Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Harold Ford Strategy

Harold E. Ford Jr., former Congressman from Tennessee, appears ready to mount a primary challenge against current New York Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand. Why?

Look no further than Wall Street.

Gillibrand is considered vulnerable, because she was appointed to fill Hillary Clinton's seat by now less-than-popular Governor David Patterson, who himself gained office by virtue of Elliot Spitzer's little problem with prostitutes. Gillibrand has not attracted much attention from the media, but she has been a dependable vote with the Democratic caucus in the Senate — what some, including Ford, might call a "hack."

Ford came to New York to take a job as a vice-chairman at Merrill-Lynch (now part of Bank of America), and it is with the encouragement (and, no doubt, the contributions) of his buddies on Wall Street that he will be making his primary run. Let's see how that could work out:
  1. He could lose his primary bid, but the contest would deplete the Gillibrand war chest, thereby making her more vulnerable to a Republican challenger.
  2. He could win the primary and the general election, thereby giving Wall Street another "moderate" Democratic shill in the Senate — from a state with a largely liberal population.
  3. He could win the primary and lose the general election, thereby giving Wall Street a typical Republican stooge in the Senate.
However Wall Street looks at it, backing Ford in a primary challenge is a great idea — and I have no doubt that there are thoughts of downstate black voters finding him more appealing than a white woman from Albany. It's almost diabolical. (Well, maybe deleting the "almost" would make that last statement more accurate.)

Okay, then, what do you want — a hack, a shill, or a stooge?

Me, I'll take the hack.

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