The Boston Globe and other media outlets are now reporting that former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling is weighing his options in relation to a run for Massachusetts' open senate seat, as discussed in his 38 Pitches Blog. Schilling began discussing the prospect of a run on his blog as early as Wednesday, but at this point is still very non-committal, as most would-be politicians are wont to be when discussing possible runs. I've already gone on record on this site with my anti-Schilling views, but will offer some objective political analysis after the jump.
Overall, Schilling's chances of earning mass Republican support for the seat are very high. That is, of course, contingent on his actually admitting that he is a Republican. He's missed the date to run as a Republican officially. In the blog, he affirms that he will "Always" be an independent, but only the most politically naive among us could think that an actual independent has any chance of winning a seat in the US senate. Normally. He could be another exception if the GOP sits this one out or runs a fringe candidate. Of the senate's two current independents, Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders, one is a Democrat who lost a primary and was forced to run outside the party, relying heavily on Republican voters opposing a more progressive Democrat in the General Election. Senator Lieberman also has the advantage of a well-established networking and fundraising apparatus and decades of experience. Senator Sanders is called an independent, but is actually a self-identified Socialist, and is well known as being one of the most progressive voices in the senate. In calling himself an independent, Schilling may be trying to simply 'brand' himself, in much the same way that John McCain has always been associated with the word 'Maverick'. Its not a large rhetorical stretch to go from being 'independent' to being 'independent-minded' or 'an independent-minded Republican', which fits well with Schilling's political outsider status.
Assuming that Schilling does run on the GOP ticket, he'll instantly become at least the second most popular and recognizable Republican in Massachusetts behind former governor and 2008 presidential contender Mitt Romney. Its widely believed that Romney is still interested in a possible 2012 Presidential run, and could be the GOP front-runner in that race which means he'll be staying far, far away from the senate race. In fact, there is little to stop him from actively campaigning for Schilling.
Fortunately for Schilling, that will not be the only help he gets. A special election for a senate seat is always a big deal, and its never been a bigger deal than now, with the Democrats having just lost their tenuous 60th vote with Senator Kennedy's passing. As things stand now, its difficult to handicap house races until something happens with a healthcare bill. The minority party typically picks up some house seats in mid-term elections, but are very unlikely to gain a majority, so the Republicans know that they're going to have to hang together to avoid hanging separately, and even getting close to winning this seat would be a coup. It would be great publicity for all involved, and would set Schilling up for almost any run he wanted to make in the future, possibly for the House. Here are a few other Republicans who could benefit from a symbiotic relationship with Schilling:
Sarah Palin: After resigning as Alaska Governor in July, Palin made it well known that she would be making herself available to campaign on behalf of other right-leaning candidates in the 'lower 48'. Of course, her phone hasn't exactly been ringing off the hook since then, but as someone without an existing donor and volunteer network in place Schilling could benefit greatly by tapping Palin's relatively small group of dedicated and fiercely loyal supporters.
Newt Gingrich: with books to sell and an axe to grind, the former house speaker has not been afraid to offer unsolicited advice to politicians as of late. As one of the last surviving pseudo-intellectual voices in the GOP, Schilling would benefit greatly from the intellectual weight and legislative insight Gingrich could lend his candidacy. Gingrich, in turn, gets good face time on the news to sell books or set himself up for a future office run.
Liz Cheney: In the 38 pitches blog Schilling says:
"I’ve always tried to vote for the right team more so than the right person. I believed in Dick Cheney, I believed in Colin Powell, I believed in Condoleezza Rice. I voted as much, if not more, for the team President Bush had assembled as I ever did for the man."
Which might have been a safe political statement at one time, but in September of 2009 its one of the most effective ways to identify yourself as a neo-con and alienate moderate voters. While the former VP may be persona non grata on campaign trails around the country, his daughter is basically a softer version of the old man, who never tires of making broad jumps in logic,and screaming at walls on cable news. Liz Cheney already has established ties to Mitt Romney, and could be considering her own run for office.
Jim Bunning: In an odd confluence of the political winds, Jim Bunning could become Schilling's most valuable asset in a senate run. The Hall of Fame pitcher and current 2 term senator from Kentucky is a victim of the current political climate, and has recently announced his retirement. Without his own campaign to focus on, Bunning would be free to stump for Schilling as a sitting senator, which in the political world carries more weight than any number of 'former' officials, and would go a long, long way toward addressing possible concerns over Schilling's lack of experience. Bunnings position is also very unique in that he is a sitting senator, but can still lay claim to a bit of 'outsider' status, due to his ongoing murky relationship with party officials and senate leadership. If schilling wants to point at Washington and say its broken, Bunning would be a great exhibit A.
Even with a little help from his friends though, Schilling is going to have a large hill to climb before he actually makes it to Washington. Joseph Kennedy II could be a sentimental favorite, and State attorney general Martha Coakley is a political heavyweight not to be taken lightly. There also may be competition from US representatives Stephen Lynch and Ed Markey.
To the best of my knowledge, there are currently no polling data available for the race, although one would assume that Coakley, Lynch, and Markey would all rate in the 65% range against a generic Republican opponent. With Schilling's name recognition and hero status throughout the Red Sox Nation, I'd estimate his percentage of general election support to be about 44.5%. Its not enough to win, but it might just be the best news Republicans hear this winter.Update: NBC nightly news is now reporting that Joseph Kennedy II will not run for the seat.