Its September and that means the hitting is about to start. Tonight the UNC Tar Heels take on the South Carolina Gamecocks in Charlotte in the first game of the 2016 College Football season. (update – my friend Bob McAlister said it best – after watching this game between the two Carolinas, it’s clear why the South lost the Civil War.)
As a son of South, I’m thrilled. Down South we have four seasons: Signing Day, Spring Practice, Summer Practice and Game Time.The teams are finished lifting to get strong, the gameplans are in place, and offseason stories such as conference realignment and arrest blotters now take a back seat to jet sweeps and zone blitzes.
Today, every team is unbeaten and championship hope springs eternal for every player, fan and coach. Everyone is ready to go out and hit someone wearing the wrong colored jersey.
This means all of the sports pundits are eager to predict conference champions, playoff teams and bowl participants. I have some thoughts, but I’ll leave the football smart pills to the folks at ESPN and CNN.si.
The hitting is about to start in politics too. It’s also kickoff time in the cornfields of Iowa, the cotton fields of South Carolina and the fields and pastures of New Hampshire.
This past week we heard the crash of the first collisions. Jeb Bush fired out this video asking tough questions about Trumps legitimacy as a Republican and as a Conservative. And now Donald Trump’s Instagram feed is littered with mocking Jeb Bush clips.So with the ball spotted, the whistle blowing and full contact politics about to commence, let’s take a stab at a few preseason political prognostications for our favorite candidates. I’ll never be as good as the great Leonard Postoasties of Leonard’s Losers, a true Rambling Man, but here’s a load of smart pills to start the season:
Rookie of the Year: Carly Fiorina. While it would be easy to give this award to Trump, I think Florina is the first time candidate who has both exceeded expectations and is positioned to be part of the future of the Republican party for a long time. She would bring much more to a GOP ticket in 2016 than Trump, and has more room to grow as a candidate. She may not win a championship this time, but look out.
Biggest Flop: Rick Santorum. This is the guy who came in second last time winning 6 states and over 200 delegates. Why can’t he play big boy football now? He should have had enormous built in advantages from last time. Instead, he’s bringing up the rear of the field.
Biggest Surprise: Donald Trump. Is he even a surprise anymore? I think the surprise will be his resilience. Even today I hear Trump moderating his tone and tenor, and beginning to sound like someone who is playing to win, not just to cripple the other team like The Mean Machine.
Trump will be around and, no question, will be full of surprises whatever they are.
Most Underrated: Bernie Sanders. Many of the underpinnings of the Obama 2008 insurgency are present today in the Sanders campaign. A bottom up insurgency, driven from the left, large rallies, millenial support. But nobody, it seems, takes Sanders seriously except his loyalists. Yet he’s roughly as close to Clinton (or arguably ahead of) in IA and NH as Obama was on Labor Day 2012.
Most Overrated: Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton is, as we’ve said before, the New York Jets of American politics. She’s not a good candidate. She has enormous problems from within. She’s never won a big game against a first rate opponent. She’s got a great brand, but the product doesn’t deliver on the brand promise and her history of underperformance is her one consistency.
Built for the Playoffs: Marco Rubio. I still believe that, on paper, Rubio looks like the best GOP candidate for the general election. He has a seemingly limitless roster of attributes – youth, freshness, Conservative, Hispanic, strong leader, great personal story – and presents the strongest and most positive contrast to the likely Democratic nominees. For now, Rubio seems content to bide his time, like a team that is built to survive the regular season but win in the playoffs. We’ll see if it’s a smart strategy. Time will tell.
Team on the Hotseat: Jeb Bush. He’s got the name. He’s got the establishment. He’s got the money. He’s got the tradition. Now, he’s got to win. And soon.
Team Drama King: Joe Biden. Will he or won’t he? Who would he take votes from? If he gets in he fundamentally changes the game on the Democratic side. I think Joe The Biden will suit up and play. But today, he’s more questions than answers.
Best Kept Secret: Dr. Ben Carson. Its the year of The Outsider and, as I’ve also rambled about, Dr. Carson is the Real Outsider in the GOP race. He’s a true conservative, likable and has literally snuck up on the field without the benefit of saturation earned or paid media.
Well, that’s all the political smart pills we have today sports fans. Until next time, its your friendly Rambling Man saying “so long neighbors!”
Get me outta here Percy.