Wall Street Honcho Harold Ford Jr. Won't Run for Senate

Former Tenn. Rep. Harold Ford Jr., who made $2 million last year as a vice-chairman at Merrill Lynch, will not run for U.S. Senate from New York, ending nearly two months of flirtation, speculation and not a little mud-slinging. In an op-ed to be published Tuesday in The New York Times, the former Tennessee Democratic congressman says he wants to avoid a "brutal" primary that might "help" Republicans.

Ford was facing "intense" pressure from Democratic party officials not to run, according to The New York Times.

"I've examined this race in every possible way, and I keep returning to the same fundamental conclusion: If I run, the likely result would be a brutal and highly negative Democratic primary -- a primary where the winner emerges weakened and the Republican strengthened," Ford writes in the op-ed article. "I refuse to do anything that would help Republicans win a Senate seat in New York, and give the Senate majority to the Republicans."

Was Poor Polling to Blame?

The decision comes one week after Ford conducted a poll to assess his chances. He may not have liked what he saw. It's hard to believe that Ford, an ambitious and talented politician considered a rising star in some circles, would choose not to run if he thought he could win the race.

In January, DailyFinancereported that Ford's deep Wall Street ties could harm him, with popular anger at the the financial bailout and fat-cat bonuses at an all-time high.

For the last few years, Ford has been a vice-chairman of Merrill Lynch, where he earned $2 million annually, more than twice the guaranteed pay of Stanley O'Neal, the Merrill CEO who brought him on board. And that's not even counting Ford's bonus, which he hasn't disclosed.

Ford has been a staunch defender of big business and, like most Wall Street honchos, compensation schemes that deliver huge rewards for taking risks and succeeding. "I believe that people take risk, and there are rewards if they do well; they should lose if they don't," he toldThe Times.

Clearly, running for Senate was one risk Ford declined to take.