Friday, November 15, 2002



Posted By on Fri, Nov 15, 2002 at 4:00 AM

FORD FALLS FAR SHORT In the end, the main race wasn’t even close. U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-Memphis), suffered the first real adversity of his political career -- losing the vote for House minority leader 177-29 to California congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, a party liberal whom he had characterized as the custodian of old ideas rejected in last week’s national elections. The enormity of the secret-ballot vote suggests that Ford’s House Democratic colleagues thought otherwise -- or perhaps merely adjudged his bid for high national power to be too soon attempted and too imperfectly conceived. Though clearly the twelfth-hour withdrawal from the race of Ohio Rep. Marcy Kaptur (who had made an eleventh-hour entrance that seemed helpful to Ford) was a factor, so no doubt was an apparent lack of enthusiasm among Democrats for Ford’s espousal of a “centrism” embracing further tax cuts and supportive of President Bush on Iraq and other issues. In any case, the final tally was wildly off the mark of the Ford camp’s advance predictions (61 votes claimed as of Wednesday afternoon). And the 32-year-old 9th District congressman’s rapid climb upward has surely been reversed somewhat, though the degree to which hard feelings persist remains to be seen. Meanwhile, House Democrats did get at least one rousing horse race. Rep. Robert Menendez (NJ) defeated Rosa DeLauro (CT) for Dem caucus chair, becoming the "top ranking Hispanic in Congressional history." The vote was 104-103 (Roll Call Daily). Here -- from The Hotline -- was how, on the eve of his expected defeat, some of the state and national press speculated on Ford's political future:
Ford Looking to a Bigger Stage?
Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-TN), when asked how many votes he has: "I'm not going to play that game. We're not playing pledges and publishing of names. But I do know there's one vote count that matters. On November 5, Democrats lost again" ("Press & Buchanan," MSNBC, 11/13). Chattanooga Times Free Press' Sher reports, "A group of moderate-to-conservative" House Dems on 11/13 "rallied" to support Ford. At a 11/13 presser featuring Stenholm and "nearly a dozen" other Blue Dog Dems, Ford said: "I feel good about the direction we're headed." Ford "declined to say" how many Dems are supporting his bid, or how many Blue Dogs are supporting him (11/14). Fox News Channel's Cameron reports: "Ford had hoped to balance his support from the more conservative Blue Dogs with the endorsement of the left-leaning Congressional Black Caucus but at the last minute he had to indefinitely postpone his appearance with them. No precise word on why but it seemed less a sign of weakness of Ford's candidacy than it is a sign of strength of Pelosi's" ("Special Report," 11/13). Meanwhile, the DLC is "promoting" Ford, "though they doubted he had much of a chance" (Washington Times, 11/14). Washington Post's VandeHei, on Ford's leadership bid: "I think it's more about him then the party. This is a guy with big ambitions. He'd like to either run for governor or Senate. He wants to get out there. By coming out and challenging Pelosi he got a lot of national attention. On the other hand, he also embodies a lot of the frustration that's inside this caucus. They don't want liberals from the two coasts running the party when they know that elections are won in between." More VandeHei: "Ford's next move is to fall back into a rank and file member and then bidding his time so he can run for something else down the road" ("Capital Report," CNBC, 11/13).

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