The surprise retirement of a key Florida congressman has Republican strategists eager to give the ball to former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow, according to several sources.
"We do not pick favorites," said a key party strategist, but "obviously a huge Florida football star would be an interesting candidate for our side of the aisle."
Earlier this week, Rep. Ander Crenshaw, 71, a House appropriator from Jacksonville, Fla., announced his plan to retire at the end of his term this year. It was not expected.
He recently expressed interest in an eventual political run. During his foundation's recent Jacksonville golf tournament, the Heisman Trophy winner was asked by Fox about politics and said, "If there's a chance you can make a difference someday in something, then that would be intriguing."
Tebow was not immediately available for comment.
The news about the GOP's interest took flight earlier Thursday when the Examiner's sister site Red Alert Politics called on Tebow to run for the 4th Congressional District seat. In an editorial, RAP wrote:
If there is any chance Tebow could run, Republicans and the NRCC should actively recruit him and welcome him into the party. While some might think Tebow could be 'the next Rick Santorum,' focusing mostly on social issues, Tebow would bring much more than that.
He would bring a focus on fighting for the less fortunate and using creative solutions to eradicate poverty. He would also bring millennial appeal — and the right kind of millennial appeal. Tebow's non-political accomplishments allow him to say things politicians couldn't about culture and character. He would shake up the political establishment and would have no ties to special interests.
Republican sources told the Examiner that they are reaching out to Tebow in hopes he will consider a bid. They are even quietly pulling together a potential campaign team that he could use for the upcoming August 30 primary. "We could hit the ground running, immediately," said the source.
Republicans made a similar outreach to Duck Dynasty star Willie Robertson in 2013, but he ended up deciding against a run.
Still, Tebow, who has floated among NFL teams but never landed a permanent job, has fans in Washington.
"Just because your quarterback career in the NFL doesn't pan out it doesn't mean you can't have a successful career in politics – just ask Heath Shuler. So if this is something he's interested in pursuing, Tebow would certainly be a strong contender for this seat with his high name ID and reputation for hard work and strong values," said Brian Walsh, a GOP advisor and strategist.
"Like his career with the Denver Broncos, the primary game is going be extremely competitive so Tebow may have to once again come from behind late in the 4th quarter in order to pull this off. If he were to become the Republican nominee, he would be a shoo-in because it is a safe Republican seat," added communications strategist Ron Bonjean.
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org