Today marked ESPN analyst Craig James’ first public appearance since he announced his interest in a bid for Kay Bailey Hutchison’s U.S. Senate seat.
In fifteen minutes’ worth of remarks at a Texas Public Policy Foundation luncheon in Austin, he touched on Ronald Reagan (“The man was a genius on all the things that could be relevant today"), Thomas Jefferson (“our founding fathers had it going on”), government spending (“don’t spend it if you don’t have it”) and his strategy to involve youth in politics (“I'm going to go fistbump 'em. I'm going to make sure they understand, dude, we need you in the game”).
He also ticked through conservative talking points on health care, the economy, and taxes. At one point, the real estate developer and former running back for Southern Methodist University and the New England Patriots waxed poetic about a “town hall meeting under the sky" where he talked with workers he had hired to develop a parcel of ranch land about “the free market and what that really means.”
If James wanted to convey one message to his audience, it was that what some critics cite as his biggest weakness as a candidate — that pesky lack of policy background — might actually be his biggest strength. “One of the biggest problems in Washington,” he said, was that it didn’t have “enough real-life private-sector experience.” He offered his “common man’s standpoint” as he spoke at different times about his “real life experience,” “the real deal,” and “real life stuff.”
After the speech, James declined to commit to a Senate run. He said he was only “a citizen who is saying I’m getting involved in public policy.”
When asked about whether he’d lose any votes at Texas Tech, James reiterated what he’s told other media outlets: “It was my role and responsibility as a dad — not a celebrity or an ESPN personality — any parent would have done what we did regardless of the consequence.” Tech fired head football coach Mike Leach over his treatment of Adam James, the son of Craig James.
And that other college football scandal? “SMU’s family loves me. I’m very close to the board and to the faculty. I help them with their fundraising. And you’ll see that I had nothing to do with that,” James said.
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