This article blends my two favorite American past times with baseball and politics. I'm focusing heavily on the GOP ticket in 2016 for two reasons. First, the Democrats are almost for sure going to pick Clinton, so they're just boring. Second, it's like a train wreck and I just can't look away.
Riddle me this: What do Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Rand Paul, a handful of politicians from Texas, and Ronald Reagan all have in common? It's not their policies on immigration. No, not their views on the future of the Affordable Care Act. Give up? Ok, I'll tell you. None of them, not one, can beat Hillary Clinton in 2016. Even more interesting, none of them could beat Obama in 2012, and if you add McCain, subtract Rubio, change Rand to Ron, and replace the Texas group with Palin you've got 2008 too. Different names (some of them) but the same brand, and still bland.
The Boys of Summer
The current lineup for the GOP (I'm going baseball heavy for this comparison, so stay with me) suffers from the same deficiencies as the 2000 and 2004 Democratic lineup. Remember Kerry's Presidential campaign? Yeesh. Gore may have actually won the popular vote, but win or lose that election it's hard to find a sentence to use the words “Al Gore” and “inspiring” that isn't negative. The early 2000's Democrats and the current slate of Republicans that have the name, money, and will to reach toward our Presidency are all what a baseball manager would call utility players. These folks can do a lot, and can play different positions, but none of them have that little something extra. These candidates are just that, candidates.
What they are is vanilla, safe, and reliable. What they aren't is exciting, inspiring, capable of greatness. None of them can hit over .300. None of them will steal 40 bases, hit 40 home runs (which is a big number again now that the PED craze has been phased out...ish), and none of them will strike out 200 batters in a season. If they were offensive players they'd be .255, 12 HR, 63 RBI, 3 SB type of players. Or a 12-11 pitcher. Not “bad” but probably not making an all-star team anytime soon. Solid utility players are important to round out a team, but all-stars sell tickets.
Still 270 To Win
These utility player politicians are good enough to run a campaign. They can attract good donors. They can win the red states. 225-250 electoral votes? No problem, well... sort of. The problem is that 225-250 electoral votes is still a losing effort. Anything less than 270 may as well be 0 because the result is the same. (Back to baseball now...) The Republicans need an ace, a defensive Wizard, a long ball hitter. They need the political equivalent of the Bambino. Enter Chris Christie.
Christie is exactly that. He sits in the dug out cracking jokes, smoking a stogie, and eating hotdogs. He finishes his last sip of beer just before grabbing his unnecessarily oversized bat, then saunters to the batters box. He is confident, if nothing else.
That's why I love the baseball analogy here. Imagine Chris Christie in a loose fitting pin-stripe uniform with that simple “3” on the back. Can you see him? Standing in the box? He's pointing to the stands. Waiting for the pitch.
With Great Power...
In the story of Babe Ruth's famous home run the Bambino stepped to the plate, rested his bat on his shoulder, pointed to the stands and stood defiantly. He dared the pitcher. The story ends with the big man rounding the bases, and the other team watching dumb founded. Right now Christie is standing in the box, the bat is on his shoulder, and his finger is pointing. The pitcher in this situation is the GOP. They have the choice to pitch to him, or not. Until Christie gets the pitch we don't really know what he'll do. He could rip the cover off the ball, figuratively speaking. He may hit a long fly ball that is caught just in front of the wall for nothing more than an out. Or, he could strike out. Either way you can bet he'll swing the bat. Hard as hell.
That's the real difference between Christie and the rest of the GOP field. None of them are “that guy” with the ability to talk the talk, walk the walk, and tell you about it while doing it. Sure, they can get on base. There's lots of slap hitting guys in that lineup that can get to first, and maybe even second. (Romney, naturally, takes a walk. He has a good eye and great patience at the plate.) But the U.S. Presidency isn't a base hit. It's not a walk, and it's not a stolen base. It's a home run.
Yes, Christie will say stupid things. He will create outstanding material for the late night hosts, the Daily Show, and may even extend Bobby Moynihan's SNL career by at least 4 years. (Not that I'd complain about that last one. The more Drunk Uncle we get the better.) It'll be entertaining. Some of it will be unintentional, but hey, it worked for W. Christie will be brash, bold, bombastic, and even bodacious. There is a 100% chance he will make you wish he would just wipe the corners of his damn mouth already, how does he not know he looks like that! But, even with all of that, he will do the one thing a President needs to do above all. He will lead.
We Have A Need, A Need To Lead
The American voters are hungry for a charismatic leader. A leader that says it like it is, and doesn't back down. Think about Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush. Are they that type of leader? Are either of them inspiring? What about Rubio, Huckabee, Paul...Ted Cruz? Collectively they're about as inspiring as a 1995 Ford Taurus. Trust me. I drove a maroon 1995 Ford Taurus. Next please.
Potential For Success
I don't want anyone to think I'm arguing that Christie will be a good President. I really don't know. That's what makes 2016 so interesting. Christie could be a total bust as a President (though I think he won't be, but he certainly could be) which may completely handcuff the GOP in 2020. Or maybe, just maybe, he'll do ok. Maybe he'll continue our current positive trend of economic recovery and transition into the 21st century. Our country could use a push to the future, and I don't think Chris Christie minds pushing any one around.