Uh-oh. The New York Post is once again making thinly-sourced proclamations about the future plans of politicians. As you probably know, this has not always worked out well for them.
(If I could find one, I’d also link to Cindy Adams’ amusing assurances in 2005 that Jon Corzine would appoint Orin Kramer to the U.S. Senate – and not Bob Menendez, who Adams wrote wouldn’t pass muster because “the Senate's already got one Cuban-American, Florida's Mel Martinez; and he's a foe of Corzine buddy, former Sen. Bob Torricelli, who once dated Bianca Jagger.”)
Anyway, today Page Six reports that Harold Ford ran into “NBC honcho” Vic Garvey last week and that the executive asked Ford, “What’s next?” Ford’s supposed reply: “I’m gonna be Governor.”
In fairness to the Post, this one actually makes some sense, whether Ford actually said it or not. The 37-year-old Ford, who lost by three points to Republican Bob Corker in last year’s Tennessee Senate race, plainly covets a spot on the national stage, and he knows he’s one statewide triumph from being labeled presidential timber. In U.S. history, just five African-Americans have ever been elected Governor or to the U.S. Senate, and three of them (Doug Wilder, Carol Moseley Braun, and Barack Obama) ended up running for President, with a fourth (Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick) seen as a future prospect.
So how does Ford get there?
If he wants his old Memphis-based House seat back, it’s his – the district, protected by the Voting Rights Act because of its majority-minority status, is now represented by Steve Cohen, a white Democrat who claimed the nomination when the black vote was split among numerous candidates (the effect David Yassky was going for in Brooklyn last year). But ousting Cohen would do nothing for Ford, who was visibly bored toward the end of his House tenure, and anyway, if he wants to run statewide again, it’s best not to climb back into politics by running a campaign based in part on the race of his opponent. Plus, he’s already milked the House seat for all the name recognition it’s worth; he’s in a better place as a Fox News commentator, reaching many of those reddish Tennessee voters who are so key to his future.
Running for the Senate again is also barking up the wrong tree, at least for now. Lamar Alexander will stand for re-election next year, but the former two-term Governor and University of Tennessee President is hardly vulnerable in the general election (although he is distrusted by some on the right, who could at least annoy him with a primary challenge). And if not next year, Ford would have to wait until 2012, and a rematch with Corker, to run for the Senate again. But that could be a tough year to run as a Tennessee Democrat, since it coincides with the high turnout presidential election – and it would be damn near impossible if, say, President Fred Thompson were running for re-election.
But the Tennessee gubernatorial race in 2010 is wide open for Ford, since Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen will be term-limited out of office. It wouldn’t be a presidential year, and in general gubernatorial races are less difficult than Senate races for red state Democrats, since the electorate is more willing to focus on the state Capitol, and not the U.S. Capitol. Plus, from an I-want-to-be-President-someday standpoint, Ford would be wise to seek a governorship, given the success in White House races that holders of that office (Bush, Clinton, Reagan, Carter) have enjoyed relative to U.S. Senators (John F. Kennedy and Warren Harding were the only two the pull it off in the 20th Century). The only catch is that if a Democrat, as now looks likely, wins the presidency, history suggests 2010 will be a rough year for the party. Surely Ford recalls the 1994 mid-terms in Tennessee, when Clinton-association cost the Democrats three seemingly winnable races: for Governor and both U.S. Senate seats. Still, this is clearly his best shot for advancement in the next few years.
So, yeah, Page Six may be right on this one.