If I knew more about hockey, I'd know which hockey player Dan Malloy resembles at the Democratic convention.
He's not Dave Semenko, the hulking bloody-fisted 1980s goon eventually acquired from Edmonton by the Hartford Whalers mainly because that was the only way to get him to stop punching them.
He's more of a feisty, mid-sized player who's not incapable of scoring but who mainly comes off the bench to deliver the crushing checks and get the other teams looking over their shoulders. And yes, he doesn't shrink from dropping his gloves on the ice and swinging away. Nick Fotiu? Could he be Nick Fotiu? I'm sure there's a better analogy.
Many of the Malloy traits that don't work particularly well in Connecticut make him pure gold in the national arena, starting with that combativeness.
He appeared last week on CNN with U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican who is Congress' only Jewish Mormon. Chaffetz is a former BYU placekicker who sleeps (as a matter of principle) on a cot in his office and whose father was married to Kitty Dukakis before she married Michael. You'd think with all that he'd be pretty memorable, but Malloy put him away like he was a low-level bantamweight palooka. A flurry of facts, verbal punctuations, counter-charges and then a snarl: "And where have you been on a jobs bill?"
Chaffetz looked like he wanted to get as far away from this crazy man as possible. Maybe find a deserted stadium and practice field goals.
I don't admire this kind of thing, but that doesn't change the fact that Malloy is good at it. If President Barack Obama watched the tape, he had to have been thinking: "Hmmmm. This is what I pictured Biden doing when I put him on the ticket."
Biden isn't really like that. He might throw a wild haymaker once in a while, but he's more of a glad-hander than a guy who wants to get in close and started trading lots of quick punches.
As I say, Malloy is well served on the national stage by qualities that have plagued him in Connecticut: Not since Harry Truman have we seen a politician so apparently indifferent to (or, alternatively, incapable of burnishing) his own popularity. If you go on "Morning Joe" (where Malloy enjoys a status roughly equivalent to Oscar Levant's on the old Jack Paar show) and tell some Republican functionary to blow it out his old wazoo, it plays a lot better than when you say it back home to the teachers union.
In Charlotte, Malloy raced from delegation to delegation giving fiery Agincourt-type pep talks. He said he was "booked like a dentist." I like my dentist, but most politicians would know better than to compare themselves to the guy who numbs your head and then scrapes around in your gums with a metal pick.
What does Malloy want? There's speculation that he's hoping to be raptured out of Connecticut and into a federal post in the second Obama administration. This is based on his dismal poll numbers here in the state. Alexander Woollcott once said of Oscar Levant that there was "absolutely nothing wrong with him that a miracle couldn't fix." That's sort of where Malloy is right now.
But maybe not. Malloy's raison d'etre has been remarkably consistent: He lives to prove that everybody is wrong about him. So to whatever extent a lot of you are thinking he's some kind of sinister knucklehead, he's got you, so to speak, right where he wants you.
And we are entering — according to the standard political playbook — the Season of Giving. If you've got four years and a very sick dog, you spend the first two forcing the bitter deworming medicine down its throat and the second two tossing tennis balls and feeding it porterhouse trimmings.
I have no idea whether Malloy plans to follow that playbook, but I don't buy the argument that all this running around and speed-dating the Wyoming delegation is a protracted audition for an upward move.
Dan Malloy doesn't audition. It's the rest of us who audition. We're all extras. It's his ABC after-school special: "The Boy Who Was Repeatedly Underestimated."