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  • America Votes

    Election news from across the Knight Ridder network and the Web

    Tuesday, October 12, 2004

    Rock or jock? 

    Colorado Springs, Colo. — While Bruce Springsteen was rocking the vote at Washington's MCI Center Monday for change in the White House, Mike Shanahan was busy jocking the vote on behalf of the president at Denver's gorgeous Red Rocks amphitheatre.

    Shanahan, the coach of the NFL Denver Broncos, provided his name and his regional starpower to the Bush cause by introducing Bush to the nearly 10,000 faithful who filled the seats of the outdoor venue that for decades has hosted acts ranging from The Beatles to Yanni to Eartha Kitt to the anti-Bush Springsteen.

    Shanahan, a legend in Denver for delivering two Super Bowl titles, is among a growing list of sports figures who support Bush and join him on the campaign trail. It seems like the president has cornered the market on football coaches. In addition to Shanahan, Detroit Lions coach Steve Mariucci, Penn State coach Joe Paterno (whose son, Scott, is a Republican candidate for a U.S. House seat in Pennsylvania), and former University of Michigan coach Bo Schembechler have joined Bush on stage in key battleground states and given him ringing endorsements. Not be outdone, golfers Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus have also joined the Bush bandwagon. Nicklaus, speaking at a Bush rally in Columbus, Ohio, before the first presidential debate admitted he didn't know the president, but knew his father — former President George H.W. Bush — but knew the Bush family and that was good enough for him.

    Bush campaign officials say the combination of sports heroes and politics is a win-win situation for them. Being in the same company with these figures lends credence to Bush's image as a regular guy and it helps him tap into the local fabric of the city or town where the sports legend works.

    "These are people who are very popular in their community who citizens listen to," said Scott Stanzel, a Bush campaign spokesman. "When they express their support for President Bush, it energizes our supporters and it might make people who are undecided take a second look at the president."

    Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry has not matched Bush's stable of sports stars. One hindering factor could be that Kerry is a big ice hockey fan and player. Professional hockey is primarily a Canadian sport, with other players hailing from Europe, Scandinavia, Russia and a handful from the United States. It also doesn't help matters that the National Hockey League is in the grips of a fierce labor dispute that has players, coaches and owners more concerned about whether there will be a 2004-05 hockey season than the 2004 presidential election.

    posted by William Douglas at 4:07 PM



    This blog is compiled and edited by:

  • Ellen Dunkel, producer for Knight Ridder Digital's National Desk.
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