I’m pretty sure I would have voted for him…in 2006, when he ran for US Senator from Tennessee. He was clearly the more moderate choice in his race against Bob Corker. But it he lost, and many folks thought it was in no small part because of some racially tinged commercials.
In 2010, though, he never identified any particular reason to vote for him. He was evasive in his February 14 appearance on Meet the Press concerning his Merrill Lynch bonuses. His reception at the Black and Latino Caucus, based on what I saw =on television, was lackluster at best. He was one of only a handful of Congressional Democrats to vote for a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, and his recent conversion supporting gay marriage has been met with a decided lack of enthusiasm. The one thing I would have advised him not to have worried about the carpetbagger charge – everyone else who was so charged (RFK in 1964, James Buckley in 1970 and Hillary Clinton in 2000) not only ran but won.
Whereas Kirsten Gillibrand, who started off as an apparent afterthought of a choice of Governor Paterson, and was thought likely to be primaried from someone on the left, seems to have grown into the role of junior Senator. I watched her during her live video Facebook chat back on February 24, and her command of the issues was very impressive. She was strong in her support of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and believes that the process of hearings that had just started would get to that goal. She also adamantly opposes the so-called Defense Of Marriage Act. She was equally forceful on health care, jobs, tax credits, and reproductive rights. She explained that the agricultural committee she serves on deals with financial derivatives, a vestige of a time when farmers used their crops as collateral.
I should say that while Harold Ford Jr. almost always seems slick and polished, Kirsten Gillibrand trying to read the questions that scrolled by too fast was a bit comical. Still, had Ford actually decided to run, I think Gillibrand would have cleaned his clock. We’ll never know, of course. And with the primary falling so late, in September, it does avoid the internecine warfare that the Democrats are known for, thus giving them a better chance to hold onto the seat.
But that race would have been FUN.