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Harold Ford defies Obama, eyes N.Y. Senate race

January 12, 2010 |  8:46 am

Barack Obama campaigning for Harold Ford Jr. in Tennessee in 2006

One day after President Obama embraced Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand's reelection bid, former U.S. Rep.  Harold Ford Jr. of Tennessee confessed that he is "strongly considering" a race against her.

Gillibrand is the upstate New Yorker named by Gov. David Paterson to fill Hillary Clinton's Senate seat when she became Obama's secretary of State. Democrats in Washington led by Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York have been trying to protect Gillibrand from a field of competitors who think she's vulnerable.

Monday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs joined the chorus. Asked about Ford's potential candidacy, Gibbs said, “I think the White House is quite happy with the leadership and the representation of Sen. Gillibrand in New York. We’re supporting her reelection.”

As you can see from the photo above, Obama was a big supporter of Ford's in 2006, going to Tennessee to campaign for the congressman in a hotly contested Senate race that some said Ford lost because of a racially motivated ad aired by the Republican National Committee that featured a white actress cooing that she's met Ford at a Playboy party and that he should give her a call.

In an op ed in the New York Post today, Ford disputed charges raised by some that he's a carpetbagger, saying he's lived in lower Manhattan for three years and plans to raise a family there. And he sounded a lot like a man ready to defy the White House. "New Yorkers deserve a free election," he wrote. "New Yorkers expect a politics where politicians do what's right based on independent judgment, free of political bosses trying to dictate."

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo credit: Getty Images

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