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August 17, 2016

Curt Schilling wants to make Massachusetts Senate races great again. This time a miracle might elude the former Red Sox star.

Only two things stand in the way of a Senator Schilling (R-MA): history and reality.

Let’s start with history: an incumbent Democratic Senator has not lost a reelection bid in Massachusetts since 1946. No Republican has won a November general election for a Senate seat since 1972.

Scott Brown’s victory in the 2010 special election was an aberration for Bay State Republicans, not a harbinger.

Consider Elizabeth Warren’s assets: a relatively popular Democratic Senator with no hint of scandal in an overwhelmingly Democratic state who has access to a national fundraising juggernaut and a strong local organizational apparatus.

History favors the incumbent.

So that brings us to the Schilling reality check.

One bit of reality favors a challenge: 2018 looks to be a good year for Republicans running for the Senate. Assuming a Clinton win (a more valid assumption every day) Democrats will have to defend 25 seats to the Republicans 8 during President Clinton’s first midterm, typically a tough time for Democratic Presidents.

Democrats will have to play defense on rough terrain like Indiana, Montana, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, and West Virginia. Keeping all of those seats blue is going to take a lot of cash and organizational heft.

But national Republicans, sensing opportunity in those places, will not send their time, talent, or funding to races that are long shots at best. So don’t expect much national effort in places like Connecticut, California, Washington, or here in Massachusetts.

Of course, if someone like Charlie Baker caught Potomac fever, that might make for a closer race. But Baker is clearly gearing up for reelection and, like Bill Weld in 1994, he has no incentive to tie his reelection campaign to the hip of a Republican running for Senate.

Republican Weld’s overwhelming gubernatorial victory in 1994 by a historic 42 points did little to help US Senate candidate Mitt Romney who lost to incumbent Democrat Ted Kennedy by 16 points.

And Curt Schilling seems to have more in common with Donald Trump than Mitt Romney. He is, at times, unhinged on social media and his business acumen is just a tad bit more suspect than the worst image painted of Romney. Baker will need to keep him away at more than arms length.

Sports figures can make intriguing public officials. In addition to the physical stamina needed to succeed in athletics, there’s mental focus, teamwork, and a propensity to leadership. Consider former NFL star Jack Kemp and NBA great Bill Bradley.

Since leaving the Sox, however, Schilling hasn’t aimed for seriousness or thoughtfulness on complicated issues of public policy. He’s opted for inanity. A man who calls Democrats “Demokkkrats” on twitter isn’t aiming to be the Kemp or Bradley of Massachusetts.

He isn’t aiming to counter Warren’s policies. He’s looking to scuff the ball, not to cheat but to create Trump-like turbulence in order to attract attention in the hope that Warren might just swing and miss.

She won’t but he’ll be loud and he’ll have the vociferous support of the Trump cheerleaders, those who care not for governing and who aren’t taken seriously by folks who do.

Curt Schilling, Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Senate race 2018

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