The Next Rick Perry?
The epic collapse of Texas Gov. Rick Perry's presidential campaign has been commented on by many political observers. I have written about the collateral damage caused by Perry's campaign, including the suffering inflicted on Texas political writers, graduates of Texas A&M University and guys who like to wear brush jackets. But not everyone is running away from Rick Perry.
Meet Craig James. Craig James is a former Southern Methodist University football star and ESPN sports analyst who is running for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison. His opponents are Lieutenant Gov. David Dewhurst, former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and former Texas Solicitor General (and current Tea Party favorite) Ted Cruz. James's first campaign ad starts with a series of plaudits for Rick Perry and James essentially says that he wants to be the Rick Perry of the U.S. Senate.
Well, that's an interesting way to start a campaign. Many local political observers believe that Rick Perry's political capital in Texas has been seriously diminished by his dismal presidential campaign. Further, one generally doesn't introduce oneself to the voting public by talking about another politician. That isn't the way to encourage the voters to think you are your own man.
Also, James isn't the most popular guy in many quarters in Texas to begin with. His time as a player at SMU coincided with the infamous pay-for-play scandal that led to the death penalty for SMU's football program. (Incidentally, ESPN's "Pony Excess" documentary is a magnificent chronicle of this story and how it linked to the culture in Dallas of that era.) To be fair, James was never directly implicated in the NCAA violations that led to SMU's death penalty and he has consistently denied that he was involved with such violations. I think he should be taken at his word on that, but in practice his name is linked to that scandal in the minds of many SMU football fans. That may not be fair, but it is something he has to face.
James is also linked to a more recent college football controversy, the removal of Mike Leach from his position as head coach of Texas Tech's football team. Leach was a very popular football coach at Texas Tech and he was removed from his position after he was accused of having James's son (a Texas Tech football player) locked in an electrical closet. Needless to say, opinions and stories vary about that incident, but according to the materials cited the article linked above and in this article, James allegedly pressured Texas Tech to fire Leach. Leach was eventually fired and Texas Tech's football program suffered afterwards. James has been blamed for Leach's firing and needless to say, it's hard to imagine that Craig James will get many votes in Lubbock after that. This incident, coupled with the SMU story, has led many in Texas to joke that Craig James has helped ruin not one but two Texas college football programs.
So to recap, we have a person running for U.S. Senate in Texas, where college football is taken very seriously, who isn't very popular among a lot of college football fans. And he is blatantly and loudly hitching himself to the falling star of Rick Perry in his run for the U.S. Senate from the very beginning of his campaign.
Something tells me this won't end well.