Tom Brady for Vice President?

The New England Patriots quarterback has surprisingly become a talking point in the 2016 presidential election

Vermin Supreme is not a mainstream presidential candidate. So no one took it too seriously when he said during a radio appearance this week that he wants to make New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady his running mate.

"Did I mention I was going to make Tom Brady my vice presidential pick?" Supreme said. "Tom Brady should be one heartbeat away from the presidency."

The pony loving, boot-hat wearing outsider isn't the only 2016 hopeful using Brady's popularity to curry favor with voters. Already this year, many major presidential candidates have invoked Brady's name while on the stump in New Hampshire.

Brady has always been hugely popular, but the Deflategate saga has made him almost a religious figure in these parts.

"It's kind of classic electoral pander," said Dean Spiliotes, a Southern New Hampshire University political scientist. "Electoral politics is full of candidates pandering to local audiences. Basically, you're trying to connect with the voters. You try to connect with them on things that are important to them."

Back in May, Chris Christie - who has staked the success of his campaign on New Hampshire - defended Brady while visiting the state.

"I think there's a little bit too much attention on this," the diehard Dallas Cowboys fan told IJReview. He called the scandal "way, way overblown" and implied that people were enjoying Brady's trouble because he's rich and has a supermodel wife.

Ted Cruz took a similar approach, saying during a June event in Massachusetts that "Tom Brady was framed."

And during the third GOP debate in October, Lindsey Graham took that pandering to a whole new level.

"I want to win New Hampshire - Go Tom Brady! Go Patriots," he joked.

Other candidates have toned down the rhetoric.

During a May visit to New Hampshire, Rand Paul said his wife is a "huge fan" of Brady's, having had her picture taken with him at one point.

John Kasich - a Pittsburgh Steelers fan - was asked about Brady during a June appearance on necn's Broadside, and mostly defended the quarterback.

"We keep wanting to tear people down who we have grown to respect and admire," he said. "We all are flawed. I'm flawed, man. OK, I don't know what Brady did, but I don't want to run Brady into the ground."

Bernie Sanders has also been supportive of Brady, telling Bloomberg Politics he's a "strong Tom Brady fan," while refusing to answer whether he thought Brady was telling the truth.

And Donald Trump has repeatedly name-dropped Brady during his New Hampshire stops after reporters spotted a Trump "Make America Great Again" hat in the quarterback's locker earlier this year and Brady said he hoped the billionaire real estate mogul can win the presidency.

Brady has stopped short of endorsing Trump outright, but Trump told The Washington Post last week that Brady's support is the reason he's doing so well in this area.

"You know, it's hard for a guy like him to say that," Trump told the Post. "When you're a football player, you don't want to be taking sides in campaigns and having the Hillary (Clinton) people now say you're not as good as Bart Starr. You understand. So Tom Brady is great."

Spiliotes said it's not unusual to see candidates use popular local teams like the Red Sox to connect with New Hampshire voters, but singling out one specific player is something he hasn't seen before.

"It's an unusual situation," he said.

Oddly, Marco Rubio has taken the opposite approach. The Florida Senator is a Miami Dolphins fan, and has repeatedly tweaked Brady and Patriots fans - New Hampshire poll numbers be damned. During the offseason, he was quoted saying that he hoped Brady would retire or that he wished the NFL's original 4-game suspension had been permanent.

Ahead of the Patriots game against the Dolphins in October - a game the Pats won - Rubio even tweeted out a Deflategate joke.

"Rubio is sort of unsual going the other way," Spiliotes said. "He probably knows at least enough to do it in a good natured way. It's a little self deprecating."

He's not the only presidential candidate who has taken a shot at Brady, though the others have been a bit more careful in their criticism.

Rick Santorum told Neil Cavuto of Fox News back in January that he thought Brady could have been a bit more forthcoming about the whole ordeal.

Carly Fiorina, meanwhile, tried to relate Brady's Deflategate woes to Hillary Clinton's email fiasco.

"Maybe Tom Brady learned how to wipe his phone clean by watching Hillary Clinton wipe her server clean," she told Boston talk radio host Howie Carr in July, apparently not concerned about how that might impact her chances in New Hampshire.

Jim Gilmore made a similar comparison, tweeting in July that since Brady was suspended four games for hiding evidence, Clinton "should have to sit out first 4 primaries."

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