Former Red Sox great Curt Schilling isn't the only prospective US Senate candidate agonizing over whether to run for Ted Kennedy's old seat. But unlike some of his potential rivals — including Kennedy's widow Vicki and US Congressman Steve Lynch — the Bloody Socked One seems determined to share his Hamlet act with the biggest possible audience. And right now, thanks to the sports-punditry niche he's carved out since retiring from baseball last spring, he's got the media apparatus to do it.
On September 2, for example, at the 38 Pitches blog he writes for the sports Web site weei.com, Schilling acknowledged his interest in Kennedy's seat. However, he also said that "many many things would have to align themselves" for him to run — and that this would be his final statement on the subject. ("I am not going to comment further on the matter, since at this point it would be speculation on top of speculation.")
Then — Schilling being Schilling — he broke this vow of silence the next morning, on WEEI-AM's Dennis & Callahan show, where he's a regular guest. "The [campaign] fight would be fun," Schilling mused. "The whole spotlight/media crap, not so much. But the fight would be a lot of fun, because pretty much anyone you're fighting against who's in office right now doesn't have much of a leg to stand on."
An hour or two later, it was back to the blog, where — in a post titled "Here's just one more reason why . . ." — Schilling linked to a story on the health-care-reform fight, offered some cranky insights (the politicians in DC work for us! Reform shouldn't be rammed down our throats!), and hinted that he was leaning toward running after all. "[T]he hurdles to running for the vacated Senate seat are immense," he reiterated. "Then I read something like this, and I pause." Spoken like a future candidate!
Or maybe not. That same afternoon, in a piece published at wbz.com, Schilling changed his tune again — and blamed the media for overreacting. "I did an interview yesterday where I said, 'Yeah, I'd thought about it,' but if you hear the whole interview you'll understand very clearly what I'm saying, there's a lot of things that would align themselves and the chances of [that] happening are slim to none," he kvetched. "But they ran with 'I've been thinking about it' and so it's just gone nuts."
For the record, Curt, you're the media now. And no one's run with this story like you have.
Making his pitch
Given Schilling's Farve-ian fondness for the spotlight, the guess here is that he'll drag this out as long as possible — and since independent candidates have until November 24 to file their first campaign paperwork, he's certainly free to take his time. (Schilling is a conservative who's stumped for George W. Bush and John McCain, but he's currently unenrolled, which means he can't run as a Republican.)
If Schilling does jump into the race, though, he seems destined to lose the sports-media perch that he's been using — to masterful effect — to drum up interest in his possible candidacy. The problem, from Schilling's point of view, is the Federal Communications Commission–enforced equal-time rule (ETR), which requires broadcast stations to give all declared candidates for a particular office an equal opportunity to use their airwaves — even if, as in this case, one of those candidates happens to be a paid employee. (If, for example, John Dennis and Gerry Callahan gave Candidate Schilling X number of minutes to talk up his candidacy — and hammer his rivals — on their hugely successful morning show, WEEI-AM would need to give Schilling's opponents a comparable amount of time, at a comparably fertile hour of the day, to do the same.)
While the principle is simple, applying the ETR can be trickier than you'd think. Before the December 8 Senate primary, for example, a Schilling appearance on WEEI-AM would only have implications for his fellow independent candidates, since the Democratic and Republican candidates for the general election still wouldn't have been selected. But after the primary, five minutes for Schilling would mean five minutes for the Republican nominee, and the Democrat, and every other independent — including any write-in candidates — who was targeting Kennedy's seat.
A station spokesman declined comment on the implications of Schilling's situation last week. But if he becomes a candidate, the attendant hassle would likely convince WEEI-AM's management to nix Schilling's regular guest spots, at least for the duration of the campaign. And while Schilling's weei.com blog falls outside of FCC jurisdiction — the commission only regulates the broadcast airwaves, not the Internet — the symbiotic relationship between WEEI-AM and weei.com might lead management to ask Schilling to steer clear of politics on 38 Pitches, or even to take a full sabbatical from blogging.