Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Can Swann score in this game?

According to the AP, former Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame wide receiver Lynn Swann will throw his helmet in the ring on Wednesday for the GOP nomination for Pennsylvania Governor. A longshot at best, Swann has no experience in politics. He likely will try to use his notoriety as a former football star in the state to gain attention and to win the hearts and minds of Pennsylvania's 8 million or so registered voters.

A couple of things may work against Swann in his 2006 gubernatorial bid: 1) The incumbent Governor in Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell, is a Democrat; and 2) The state cast its electoral votes in the 2004 Presidential election for Democrat John Kerry, who won the popular vote by a 51% to 49% margin over George W. Bush.

On the other hand, Pennsylvania has two incumbent GOP U.S. Senators, Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum. And Swann's ethnicity - he's African-American - may help in the predominantly Democratic stronghold - and the state's largest city - of Philadelphia. In the 2004 Presidential election, Philadelphia County went with Kerry over Bush by an 81% to 19% margin with approximately 675,000 votes cast.

If Swann can work Philly the way he used to work NFL defensive backs, he might have a real shot at the nomination.

Recently we've seen a number of celebrities and sports heroes make a name for themselves in politics, including former pro wrestler Jesse "The Body" Ventura (Minnesota Governor), actor Arnold Schwartzeneggar (California Governor) and former NFL wide receiver Steve Largent (U.S. Representative from Oklahoma). And as a striking parallel, we even saw an African-American former football star - J.C. Watts - win a U.S. House seat in Oklahoma as a member of the GOP.

Swann will have his work cut out for him. What he lacks in political skill and experience he generally makes up for in strong interpersonal skills, a positive attitude and a loyal following among longtime Steelers fans. His celebrity might just be enough to propel him into the statehouse in Harrisburg. And if that happens, then the real work begins for old #88, when he faces the realization that running a large bureaucracy isn't the same as running a post pattern, and taking a hit over the middle from Jack "The Assassin" Tatum is like a lover's kiss compared to working with stalemated lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Swann's political career will kick off tomorrow. Time will tell if he fumbles the ball or if he makes it all the way into the endzone.


At 5:29 PM, Blogger vcthree said...

The obvious joke to be inserted here is: who's his running mate? John Stallworth?

I don't see Swann winning this race, regardless of whether he wins the GOP primary or not. Largent, if you recall, ran for the OK Governor's seat in 2002--he lost. Even the two examples you used in "The Body" and "Ahhnuld" are kind of off-kilter, given the nature of their elections in those states.

Ventura was helped by an Election Day registration surge in 1998 (in MN, you can register to vote on Election Day), and Ahhnuld got in because Darrell Issa was too chicken to run himself (although it was Issa who started the whole recall process), so they put Ahhnuld up as a prop. Frankly, Ahhnuld won becuase he was Ahhnuld--see how that's working out for him now?

We'll have to see how this progresses in the upcoming months, but I have a hunch that voters are over this ex-star athlete thing. That is, unless you're a Cornhusker fan in Nebraska.

At 9:22 PM, Blogger DrewL said...

I do think Swann's chances are slim, at best. He's a nice guy who played well for the Steelers, but I don't see how he's got much more than that going for him.

Of course, if Fred Grandy (Gopher from The Love Boat) can win a seat in the House, I suppose anything is possible!

At 12:06 PM, Blogger vcthree said...

For reference, Fred Grandy is a local talk show host here on WMAL-AM, one of three right-leaning talkers in the area. For that matter, anyone can win a seat in the House or Representatives.

To me, Swann is the guy who made some brilliant catches in the NFL, especially in the Super Bowl, and stood on a sideline for years holding an ABC Sports mike. I really have a difficult time translating all that into being a governor, but then...Reagan, Ventura, Ahhnuld.

Personally, I think Swann's got more of an honest shot at it than Donald Trump in New York. I quiver to think of even the possibility of that run.


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