Matthew McConaughey is such a big deal in his hometown that they invite him to commentate on American college football games. He lives in Austin, home of the Texas Longhorns, a university team who play in a stadium with capacity for 100,000 spectators. Once in a while, they bring him in to coach the players. When McConaughey spoke to the team in 2014, he drawled encouragement and sporting platitudes. But now that he is mulling a run for Governor of Texas, it sounds like the beginnings of a stump speech.
“I was gonna ask you all, man, why do you play football?” he says in front of an army of enormous young men. “Ask yourself when you look in the mirror tonight, ‘why do I play this game? Why am I out here, bustin’ my ass in the middle of the heat, every day?’ It feels good going out on Saturdays when it’s the big show, right? Hell yeah, it does. It feels much better after a W than it does after an L. I’ve found that when I’ve done my best work as an actor, it was only when I pushed myself to be better than I even thought I could be.” And he’s off talking about motivation, playing for yourself as well as for your teammates. The players – and even the coaches – are hanging on his every word.
Governor McConaughey? It’s not such an outrageous idea. The 51-year-old actor, whose roles have seen him play a stoner, a drug-addled detective, and a Rhodes-scholar crime boss, not to mention countless six-packed rom com hunks, would not be the first Hollywood star to successfully move into politics. Arnold Schwarzenegger made his name playing the lead in schlocky sci-fi movies before serving two terms as the Governor of California. McConaughey has starred in a few dud pictures in his career, but if Arnie could swing California after playing Mr Freeze in Batman and Robin (“Ice to see you!”) then anything is possible.
Still, mainstream popularity rarely translates to success at the ballot box. Other than Donald Trump, Ronald Reagan, and the WWE wrestler Jesse “The Body” Ventura, who was the 38th Governor of Minnesota, A-list electoral campaigns tend to end in embarrassing defeat. Caitlyn Jenner was one of the latest celebs to run in the gubernatorial race in California – but she tanked. Cynthia Nixon, who played Miranda in Sex and the City, challenged Andrew Cuomo as Governor of New York in the 2018 election – and also lost. Kanye West, founder of the Birthday Party ran a slapdash bid for President in 2020, getting just 60,000 votes.
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