’s a Democrat.
Apparently, Ford didn’t get the memo that New Yorkers aren’t looking for someone more conservative than Gillibrand, the upstate New Yorker whose appointment to the seat by the even-more-unpopular governor, David Paterson, upset the New York electoral applecart. [...] Apparently, he’s heard of Hillary Clinton and Robert F. Kennedy–not that he agrees with them on policy issues–and decided New York was a great place to re-launch the political career he short-circuited by running for Senate a little, shall we say, prematurely.
[It's] perhaps unsurprising that Ford thinks Gillibrand is ripe for a primary challenge–everyone does–or that, with Obama and Schumer chasing any actual liberal challengers out of the race, he could do it with a minimum of mess. The difficulty is that Gillibrand’s likely challengers may well be someone with a worse electoral history than Ford: Rick Lazio, who jumped in the race when Rudy Giuliani (cancerous prostate and mistress in tow) jumped out and couldn’t make the carpetbagger charges stick against Hillary. Lazio looks like a lamb led to slaughter against Gillibrand, and he’s one of few Republicans in the state who make her look like a shoo-in for reelection. But with a second so-called carpetbagger to spar with, Lazio should be able to have a grand old time–especially when progressives and liberals stay home for a race that resembles a Republican primary more than a general election.There’s a small number of Democrats who could make Gillibrand look liberal, competent and experienced. Harold Ford is one of them.