Making the Pitch for McCain
MANCHESTER, N.H. -- If there is a political equivalent to being down 3-0 in a best-of-seven series, then it is probably the situation that John McCain found himself in earlier this year, when, with his fundraising and poll numbers tanking, he had to lay off dozens of staffers just to keep his presidential campaign afloat. So as McCain sees glimmers of hope for a resurgence in New Hampshire, there are few better symbols of inspiration for him to call on than Curt Schilling, a key member of the Boston Red Sox's unprecedented 2004 comeback from a 3-0 hole against the New York Yankees.
Schilling, who knows McCain from his days playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks, joined him at a prep school here last night to praise the Republican senator before a packed auditorium. Endorsements carry only so much weight in politics, and ones by sports figures probably even less than others, but the Red Sox brand is not a bad one for a New Hampshire candidate to be associated with these days, and at the very least, Schilling's presence probably drew an extra hundred or two residents to see McCain -- most of them even over voting age.
"We are now in a time and place where elections for everything in this country seem to be going to the person we dislike the least. It's a horrible place, and our country deserves a lot better than that," Schilling said, looming over McCain in a blazer and slacks. "I am tired of watching politicians speak in the broadest, most general terms they can possibly speak. I understand them no more when they're done than when they started. We are at a point in time when integrity, honor, loyalty and respect stop being punch lines. They have to be the core components of the character and the makeup of the person we put in the White House."
It is not the first venture into politics for Schilling, a veteran right-hander and avid military history buff who is known in Boston for speaking his mind freely (he maintains a well-read personal blog) and on occasion rubbing some the wrong way. Shortly after the 2004 championship, he dismayed a fair number of Sox fans in left-leaning Massachusetts by taking to the hustings on behalf of President Bush's reelection. His name is also bandied about as a future Senate candidate, though he dismissed that notion when asked about it by a member of the crowd last night. (McCain did chide him for having political potential when he gave carefully constructed responses to questions about some his nemeses, including Alex Rodriguez and Randy Johnson.)
The McCain campaign made the most of Schilling's appearance, going so far as to incorporate into the McCain campaign video it showed the crowd one of the Fenway Park theme songs, a rocking number by the Dropkick Murphys. One McCain supporter in the crowd, Ron Proulx, said he hoped the invocation of Sox spirit would help further spur McCain, who Proulx had for a while considered leaving for another candidate earlier this year because McCain seemed no longer viable.
"I'm seeing enough groundswell, and it seems that he has enough notoriety, to counter his lack of monetary funds," said Proulx, 43, an industrial X-ray technician. "Curt's never afraid to voice his opinion, and this will certainly help [McCain's] image and connection with the average sports fan."
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