Former heavyweight champ Mike Tyson is biting the bullet and endorsing Maryland Republican Michael Steele for the U.S. Senate. Tyson was once married to Steele’s sister.

Tyson said he once thought black Republicans were “sellouts.” Coming from a person who made a living in professional boxing, that’s saying something. Tyson is on a boxing exhibition tour, during which he made headlines because he says he may fight women — presumably minus the mace this time.

Promoter Don King is also campaigning for Steele:

While Tyson was touting his show, Tyson’s old promoter, Don King, was stumping for Steele in Maryland around a Largo shopping center and Baltimore.

Both boxing industry celebrities, despite their differences — Tyson has blamed King for upending his career and sued him for $100 million in 1998, later settling for $7 million — carried the same message: African-Americans shouldn’t reflexively vote for Democrats.

So, will the endorsement of Tyson and King help, hurt, or be indifferent to Steele? Well, Steele certainly can use all the “fight” he can get. No Republican has won a Senate seat in Maryland for 26 years, but Democrats are nervous for various reasons:

Maryland has the highest percentage of African Americans of any state outside the South, and, apart from Steele himself, blacks have been conspicuously missing from its top ranks of elected officials.

Therein lays Steele’s opportunity as the candidate of black fulfillment.

Some black Democrats were chagrined when Cardin defeated a black candidate, former Rep. Kweisi Mfume, in the party’s primary.

Referring to the historic scarcity of blacks in top Maryland offices, Steele said, “Does that translate into votes for me? I don’t know. That’s my job to convince them that I’m worth the risk in November.”

Prince George’s County, with a two-thirds African-American population, is the state’s second-biggest source of Democratic votes. It is also Steele’s home turf and he told me Saturday he hopes to get 35 percent of the vote there, about 15 points better than GOP candidates historically have performed there.

And everybody knows Mike Tyson and Don King. In spite of their baggage, this quick jolt of exposure via an endorsement by two well-known personalities won’t hurt Steele, who already has a bigger campaign war chest than his opponent, Democrat Rep. Benjamin Cardin. Frankly, some Republicans could use a little more of a “street fighter” mentality at this time of year.

If I were Steele, I’d play it for all it’s worth by standing on stage, raise hands with Tyson, and asking “are you better off than you were four ears ago?” There’s a terrific campaign t-shirt idea in there somewhere.

Here’s Michael Steele’s website. Pitch in a few bucks if you can. Black Republicans give Democrats symptoms of amoebic dysentery, so let’s join Mike Tyson and Don King in the ring for this fight. This is one election Republicans want to be accused of Steele-ing.


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