iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Lawrence Shulruff

GET UPDATES FROM Lawrence Shulruff
 

"Political Linching"? Republicans Look to 2024

Posted: 02/17/2012 2:37 pm

Before you run out and buy a number 17 jersey.

Before you bid on the remaining now hard-to-get Kicks season tickets.

Before you completely jump on the bandwagon with all the other Linatics, just consider: Is something sinister happening here?

Some background in case you've missed the boat on this story -- along with the other scouts, managers, sports writers and fans -- and this one is a not-so-slow one that originally came from Taiwan, where his parents were born:

Until just a couple of weeks ago, Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin was spending an awful lot of time on the Knicks' bench and his brother's couch (he couldn't afford his own place) as he worried that time was running out on his career in the NBA. In late January he was moved down to the Knicks' farm club and his prospects of finishing the season in New York were dim sum. Instead, now he's a worldwide phenomenon and his popularity is only growing. Under his leadership the Knicks have a seven-game winning streak -- their best of the season.

As the story goes, the Harvard-educated Lin, one of only four players of Asian descent to reach the NBA (he's the first American-born Asian to play in the pros) was overlooked throughout his high school, college and pro career, in large part because of heritage. That's all changed.

After being put in a game against the New Jersey Nets on Feb. 4, 2012, Lin has been burning up the hardwood at Madison Square Garden and every other arena where he's played.

Some highlights:

• 38 points against the Lakers on Feb. 10, 2012, the most points a Knick has scored all season;
• Six straight games with 20 points and seven assists, including a buzzer-beater against the Raptors;
• The first NBA player in more than 30 years to score 21 points with 8 assists in his starting debut.

But it isn't just sports fans taking notice. With the Republican Party in disarray and voters splintered, honchos at the Republican National Committee are taking a long look at the Lin phenom. Is this the making of a true Manchurian candidate?

The athlete-turned-politician arc is nothing new for New Yorkers. Former Buffalo Bill quarterback Jack Kemp had a distinguished career as a member of Congress and a cabinet member. But the Republican strategists seem to be looking at the career of former New York Knick and New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley, like Lin, an Ivy Leaguer, as the model to follow -- and improve.

Bradley made a bid for the White House in 2000 but had his ambitions dashed in the Iowa primary when voters learned he had one of the highest technical foul statistics in the NBA.

Republican operatives are vetting the young Lin to avoid such embarrassing disclosures. Lin is handsome, charming, disarming and his rags-to-riches tale is sure to excite voters. Strategists are already looking very closely at this year's All-Star ballots.

Politics -- like sports -- is all about statistics. In a run for the White House Lin has a lock on his home state of California and New York, the two big men in the electoral college. At primary time he's sure to carry Iowa, especially with his academic pedigree, conservative values and strong support for agricultural subsidies. Which means that he could head into Super Tuesday as a shoe-in (or as one now-former Republican tactician described as a "moo-shu-in") when he's old enough to run -- in 2024. Pity the poor talking head who accuses the star's detractors for their "political linching."

Until then, let the pundits read the tea leaves and try to make sense of this marvel. Lin is probably thinking more about endorsements from Nike than the teamsters. New Yorkers, a savvy bunch, have their own plans. They're going vote with their sneakers by heading to Madison Square Garden to catch the best show in town.