ONLY IN A PLACE as unabashedly heart-on-its-sleeve as Portland could a political consultant utter the phrase, “We want to help people change the world,” and not make listeners want to upchuck.
But even if Kari Chisholm lived in a place as jaded as LA, he’d figure out a way to attract a following. After all, that’s his job. As president of the left-leaning Internet think tank Mandate Media, the 34-year-old Portlande tirelessly works to buoy Oregon’s Democratic machine by helping candidates create blogs, bulk up e-mail campaigns and raise money—anything to keep Portland blue.
“Guilty,” Chisholm laughs. “I’m an idealist.”
Except in December, when the University of Southern California grad and rabid football fan becomes a realist and uses his powers of political persuasion to shape a far more colorful election: the Heisman Trophy. As proprietor of www.stiffarmtrophy.com, Chisholm has predicted the winner of college football’s most prestigious player award for five straight years. Not only that, but by canvassing close to 300 of the 900 plus voters (a group that’s composed of sports journalists and former winners), the site has also just about nailed the vote tally with George Kreskin-like precision.
Stiffarmtrophy has made Chisholm the Punxsutawney Phil of pigskin, lauded by fans of his chosen player and sought after by sportswriters for his odds-on favorite. “But this year is gonna be tough,” says Chisholm, whose alma mater has nabbed three of the last five Heisman trophies. “The field is wide open.”
In fact, this year he might be forced to anoint a Duck, if Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon continues his underdog bid for the trophy. “Dixon is a helluva quarterback,” Chisholm admits. “And I’d love to see another Pac-10 player get the Heisman—even if he was from Oregon.”
Of course, as the words leave his mouth, Chisholm sounds just a little bit queasy himself.