CBSSports.com National Columnist

Craig James for Senate? Take your shots while it lasts

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Craig James is camera-friendly, but Texas voters don't seem to see him as their next senator. (Getty Images)  
Craig James is camera-friendly, but Texas voters don't seem to see him as their next senator. (Getty Images)  

For those of you who don't like Craig James -- and judging from polls and other measuring sticks, that's pretty much everybody -- his campaign for U.S. Senate has been like the 12 days of Christmas, with enough goodies left over to celebrate the eight days of Hanukkah. And the week of Kwanzaa.

Actually, there's enough here to carry into the New Year, way past April Fool's Day (U.S. Sen. Craig James!) and onto the Fourth of July. Maybe even into Halloween. What ridiculous costume are you going to wear? Me, I'm thinking of going as U.S. Sen. Craig James.

Craig James for the U.S. Senate? It's the gift that keeps on giving the whole year. It's like that jelly-of-the-month club membership in Christmas Vacation -- and speaking of which, there's a character in that movie who reminds me of Craig James.

No, not Cousin Eddie.

It's the next-door neighbor, Todd. Remember him? Good-looking guy, pretty wife. Great house. Right car, right clothes, right stereo. On sight, he's a winner. And yet nobody -- and I mean, nobody -- likes him.

Which brings me back to Craig James.

Nobody seems to like him, but that didn't stop the guy from eyeballing the race for retiring U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's seat and throwing his hat into the ring -- where it landed like a rattlesnake.

Understand, this is no normal Senate race. Not if Craig James is involved. I'm guessing many in the state of Texas, and almost everyone outside the state (me included), couldn't have picked Hutchison's face out of a lineup. Whether she ran again, didn't run, whatever -- it's not a big deal to most folks.

But then Craig James takes a leave from ESPN to run for Senate, and it's a huge deal. It's noteworthy because it's so bad, like bellbottom pants or the 1971 Ford Ranchero. Everyone recoils, because that's what people do when they run across Craig James.

I mean, it's everyone. Even people on his side of the aisle. A column this week in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that Republican lobbyists "are already leaning on James to not run." Why? Because, the paper goes on to note, "[James] has no chance."

In some ways this is strange, because James looks like the perfect politician. Great hair, big smile. Name recognition galore. And he's running on the platform of God, Texas and anti-Obamacare. What's not to like?

Everything else about him.

There's the stuff at SMU, where James played in college from 1979-82. Several years later the NCAA handed SMU the death penalty for paying its players, and while James has never been tied to the cheating, the question lingers: If SMU was breaking NCAA rules for years, breaking them so badly that the school was busted time and again before finally being given the death penalty in 1987, is it possible SMU wasn't paying one of its best players in decades? Again, nobody knows. But that's the perception. And in politics, perception is everything.

There's the stuff at Texas Tech, where James' son, Adam, plays -- and where Craig James, in the dual role of soccer dad and college football analyst, helped run off the most successful, popular coach in Red Raiders history. As a result, ex-coach Mike Leach sued James and his network, kicking up tidbits about the incident with Adam James and the shed, and the lengths Craig James allegedly went to have Leach removed.

And yet Craig James is so clueless about his place in the world that he has said, "Most people in Lubbock support my position."

Not so fast, my friend. The day James announced he was running for Senate, Lubbock talk-radio station 790 KFYO asked its listeners, "Would you vote for Craig James in the GOP primary?" More than 96 percent said no.

James is undeterred. Nine Republicans (and five Democrats) had filed the paperwork to run for Hutchison's seat when James became the 10th member of his party, and 15th candidate overall, to join the race. Among others, James is running against the lieutenant governor of Texas (David Dewhurst), a former mayor of Dallas (Tom Leppert) and a former state solicitor general (Ted Cruz). This is not a Senate race for the faint of heart, but Craig James has plowed into it like a fullback going up the middle on fourth-and-1. Only James has no helmet, shoulder pads or backing.

His Senate campaign has a Facebook page, and after nearly two weeks it hasn't exactly gone viral -- liked by 59 whole people as of Thursday afternoon.

Meanwhile, there are eight times as many members of a competing Facebook page (472 as of Thursday afternoon) called Rally Against Craig James for U.S. Senate.

And there are almost twice as many members of a Facebook page (109, as of Thursday) asking for James to be fired from his TV job.

I could do this all day, even all year, because Craig James' candidacy for the U.S. Senate is that ridiculous. Texas is a staunch Republican state with a population of more than 25 million, and the Craig James-for-Senate Facebook page is liked by less than 100. Which means he's a long way from the 8,816 folks who belong to I Hate When You're Walking Home And A Hippo Just Falls On You.

One of these days, though, our fun will end. It will dawn on Craig James that people in Texas are trying to tell him something:

His candidacy is unwanted. He is unliked. The U.S. Senate, as ridiculous as it is, has standards. And a hippo has a better shot at getting elected than Craig James.


Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.
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