Rep. Harold Ford, D-Tenn., discussed the spirited and surprisingly close campaign he has waged in a fight with former Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker for the open Senate seat of retiring Majority Leader Bill Frist, in an exclusive appearance on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."
Defending himself against accusations made by his political opponents that the five-term Democratic congressman is a "churchgoer by day and playboy by night," Ford told ABC News, "I have never been to the Playboy mansion."
"Here we are in the South, a race in which the majority leader of the Senate, Bill Frist, has held this seat now for 12 years," Ford told ABC News, in another of 'This Week's' series of "On the Trail" interviews leading up to the critical Congressional midterm elections in November and the 2008 presidential campaign. "You would think that my opponent would be out bragging that, 'Hey, I'm going to go to the Senate and do what Bill Frist has done."
Indeed, many political experts predicted Corker, a wealthy real estate developer, would be coasting to victory over the 36-year-old congressman in the increasingly Republican state of Tennessee.
Also appearing exclusively on "This Week," Corker said, "It's just a big race. I think the national environment is what it is, and I think people throughout the country have a lot of concerns that make the water a little choppy, but I am absolutely convinced I'm going to win this race."
Ford, a bachelor, has served in Congress virtually since graduating from the University of Michigan Law School in 1996. If elected, he would be the first black senator from the South since Reconstruction. Ford has framed himself in the campaign as a "different kind of Democrat," who voted for the war in Iraq, but now favors a change in course. He also frequently invokes God on the trail and even filmed an ad in a church.
"I grew up in that church. I was baptized in that church. And the kind of attacks that we're taking in this campaign have been so fierce and so unrelenting, that I've relied on my faith a whole lot in this campaign," Ford said, insisting he had not crossed the line with the ad. "So it seemed pretty natural to me."
"He is a person whose way of life is being in politics," Corker charged. "This is, to him, not about a sense of mission, if you will, about solving our country's problems."
Chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos asked Ford message he means to convey by handing out business cards with the Ten Commandments on the back.
"Elect me, I know the difference between right and wrong," Ford said. "I don't always live my life perfect, but I try my hardest to follow somebody that does, and I just don't believe that, from looking at this politically, that Democrats ought to cede any ground to any Republican when it comes to morality and faith."
Corker continued to press Ford on the matter.
"This is a person whose way of life is being in politics -- and so when a race like this comes up, obviously, his voting record is very, very, very different than the way he portrays himself," Corker said. "He's running now to try to portray himself as someone who does, in fact, represent the values of Tennesseans, and that has not been the case over the last 10 years."
Asked by Stephanopoulos whether or not Ford is a "hypocrite," Corker replied, "I don't use words like that, but he's certainly running as somebody that he's not."