About a week before election day, Ed Gillespie (R) got his campaign to unseat Virginia Sen. Mark Warner (D) into the sports pages by running an ad during the Redskins-Cowboys Monday Night Football broadcast.
“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has a bill to force the Redskins to change their name,” the narrator said to open the ad. “Mark Warner refused to answer if he supports the bill or not. Why won’t Warner fight the anti-Redskins bill? Why won’t he answer the question?”
“I’ll answer the question,” Gillespie then said with a chuckle. “I’ll oppose the anti-Redskins bill. Let’s focus on creating jobs, raising take-home pay and making our nation safer, and let the Redskins handle what to call their team.”
At the time, Gillespie was widely described as a huge underdog. Warner wound up declaring victory, but in “a remarkably close contest for a second term that is likely to tarnish the Democrat’s image as an untouchable force in Virginia politics,” according to The Post.
And as the closeness of that race became clear Tuesday night, a Fox News panel discussed how late deciders in Virginia broke heavily for the Republican, and whether the Redskins ad played a role.
“I’m telling you, that Redskins ad, it was the Redskins ad on ‘Monday Night Football,’ ” Bret Baier said with a smile.
Now, Baier is a pretty big-time D.C. sports fan. He has hosted debates on the Redskins name issue, and has been a guest in the owner’s box at FedEx Field. And he originally seemed to be joking about this, as his fellow panelists laughed heartily. But then it got more serious.
“Walk us through it, for those of us who don’t watch any sports of any kind,” Fox News’s Megyn Kelly requested.
“You know the controversy over the Redskins name,” Baier began. “Well [Gillespie] goes in and buys a very expensive ad on ‘Monday Night Football,’ when the Redskins are playing the Cowboys, and says you know what, we shouldn’t focus on this name. We should focus on getting things done in Washington.”
“I must tell you, Bret, that as someone who’s lived there virtually all my life, there is one issue, one subject that unites the people in the Washington area as nothing else can,” Brit Hume continued. “And that is the subject of the Redskins. And among Redskins fans — and they are legion in Maryland and Virginia — their sentiment on this Redskins name thing is overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the name. And my sense is that, who knows, that may well have motivated some people.”
“It should motivate people,” George Will said. “Because his point wasn’t just leave the Redskins alone, but what in the world, where is the enumerated power in the Constitution that says the Congress of the United States shall worry about sports teams’s names? And it just catalyzed, I think, in a lot of people’s minds, the utter frivolity of Washington.”
“And let me just say, as someone who tries not to say the name of the Washington football team….” Juan Williams began.
“Oh, please, Juan,” Hume interrupted. “Redskins, Redskins, they’re the Redskins, Juan.”
“I know, I know,” Williams said. “But I’m telling you, the team practices in Ashburn, the team’s summer is in Richmond. They are a Virginia team.”
Needless to say, these weren’t the only political analysts asking this question on Tuesday night.