John Kerry's announcement late last week that he wouldn't mount a second presidential campaign next year ensured that the junior senator from Massachusetts instead would seek a fifth Senate term in 2008. In his first four Senate campaigns, Kerry fought a close race only once: 1996, when popular governor Bill Weld, a liberal Republican, polled evenly with him through most of the year before Kerry eventually won his third term with 52 percent to Weld's 45 (a third-party conservative took 3 percent). In 2002, running against token opposition, Kerry was re-elected with 80 percent.
Given Massachusetts' reputation as among the most liberal states in the union, one would figure Kerry's seat a safe one as Democrats set out to defend and expand their effective 51-49 majority next year. But if anything can shake up a race like that, it's the emergence of a charismatic, rich opponent with no name recognition problem and an emotional connection to the electorate. In Massachusetts, Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling could be that candidate--if he wanted it.
Curt Schilling seemed surprised yesterday by the sudden groundswell of local supporters hoping to draft him into national politics and a 2008 Senate run against John Kerry.
The Red Sox [team stats] pitching hero didn’t flatly rule out the idea, either, though he didn’t sound like he was about to hit the campaign trail anytime soon.
“I couldn’t rule it out because it’s not something I ever thought about in a serious capacity,” Schilling told the Herald.
“I envision that I will probably be pretty busy in 2008,” he said. “But I’m flattered as hell to even make this phone call.”
But Schilling may doesn’t feel he’s a good match for Capitol Hill.
“While I am a registered voter, I have too many problems with the political scene, and I don’t think I’d fit into it,” he said.
Schilling, who is planning to retire from baseball after this season, did give a glimpse of what he would do in a political office. His first task would be to “fire everybody and anybody who had anything to do with the Big Dig,” he said.
Schilling said in 2008 he’ll vote either for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), whom he called a personal friend, or Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). “If they are both on the ticket it will be a tough choice,” he said.
For now, I'll take Schilling at his word that he won't run for Senate in 2008. I don't think he has the legislative temperament--though I could see him wanting to be a governor someday--and I think he's sincere in his plans to work in charity and run his video game business, probably carving out time to kill Doug Glanville online. He'll do those things until he gets bored, at which point the competition and ego gratification of politics could well appeal to him.
I think what is interesting is that his top two choices for president next year are McCain and Obama. For one thing, those choices suggest that Schilling's politics aren't particularly ideological; like his baseball thinking, they seem driven at bottom by emotion.
Of course, what Obama and McCain have in common is a great story to tell. For Obama, it's his almost comically diverse background and unlikely emergence as a post-racial hero offering the potential of partisan reconciliation; McCain's POW ordeal remains compelling in a time when the media culture is loath to tell stories of sacrifice from our current quagmire of a war, and his gradual emergence into a leader who seemed like he could transcend the usual partisan crap and appeal to something more fundamental and benign in the national character appealed to voters across the spectrum. (This is what has made his non-stop pandering to "crazy base land" since 2004 all the more disheartening, not to say disgusting.)
Mike Huckabee was on the Tim Russert yakfest this morning, explaining his plans to run for president, and reminded the audience that "Americans love an underdog." This might be true as far as it goes, but I think it's not quite descriptive when it comes to voting choices. In picking the president, Americans want a leader who makes them proud to be Americans; at least on paper, and at this tired and somewhat dispirited moment in our national life, Obama and McCain come a lot closer to filling that bill than, say, the guy who lied even when he didn't need to and couldn't stop cheating on his wife, or the inarticulate, proudly arrogant boob who was born rich and screwed up everything he ever touched, with tragic results.
Curt Schilling probably identifies with McCain and Obama, given his own weird path in life: moved around as a kid, close to his dad, his dad passed away, bounced from one organization to the next with a Nuke Laloosh reputation, suddenly seemed to catch up with his talent, then did some legendary things over an eight year stretch (from 1997, when he set a modern NL strikeout record with the Phillies and, with Scott Rolen, saved them from the ignominy of losing 100 games, to 2004, when he stained a sock red and helped end the Red Sox curse). You just hope our next president's story has such an ending.