The Spine

Ford's Campaign Gamble


I read it Monday morning in the Herald Tribune. But my guess is that the article appeared originally in Sunday's New York Times, which I have now read online, a much fuller story. The report begins with "Control of the Senate is at stake, and Cybill Shepherd is sitting in the front row at a church rally in Memphis, Tennessee, blowing a kiss to Bill Clinton." The church is a black church, the Temple of Deliverance Church of God in Christ. Holy, holy, holy. But Clinton's behavior--maybe his very presence--makes the whole atmosphere seem somewhat salacious. He can't help it.

But what hangs in the wind actually is the race by Harold Ford Jr., to become the first African-American senator from Tennessee. I'm a fan of young man Ford. He's religious, he is not embarrassed that he's for a strong defense, and he's a friend of Al Gore--which means a lot to me. He is also more in touch with the sentiments of black constituents than either Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton, in the new tradition of Barack Obama and Corey Booker, who also are very appealing to whites. This is the fresh black leadership in the Democratic Party, and a blessing they are.

Ford decided to bring Clinton into the state to campaign for him. I don't want to be a kill-joy. But I suspect that Clinton will turn out to be at least part of the death knell for Ford. He made a grievous mistake by his lonesome. He barged into a press conference of his opponent's. The polled electorate apparently didn't much like that, and his numbers began to fall. Then came the Clinton barnstorming, and his numbers fell and fell. Was Ford right to invite the former president to rouse the troops? The other question is: Was Ford right to invite the former president and risk riling the Republicans and, more important, the independents?

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