Barack Obama was launched into the national spotlight in the 2004 Illinois Senate election, a race which, at the time, looked like a showdown between himself and Mike Ditka.
The Republican party was going hard to the hoop trying to convince the former Bears’ coach to run (their original candidate, Jack Ryan, quit after accusations from his wife that he forced her to go with him to strip clubs). Ditka considered it, but ultimately said no, because it interfered with his broadcasting job and business promotions.
Yes, Ditka punted. Real change in politics comes when you go for it on fourth-and-1, coach. Huffington Post:
Speaking at the grand opening ceremony in North Dakota’s Oil Patch, Ditka said the “biggest mistake I’ve ever made” was not running against Obama for Illinois’ Senate seat in 2004.
And now, a quote that gives great insight into what kind of a Senator Mike Ditka would have been:
“Not that I would have won, but I probably would have and he wouldn’t be in the White House,” said Ditka, via The Dickinson Press.
Fun fact: Polls at the time showed Ditka trailing Obama by 7 points, and that was before Obama’s famous speech at the Democratic Convention. But damn the numbers, Ditka says he would have won!
Here’s an excerpt from Ditka’s comments in 2004, in which he announced his decision not to run:
Then, in Ditka’s typical blunt-speaking fashion, the former coach launched into an unsolicited tirade about a Massachusetts court decision legalizing gay marriage.
“What’s the matter with right and wrong? Talk about right and wrong. It’s either right or wrong. There’s no in-between,” Ditka said. “And I’m not going to change, and you’re not going to change me, no matter if some judge in the state of Massachusetts or the Supreme Court says it’s right. It’s not right. Wrong is wrong.”
That more than anything tells us what kind of a Senator he would have been.
And in conclusion: Secretary of Defense Buddy Ryan?