By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Curt Schilling spoke on a Boston sports radio station this morning, expounding on the (slight) prospect of a run to replace the late Ted Kennedy. A couple of things struck me in the interview, the first being that he has some political sense. Asked about the credentials issue (specifically his lack of experience or credentials), he said:
The no experience thing, if it’s used right, is an enormous asset. There’s nobody who you’d go against who you couldn’t probably drag out a laundry list of stuff and say, ‘This person has already proven that they’re status quo, that they’re business as usual, and we need anything but in everyway way, shape and form moving forward.’
That was the thrust of his comments in the interview: "The status quo sucks. The status quo is not working. This country is a mess." And what would Schilling do to fix things? That's not so clear.
I really don’t enjoy talking in broad generalities, but there’s so much wrong, and so much going on, that we are in desperate need of new blood and people who can walk in and make change and not have connections and ties to the old guard, and the old school, and be beholden to them. The state and the people deserve better.
The former Sox ace may not enjoy talking in generalities, but when you're a conservative Republican (he put the red in Red Sox) contemplating a political career in very blue Massachusetts it's probably a good idea to speak in change-based platitudes and wave your bloody sock.
And that raises the interesting question about a Schilling candidacy: He could undoubtedly be elected senator, president or king of Red Sox Nation, but how much would that popularity translate to real world political strength? As a Democratic consultant friend of mine points out, sports figures have a decidedly mixed record when it comes to runs for office. The successful ones in recent memory (Reps. Steve Largent and J.C. Watts of Oklahoma, Tom Osborne of Nebraska and Heath Shuler of North Carolina) have won House seats, but statewide races have proved tougher. Largent lost his gubernatorial bid and more recently former Pittsburgh Steelers star Lynn Swann got crushed in his 2006 run for governor of Pennsylvania. (Sen. Jim Bunning held elective office before winning statewide in Kentucky; Sen. Bill Bradley seems to be one of the few athletic figures to win statewide as a political novice.)
So again the question: Could Schilling's sport celebrity compensate for his being philosophically out of step with his state? We'll see. I would guess no—and I'd bet that's the conclusion he'll come to as well. What do you think?