The rhetoric surrounding former Rep. Harold Ford's (D) potential Senate bid heated up Friday, even though the ex-congressman has not even said himself he is entering the race.

First, Ford's spokesman was quoted in the New York Times saying that the maybe-candidate "bullied or intimidated" by "party bosses" as he weighs whether or not to challenge Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) 

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Democratic Caucus vice chairman Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) reportedly prefer that Ford leave Gillibrand with an open-field in the primaries. The leaders are wary of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) offering his support to the centrist Ford.

Ford moved to New York from Tennessee three years ago where he previously served as a congressman. The Times reported Wednesday that he has reached out to donors about a potential bid this cycle. 

Gillibrand -- who was appointed in early 2009 to fill the seat of now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- received weak polling numbers at the end of last year.

According to a mid-December Siena poll, 30 percent of New Yorkers say she deserves reelection, while 34 percent prefer someone else.

As for further evidence the quasi-race is receiving more traction, the pro-abortion rights group NARAL released a web ad today hitting Ford for stressing his anti-abortion rights stance when he ran for Senate in 2006.

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