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Attack Ads Fuel A Still Unclear Senate Fight

By Josh Robin at NY1

Watch the video at NY1

In their possible fight for US Senate, it’s increasingly a duel of Internet clips between Kirsten Gillibrand and Harold Ford — a battle that has Democrats wondering whether the dispute will only help Republicans. NY1’s Josh Robin filed the following report.

They were composed together at a Haiti vigil in Midtown Wednesday evening. But otherwise, it’s grown increasingly contentious between Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Harold Ford Junior, the former Tennessee Congressman who, so far, is only eyeing her seat.

Mostly, the rumbling is done by surrogates and allies for Gillibrand, a Los Angeles film company that has made similar attacks on Senator John McCain.

A two-minute video was partially funded by abortion rights groups and not Gillibrand’s help, a spokesman says. It takes swipes at Ford’s votes in congress, including a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and restrictions on late-term abortions.

Now a New York resident, Ford says he’s in favor of same-sex marriage and is playing up his support for abortion.

His spokesman dismissed the film as fictional, and out of “a high school film class.”

Ford is linking to his own clips, featuring praise by President Barack Obama, when he ran for the US Senate in Tennessee four years ago.

Those clips are meant to blunt Obama’s support in the race against Gillibrand who’s trying to make sure she coasts through the Democratic primary.

Meanwhile, Governor David Paterson is backing Gillibrand while knocking Obama’s attempts to clear the field for her, just as the White House tried doing in the governor’s race.

“The White House is on solid ground when they’re trying to protect the interest of the Democratic party. I feel that Senator Gillibrand will defeat any Republican that they put up against her. As a matter of fact, they can’t even find a Republican,” Paterson said.

Other party activists are agreeing with the governor.

Robert Zimmerman, a Democratic party committeeman, is neutral in the race and has warm words for both candidates, but not those fearing competition.

“You know, we heard that type of talk in 2008 in the Obama-Clinton primary. Yet as a result, thousands of more Democrats were registered, hundreds of thousands of more Democrats were registered. Democratic enthusiasm was created and activated. And I think that’s what we have to focus on,” Zimmerman said.

So far, Ford has yet to split the Democratic establishment. At a convention Thursday of African-American leaders sponsored by Reverend Jesse Jackson, his candidacy barely caused a ripple.

“I think anyone is presumptuous to just think because you show, you get our vote. That’s not the way it works in America and it’s certainly not the way it works in New York,” said Suzan Johnson Cook of the Wall Street Ministry.