Tom Brady is the new primary talking point
Illustration by Peter Noonan
In the century that New Hampshire has held a presidential primary, the state’s voters haven’t asked candidates for much. If anything, they simply ask candidates to show up regularly, compete in the primary and win them over handshake by handshake.
In other states that go early in the presidential primary calendar, it is different. Iowa has forced candidates to back corn ethanol subsidies. South Carolina wants future presidents to back the idea of spending federal money to deepen the port in Charleston. In the newest early state, Nevada, a candidate is essentially a non-starter there until they agree to forbid any nuclear waste going inside of Yucca Mountain.
But this year, without really asking for it, presidential candidates are pandering to New Hampshire in big way: they eagerly back New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in his deflate-gate feud with the NFL.
New York real estate mogul Donald Trump calls Brady a friend and says, “I think it’s ridiculous the way they’ve treated him.” Texas Senator Ted Cruz told a conservative blog, “Now I’m not willing to pander on much, but on that Tom Brady was framed!”
Chris Christie, no stranger to controversy himself, said he stood with Brady even though he was a Dallas Cowboys fan. Hillary Clinton’s spokesperson invoked deflategate to explain how the feds are looking into her missing e-mails during her time as Secretary of State.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul seems to be more concerned about offending his wife, who had her picture taken with Brady and is apparently a fan. He offered no comment when asked about it in Londonderry.
There are two who aren’t playing nice: Former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina boasted, “Maybe Tom Brady learned how to wipe his phone clean by watching Hillary Clinton wipe her server clean.”
Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who married a Miami Dolphins cheerleader, joked that, because he is a Miami fan, he wishes “the suspension had been permanent.”
Whatever with them.
To be sure, Brady isn’t the first sports-related way to pander to the local audience in presidential politics. In 2000 New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley campaigned with former Celtics star Bill Russell. Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani did not back down on being a Yankees fan, but pivoted the conversation to baseball in general. In the closing weeks of the 2004 presidential election, John Kerry brought Red Sox bigwigs to Manchester in the days after they won the World Series. In the 2008 election, Bill Richardson brought up Red Sox great “El Tiante” and John McCain held a rally with Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling.
This fall, as the presidential campaign plays out during the football season, New Hampshire voters may not understand where these candidates stand on the future of Social Security, but on Brady they most definitely will.