That Was Way Too Close
I hate agreeing with people from California, because California is so relentlessly rubbed in my face every freakin' day by the media, but Ezra Klein is right. The potential Ditka candidacy scared the shit out of me, for four reasons:
1. Obama is one of the Democrats' legitimate rising stars. A loss for him in November would knock the wind right out of his sails before he ever really gets off the ground - which is why the GOP is so desperate to throw someone, anyone, at him who can win - or at least seriously damage him.
2. And yes, Ditka really would have had a good shot at winning. Illinois can in many respects be divided into two states: the Chicago metropolitan area (generally, Cook county and chunks of DuPage county), and everything else. The former is one of the historical strongholds of the Democratic party, while the later is largely made up of smaller rural communities and a shitload of farmland - prime Republican real estate. The state population is roughly divided between these two Illi -- Jesus, what's the plural of Illinois? -- and statewide races tend to be a tug-o-war between them. Democrats tend to use Chicago for a base and try to make inroads toward the rest of the state -- witness Dick Durbin's senate campaign, a large chunk of which emphasized his independence from Mayor Daley -- while Repubicans do the opposite.
Among traditionally Democratic demographics - middle and working class Chicagoans - Ditka is worshipped as a god, or perhaps more accurately the ringleader of a group of gods; if he were able to pull them in in significant numbers, with his conservative politics giving him non-Chicago Illinois, the election would look like a rerun of 1985.
Some have opined that Ditka's notorious temper would ruin his chances, but I have the feeling that such people are not Chicago natives. Part of Ditka's entire appeal is that he's a no-apologies tough guy - I know one of my favorite sports photographs depicts Iron Mike striding the sidelines, giving the bird to the camera. I mean, come on, another one of Chicago's sports heroes is Dick Butkus, and that motherfucker tried to kill people.
3. The Democrats need to pick up Fitzgerald's seat - there are already too few Dem pickup opportunities this year, and throwing Illinois back into play would be a devastating blow to efforts to take back the Senate.
4. When all is said and done, I love Mike. Some of my earliest sports memories are of watching him coach Da Bears on TV with my parents. But let's face it, Ditka would be a really bad Senator. His personality virtually guarantees a meltdown of some sort out in Washington. I mean, if he thought the sports press was hard on him in his post-Superbowl years, wait 'til he encountered the lying scumfucks that haunt the Capitol.
Seeing his reputation tarnished by an ill-advised Senate career would really kind of upset me - I already have to pull off a massive bit of self-deception in order to pretend that his New Orleans tenure didn't happen.
So, good call on turning the GOP down, Mike. I can handle the Levitra ads - watching you go to jail for tackling someone on the Senate floor would kill me.
As a sidenote, the article Ezra links to has been changed - last night, it included a quote from a GOP official stating that Ditka was Chicago's only real sports hero, to which I can only reply thusly.
Update: The illustrious Mr. Sloane (who used to have a different blog, with a cool picture of himself with lots of hair and sweet sunglasses...but times change, people change, and the whole world generally goes to hell in my absence) disagrees, for reasons that are entirely valid. I still feel justified in fearing the Ditka, but, really, who the hell knows. He's not running, Obama's in for sure, and so I am content.