CNN Political Ticker: All politics, all the time Blog Archive - Greene: Could Mike Ditka have altered U.S. history? - Blogs from CNN.com
"in the summer of 2004, Ditka was being pursued by Illinois and national Republican leaders to step in and run for the United States Senate against a newcomer to the political big leagues: Barack Obama, an Illinois state senator.
Jack Ryan, who was expected to be the Republican nominee on the November ballot in the Illinois race that year, had dropped out, and his party was scrambling for a replacement. They approached Ditka; he gave it serious consideration, and then, citing family and business obligations, said no.
“I don’t know what would have happened if I had run,” Ditka, 69, said. “I really don’t. Could I have beaten him? Maybe. Maybe not.”
A lot of people in Illinois thought Ditka had a pretty good chance to win, had he accepted the invitation to run. Remember: four years ago, Obama was a relative unknown. He was back in the state senate after having been defeated badly in a 2000 primary in which he sought to run for the U.S. House of Representatives.
“I’m a staunch conservative,” he said. “You can’t fool me about socialism and the welfare state. I’m solid for McCain and Palin.”