Just in case you were wondering why the right-leaning Harold Ford is suddenly a viable "liberal" candidate for the New York Senate seat, all you need to do is take a look at his very powerful friends on Wall Street.
The one constituency with whom Ford does have high name-recognition is the city's top Democratic bundlers. "At least among my friends, Harold has an extremely strong base," said Orin Kramer, an investor at Boston Provident whose early support for Obama imbued him with gravity in the New York donor firmament. While Ford has yet to raise a cent for the race, Kramer said he would have financial support if he in fact ran.
"People regard him quite properly as an extraordinary political talent," Kramer said.
"We bonded with him years ago and he is one of our friends," said Robert Zimmerman, another influential fundraiser and Democratic National Committeeman. But according to several of these bundlers, it's not all about friendship. A show of support for Ford's potential candidacy also sends a message to Washington.
Ford's investor-friendly positions as chairman of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council make him an ideal vehicle to protest Obama's "fat cat" insults and Schumer's post-crisis interest in financial regulation.
"Mr. President, you did what you need to do, we now have to do what we have to do," said one prominent member of New York's Democratic donor universe, who was granted anonymity to freely reflect the sentiments of his peers. The donor said Wall Street needed to elect Ford as a "champion for New York's economy and financial services sector," because Schumer "is preoccupied with being majority leader and a national leader, and our junior senator is a second vote for Chuck."
("Nobody stands up for New York's economy more than Senator Schumer," said Schumer spokesman Brian Fallon. "But that doesn't mean doing whatever the banks want even when they're wrong.")