Nick Saban for Alabama Senate

 Liz Mair
  20th-Nov-2017

As the Roy Moore political fiasco continues to worsen, the Republican Party is facing a Category 5 political disaster.

What should have been a lay-up of an election might in fact install a Democrat into a super-safe Republican Senate seat.

Or it might install Moore. That could force the Senate to prevent him taking his seat or force them to vote to remove him – either way, the right thing to do based on what we know now, but also a political pickle, since it will read to some GOP voters as Mitch McConnell taking drastic action to prevent a major critic from sitting in his chamber. Or the GOP could feel compelled to leave Moore be, should he win – a bad move for the party, since Moore has become a toxic figure for so many voters the GOP needs in 2018.

And no matter what happens, and how the GOP responds, the bottom line is as a party, Republicans will have succeeded in repelling a bunch of the electorate we need to keep in play in order to not get killed in November of next year.

What to do?

As messy and unnavigable as this situation seems, there is in fact an answer. It's a straight-out-of-left-field one. It's crazy. No, seriously, it's actually completely nuts. It's so out there that it won't actually happen. But it's what McConnell and the Alabama GOP should be quietly attempting, and frankly praying for: Get Nick Saban to run as a write-in candidate, and agree to caucus as a Republican if he wins.

For those readers unfamiliar with Saban, he is the head football coach at the University of Alabama, regarded by many as the best coach of the sport in its entire history. He has a 78 percent win rate over the life of his college coaching career, and an 87 percent win record at Alabama. He is basically God in the Yellowhammer State. Everyone knows his name. Everyone can spell his name. Everyone could easily write in his name. And a lot of people would.

It's not 100 percent clear where Saban's political loyalties lie, though signs point to "conservative" of some sort.

According to OpenSecrets.org, Saban has made only two political donations in his life: One, of $250, in 1993 to Republican Bernadine Healy (who later became an editor at U.S. News) and the other, of $2,400 in 2010, to conservative Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (who most Democrats consider a "DINO" – Democrat In Name Only – and who has often been named as a target for party-switching).

The New Yorker's Benjamin Wallace-Wells has dubbed Saban the "uncharismatic" variety of right-winger, contrasting him with Clemson University's Dabo Swinney, whose "Christianity and his conservatism more forthright" than Saban's.

But Saban is reportedly a devout Catholic, who goes to Mass before every game, and every Sunday. He also has adopted children – taken all together, that suggests he is fairly strongly pro-life, like many if not most Republicans. He and his wife helped raise money for the University of Alabama church, maybe a necessary thing optics-wise for the head coach, but more likely a signal of Christian devotion.

Saban has also habitually occupied the geographical and socio-economic habitat of today's Republican voters. He was born and raised in West Virginia coal country (maybe that's why he donated to Manchin). He's spent a lot of his life in the South. Like a lot of Republicans, he seemed business-minded at an early age, graduating with a degree in business from Kent State.And, like a lot of Republicans, he's also rich – the second highest-paid college football coach now, and when he moved to Alabama, the then-highest-paid. Not all rich people are Republicans (just ask Hollywood!), but more of them are than not – and in any event, the wealthy tend to be conservative with their own money.

Saban has, despite these signs and the occasional political donation, appeared reluctant to get involved in political debates, even suggesting ahead of the 2016 election that he was unaware of it altogether, and refusing to state a position on which candidate he was supporting.

As someone who has to be laser-focused on protecting Alabama's brand as a commercial entity, his comments that "If I say I like one person, that means that everybody that voted for the other person doesn't like me. So why would I do that? I want what's best for our country" make a lot of sense. Michael Jordan may not have actually said "Republicans buy shoes, too," but the if he had, he would have been right. And Saban has to navigate the reality of coaching a lot of African-American players whose fan base is predominantly white – meaning in his current job, he benefits from avoiding offending both Democrats (which most of his players and their families probably are) and Republicans (which most of his local fans also probably are). That means he's had to be very political – by appearing to be very non-political.

But if he cultivates that non-political with statements like those about the 2016 election, Saban is not a political dropout – and that's setting aside those two political donations. The coach is registered to vote in Alabama, he cut a video urging Alabamans to register to vote and to get free, government IDs allowing them to vote, advocated for a bill aimed at stopping youth suicides, and did speak out on the #takeaknee controversy, backing up players who say they're not intending to disrespect veterans but also suggesting that he personally would stand and considered the national anthem something that used to be unifying. That was arguably another example of doing just what politicians have to do to win – dodge bullets and avoid pissing everyone off.

As veteran GOP strategist Stuart Stevens, another person who had the Saban-for-Senate brainwave, pointed out on Twitter, it would be extraordinarily easy for Saban to raise the money to run as a write-in candidate: Pretty much every fan of every other team in the SEC would donate money in the hopes that he'd move on to another job. Saban would also certainly lock down the vote of Auburn University fans, immediately.Of course, that points to one liability Saban might have: While some Alabama fans might support him just out of sheer devotion, others might actively vote against him because they want him coaching the Crimson Tide forever.

But if Saban showed interest in entering politics, it seems plausible that more Alabama fans than not would support him. After all, he's delivered for them – a lot. Maybe they'd feel they owe him their support in return.

In any event, Saban would fit right in to the mold of non-politicians getting into the game and shaking things up, and he'd give Alabamans a choice that many of them would undoubtedly find more palatable than Jones or Moore. And who knows, as a senator, he might do some real good, perhaps in the realm of promoting more adoption, helping reduce teenage suicides, promoting more physical fitness and healthier lifestyles (Saban reportedly eats a lunch of "iceberg lettuce and cherry tomatoes topped with turkey slices and fat-free honey Dijon dressing" every day), or improving race relations in America, which are in a desperately poor state.

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Domain: Afterhours
Category: Sports
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