After Harold Ford said in the Times that he decided against a run for the Senate in New York because it would require "a brutal and highly negative Democratic primary" that would damage the party, Times reporter Michael Barbaro called around to dozens of his friends and supporters to see what the real reason was. Turns out, not only did Ford fear a troublesome primary, but he just couldn't be sure he'd get traction with significant voter groups:
What seemed to weigh on him, interviews with dozens of people who have met and spoken to his advisers revealed, was not his status as a carpetbagger who had moved to New York from Tennessee, but rather the reality that there were few easy constituencies for him to grab on to, outside of Wall Street, where he has worked since moving here in 2006.
Sure, his rich friends like UBS's Robert Wolf, Ronald Perelman, and Steven Rattner might get behind him, but would gays? Would blacks, a voting group whose leadership was fractured by the troubles facing David Paterson and Charlie Rangel? Would voters in the outer boroughs? (Marty Markowitz asked him at a luncheon in January: "Why do you think you have what it takes to be New York’s senator?")
Turns out Ford was also "dumbfounded" that the perception that he'd flip-flopped on abortion and gay rights kept hounding him. The prospect of quibbling over that, combined with polls that indicated his run wouldn't be "a slam dunk, at all," was enough to convince him it wasn't worth it. No mystery there — when you can't figure out who is going to vote for you, seems like as good a time as any to decide not to run.