John Elway and Bart Starr Endorse President Bush

Elway, Bush Trade Football Compliments (CBS 4 Denver/AP)

John Elway’s appearance at a campaign rally for President Bush Tuesday wasn’t his first venture into the political spotlight, but it may have been his most prominent. Elway, the former Denver Broncos quarterback revered in Colorado for the Super Bowl victories in 1998 and 1999, praised Bush in football terms. “This man knows how to make the right calls when the pressure is on,” Elway said. Bush returned the favor. “I’m proud to be introduced by the man who led ‘The Drive,”‘ he said. That was a reference to the Broncos’ fabled 98-yard touchdown drive in the closing minutes of the 1986 AFC title game against Cleveland. The Broncos won in overtime, 23-20.

Elway has long been a popular figure in Colorado. A 1999 poll ranked him ahead of Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Gov. Bill Owens and then-President Clinton in generating “very positive” feelings. The survey fueled speculation that Elway might run for political office, but so far, he has not.

Bush needs all the help he can get to take Colorado, which he won 51%-42% in 2000 but is currently a even, leaning Kerry, or leaning Bush depending on which poll you believe. I’m not sure that celebrity endorsements have any impact but certainly Elway’s is the one to get.

Hat tip to Wes Roth, who notes that “ONLY in Colorado, would a story on President Bush have a picture of John Elway.”

Update (1355): Or maybe not: Colorado no longer on battlefield map.

Update (1409): I meant to note this one earlier. Kerry Drops Ball With Packers Fans (Jim VandeHei, WaPo)

Forget soccer moms and NASCAR dads. The most important demographic in these parts transcends gender and geography — it’s Green Bay Packers fans. Both candidates are targeting them with the ferocity of a Brett Favre bullet, but only John F. Kerry has fumbled the name of the hallowed grounds on which the Packers play, the frozen tundra of Curly Lambeau Field. At a campaign event last month, the Democratic presidential nominee called it Lambert Field — a slip of the tongue carried on television, in papers throughout the state and on ESPN’s Web site. That’s akin to calling the Yankees the Yankers or the Chicago Bulls the Bells. This is a place where Packers jackets often outnumber sports coats in church and thousands of fans wear a big chunk of yellow foam cheese atop their head with the pride of a new parent. President Bush’s warning to terrorists is apropos to the passions of Packers fans — you are either with ’em or against ’em.

“I got some advice for him,” Bush told Wisconsinites a few days after the Lambert gaffe. “If someone offers you a cheesehead, don’t say you want some wine, just put it on your head and take a seat at Lambeau Field.” Vice President Cheney made the obligatory pilgrimage to Green Bay last week to pile on. “I thought after John Kerry’s visit here I’d visit Lambert Field,” Cheney told a crowd at a Republican fundraising dinner Thursday night. Then he went in for the kill. “The next thing is he’ll be convinced Vince Lombardi is a foreign leader.”

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So, could a candidate lose the state by tripping over the name of a stadium? Probably not, though Al Gore won Wisconsin by only a few thousand votes in 2000 and small shifts can make a big difference in this battleground state this year, state political observers say. “It sort of plays into the perception, right or wrong, that people think John Kerry is an opportunist who when he is not out windsurfing comes in to try to be a regular guy,” said Ken Goldstein, a professor at the University of Wisconsin. The latest polls show Kerry down eight points; he was tied in most polls before the gaffe. Cheney, by comparison, hit all the right notes when he visited Green Bay last week, according to local papers. Not only did he speak to the biggest issue in the state — the Packers — he did so with Bart Starr, the Hall of Fame quarterback, by his side. “I’ve never been around someone I was more impressed with,” Starr said of Cheney. The QB and VP also visited the Packers Hall of Fame, footsteps from the stadium.

Clearly, football is a major issue in this race. Of all the reasons to support Bush over Cheney Kerry, this has to be the least compelling.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2004, Sports
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. oceanguy says:

    Do you suppose his complimentary reference to “The Drive” will hurt him in Ohio?

  2. Bush is running against Cheney? Wow, this IS an interesting campaign? What happened to that oddball Kerry guy? 😉

  3. Fred Boness says:

    Lambert field was just one of an unending series of local color gaffes from Kerry’s Wisconsin tour. He tried to play it like he was familiar with the state when everyone here knew going in that he was not. (I live in Wisconsin.)

    Still, Lambeau is a French name. How could Kerry screw up on that?

  4. Robert Gaugler says:

    I’m a Packer fan and I was not insulted one bit by Kerry’s “slip up”. He may not be a football fan. So what! Basing a deciscion on something like that would be insane.

    I do find it disturbing that Kerry is not winning Wisconsin by a larger percentage. Wisconsin has the largest population of Germans in the country. I, being of German heritage, value the friendship that the United States has with my ancestral homeland. Germanfest, perhaps the largest ethnic event in the USA, is held in Milwaukee each July. Bush has done nothing but insult and alienate our European allies. If these proud German-Americans of Wisconsin value their heritage as much as I do, they will boot that bum Bush to the curb!