Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Curt Schilling's Political Career Is Doomed

In 2009, after the death of longtime Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy, Curt Schilling publicly toyed with the idea of running for the seat. Despite receiving plenty of encouragement from elites and social-media followers alike, the just-retired hurler declined to seek the Republican nomination, saying "it just did not make sense." Instead, the GOP turned to little-known State Senator Scott Brown to face Attorney General Martha Coakley. The rest is history.

In choosing not to run, Schilling probably made the worst decision of his still-non-existent political career. As Brown proved, conditions were perfect for a Republican upset in blue Massachusetts. The low-turnout environment of a special election allowed the most passionate, anti-Obama voters to have a disproportionate say in the outcome. The GOP was gifted a gaffe-prone opponent in Coakley. And the 2010 election took place before most of Schilling's controversial political statements. Like Barack Obama (to his benefit) and Chris Christie (to his detriment) before him, Schilling should have struck while the iron was hot.

Instead, a full eight years later, he has apparently suddenly decided he does want to run for office after all. After slyly hinting at a potential presidential run on Facebook last week, Schilling has now revealed that he is considering running for Senate in 2018 against Elizabeth Warren—the liberal hero who wrested Kennedy's seat away from Brown in 2012. "I would like to be one of the people responsible for getting Elizabeth Warren out of politics," Schilling said during an interview on WRKO. "She’s a nightmare. The left’s holding her up as the second coming of Hillary Clinton, Lord knows we don’t need the first."

But here's the reality: Schilling, a Republican, would stand no chance in such a campaign. Massachusetts remains a deep blue state; in top-of-the-ticket races since 2008, Democrats have beaten Republicans by an average of 55.6% to 41.7%. While Republicans like Brown and Governor Charlie Baker have beaten the odds and won statewide in recent years, Brown did so in a special election with just 48% turnout, while Baker did it by overperforming in Yankee Republican strongholds like Wellesley and Newton—moderate, affluent towns unlikely to respond to Schilling's brand of bombast.

And while Brown and Baker were running for open seats—and both against the polarizing Coakley—Schilling in 2018 would be facing an incumbent senator with $3.8 million in the bank and a 61/27% approval/disapproval rating. The last time Schilling was polled in Massachusetts, in 2009, he had a 29% favorability rating and a 39% unfavorability rating—again, before his recent controversial statements. To give a sense for where Schilling's popularity might stand today, in Rhode Island in 2013 his numbers were 9% favorable and 74% unfavorable. Of course, Rhode Islanders are probably better acquainted with Schilling's 38 Studios debacle—although, if Schilling does run in Massachusetts, Bay Staters are going to hear about it very quickly as well.

Massachusetts Republicans will probably enjoy favorable tailwinds in 2018, with an unpopular Hillary Clinton likely to be president and a popular Baker likely to be coasting to re-election. But Warren is a perfect fit for liberal Massachusetts, and the Trumpian Schilling decidedly is not. If he runs, Schilling will have no better luck getting elected to the U.S. Senate as he has had getting elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The deserving Schilling—who remains a phenomenal baseball player even as he is a terrible politician—should focus on getting elected in Cooperstown instead.

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