Marist (pdf): (1/13-14, registered voters, 11/16-17 in parentheses)
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-inc): 43
Harold Ford Jr. (D): 24
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-inc): 45 (45)
George Pataki (R): 42 (47)
Undecided: 13 (8)
Harold Ford Jr. (D): 36
George Pataki (R): 42
With the once-fanciful idea of Tennessee’s Harold Ford Jr. running for the Senate in New York seeming a little closer to reality with each week, Marist decided to poll the question. (This comes despite various Democratic bigwigs trying to warn Ford off — this time, it was fellow centrist Martin Frost‘s turn.) Marist finds that Kirsten Gillibrand has a large edge over Ford in the Democratic primary, although with a substantial number of unknowns, suggesting that Gillibrand doesn’t have things locked down and that people don’t really know what to make of Ford yet (if they’ve even heard of him, which I suspect most New Yorkers haven’t).
In the general, they find that Gillibrand has improved her position against Republican ex-Gov. George Pataki slightly over the last few months, while Ford loses by 6 (although, again, that may have to do with Ford not being well-known). Also, there’s very low likelihood of Pataki running; while he hasn’t ruled it out, his actions lately have pointed more toward a dark horse run for the Presidency. In fact, another Republican is tired of waiting, and went ahead and declared his candidacy: Port Authority Commissioner Bruce Blakeman. Given the GOP’s recruitment woes in this race, he may be the best they can put forward.
What I’d like to see, though (and I’m a little disappointed Marist didn’t poll on the question) is how Ford would fare as an independent candidate a general election matchup against Gillibrand. To me, this seems like the only way he seems like he’d ever actually get anywhere in New York, by trying, a la Joe Lieberman 2006, to grab the center and most of the right with a marginal Republican having little effect in a general election. Closed primaries in New York prevent him from taking advantage of GOPers and right-leaning indies, but the general election doesn’t have that problem. Taegan Goddard, in particular, has been wondering out loud about this angle, and he’s saying today that Ford didn’t completely shoot down the idea (albeit in a statement saying he would be a Democrat but loaded with weasel words):
I’m a proud Democrat, and I think I’m going to remain that. I think Democrats are looking for a stand-up, independent guy to represent them in this race… So, in that sense, I would run as an independent.
RaceTracker Wiki: NY-Sen-B