Harold Ford Jr. was the best thing that ever happened to Kirsten Gillibrand.
His helicopter trips to Staten Island, unyielding apologism for Wall Street and rapidly shifting positions on issues like abortion and gay marriage made Gillibrand's own flip flops and defense of Big Tobacco seem like a distant memory.
Junior, as folks back home in Tennessee call him, seemed to think he could just waltz into Manhattan, take a cushy job as an executive with Merrill Lynch (at the very moment millions of people were losing their jobs because of Wall Street's shenanigans), breakfast at the Regency, cozy up to a few disaffected Democratic donors and voilà, a Senate seat that he could no longer win in Tea Party Tennessee would be waiting for him in New York. Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, this was not.
Now Junior is putting the kibosh on his fitful challenge to Gillibrand, writing today in the New York Times that although "there are compelling reasons for me to run...the likely result would be a brutal and highly negative Democratic primary — a primary where the winner emerges weakened and the Republican strengthened. I refuse to do anything that would help Republicans win a Senate seat in New York, and give the Senate majority to the Republicans." At least for once he's keeping his fellow Democrats in mind, even in yet another smug op-ed where he takes credit for pushing Khalid Shaikh Mohammed's trial out of New York and putting healthcare legislation on the back burner.
Everyone knows that Ford is dropping out because he realized, finally, that he couldn't win. What started as a bad joke became an absurd spectacle in political theatre. It's usually a bad sign to start a campaign by polling voters to see how they'll react to the news of your lavish Wall Street bonus. Any ordinary helicopter pilot could tell you that won't play in these times, whether it's in Poughkeepsie or Park Slope.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, as it were) for Gillibrand, there's an obnoxious billionaire with a sense of self-importance that dwarfs even Junior's waiting stage right. Bring on Mort Zuckerman!