DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS: Have You Driven A Ford Lately? A party in search of new leadership suddenly got a fresh face to consider when Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-TN) Friday a.m. announced his bid for House Minority leader. It's perhaps too early to tell what impact his announcement will have on the prospects of fellow candidates, but his rationale for running was certainly clear. Making his announcement on "Imus," Ford said "a new era of leadership and vision and energy on our side of the aisle is desperately needed," and argued his opponents "would represent the same old, same old, the ways of the past." Ford pledged to work with Pres. Bush "when his interest and, frankly, his position will benefit the nation." He readily claimed the underdog mantle and sought to blunt the perception that he is too young by noting, "experience hasn't produced much on my side of the Congress."
  • If he were to win the race for Minority Leader, Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-TN) would be the highest ranking elected African American in history.
  • Ford officially announced Friday a.m. on "Imus." From the announcement:

    Ford: "I have done some thinking over the last day or so and after having talked with several of my colleagues as well as other Democrats, Republicans, and Independents in my district and around the country, and have decided that I'm going to offer my candidacy for the House Democratic leader position -- all in an effort to bring about a change that I think many of us in the Congress, particularly Democrats, are seeking and searching for. A new era of leadership and vision and energy on our side of aisle is desperately needed.

    "As much as I respect and have worked closely with both [Reps.] Nancy [Pelosi, D., CA] and Martin [Frost,D., TX] over the past six years -- my six years in Congress -- it has become abundantly clear that their leadership, in many ways, would represent the same old, same old, the ways of the past in many ways. And if we're serious about change within our caucus, which I sense many of my colleagues are. ... I think unfortunately and undeservedly that our party has become associated with the notions of grid lock and obstructionalism. I think President Bush has done a good job of painting us that way. However, I think nothing could be further from the truth. I think our role as Democrats here in the next two years, especially the next two years as an opposition party, will require a lot more than just a lot of yelling and screaming and, frankly, unconstructive criticism. If we're serious about being an opposition party and serious about doing what's in the best interest of the nation -- which I think requires working with the president when his interest and, frankly, his position will benefit the nation."

    Ford continues: "Democrats showed some success on Tuesday night. We won some key governor's races. ... My governor won in spite of numerous visits by President Bush, Vice President Cheney and others, and he did it because he focused on answers and solutions. And Democrats and Republicans and Independents all rallied around his campaign. And, frankly, that's been missing in the Congress. As much as I respect Dick -- I wish him the very best. He was the hardest working, the biggest money raiser, and, frankly the most passionate of Democrats -- but he was just unable to put a team together to take the majority. I believe the leadership that I would offer as leader would not only allow us to substantively challenge the president and support thing in the best interest in the nation but also ... navigate the amazing diversity within our caucus -- not racial diversity as much ideological, gender, and geographical diversity that I believe makes our party so rich, different, unique, and quite frankly, able to lead this nation.

    "I realize I start off as an underdog. Nancy and Martin have been campaigning for this for a little over a year now. Nancy ... is the minority whip in the Congress and Martin is the chair of the caucus. But I think my colleagues in the Democratic side are interested in real change. If they are, I submit that my candidacy and leadership would offer that change, would offer that introduction of new ideas and certainly would offer an introduction of new faces. Not only would it be me, it would a whole new generation of leadership in Congress. Based on conversations I've had with colleagues in the past 24 hours, there is vast interest in something like this."

    More Ford: "Some would point to my lack of experience in Congress. I appreciate and respect that. ... But experience hasn't produced much on my side of the Congress up to the time that I've been in Congress. We have not landed in the majority. And, frankly, it may be time for a clean break from the ways of the past" ("Imus In The Morning," MSNBC, 11/8).

    On The Trail

    Ford allies tout that Ford served as the chair of the TN Coordinated Campaign, where Dems picked up the TN 04 race and the TN GOV race. '02 candidates Ford campaigned for, outside of TN: atty Jack Conway (D) KY 03; Rep. Dennis Moore (D) in KS 03; Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Sen. Jean Carnahan (D-MO). Ford also agreed to stump for Rep. Tim Holden (D-PA 06) and Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ 12) (Hotline sources, 11/8).

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