Friday, August 1, 2014

Rauner leads Quinn; is that shocking at this stage of Ill. electoral game?

I do believe one bit of truth is coming out of the assorted results of polls commissioned for the Illinois governor’s race – Republican challenger Bruce Rauner probably does have more supporters at this moment than does Gov. Pat Quinn.

But does that mean I’m convinced this campaign cycle is effectively over? Or that Quinn ought to hang his head in shame and failure for the next three months?


My gut feeling says that the poll released Monday by the We Ask America organization (whose results often tend to lean toward GOP candidates, no matter who commissions the studies) is considerably off, and that anybody who’s taking its results seriously is going to be disappointed.

You know which poll I’m talking about – the one that had Rauner leading Quinn by a 14-point margin. As in 47 percent for Rauner and 33 percent for Quinn. A sitting governor in a state whose population leans toward his party only gets 33 percent voter support?!?

That’s so laughable a concept that it ought to discredit the results right away.

SO WHEN I learned of a poll commissioned by the Illinois Education Association that gives Rauner only a 4 point lead (46 percent for Rauner to 42 percent for Quinn), somehow that seemed more realistic.

Now I’ll be the first to concede that the teachers’ union that represents many suburban school districts has already thrown its endorsement lot in with Quinn. So they have a stake in making him look as strong as possible.

Just as the people who are all too eager to want to believe a 14-point lead are ones who have a stake in making Quinn look ineffectual. Polling data is the ultimate evidence that numbers can be used to tell just about any story imaginable.

Numbers can tell stinkin’ lies, if used in certain ways.

PERSONALLY, I’M ALWAYS most interested in checking out the “undecided” category when it comes to electoral polls. How many people can’t make up their mind about who they want.

It just seems that this election cycle is one where the undecided factor is higher than usual. Although we have just over 90 days to go prior to Election Day. People are going to change their mind.

Which makes these numbers all so uncertain and unreliable.

It also fits in with the anecdotal evidence I have seen in talking with people who are capable of voting on Nov. 4 (or earlier if they use one of the Early Voting Centers to cast a ballot).

I HONESTLY BELIEVE that Rauner already has every single supporter he’s going to get on Election Day. Anybody who hasn’t already decided they’re voting for him isn’t going to do so, and nothing is going to change their minds.

And yet even in that 14-point lead poll, Rauner has 47 percent voter support. Which isn’t enough to win – unless you believe that any of the fringe candidates running for governor will actually catch on amongst the electorate and come close to taking more than 1 percent of the vote.

Those undecideds, if they get off their duffs and cast votes, may well wind up going for Quinn. Unless they decide that they could care less about either candidate, and they wind up voting for nobody.

Which is a real possibility, and is the basis of the Rauner campaign strategy to discourage votes amongst certain people. Quinn has to motivate them to think that they should care about his campaign, even though many of these people are psyching themselves up for the February 2015 mayoral election (and potential April 2015 runoff) to try to get Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, or anybody else, to beat Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

THIS IS WHY I remain convinced this is Quinn’s election to lose, even though long-time political observer Larry Sabato this week shifted his analysis saying Illinois has gone from being a “toss-up” to “leans Republican” when it comes to governor.

If Quinn can get his supporters to care enough to get out to the polls and vote as he did in 2010 against Republican William Brady then he’s going to give us evidence to the old adage that, “The only poll that matters is the one on Election Day.”

And if he can’t, then his campaign has no one else to blame for their failure than themselves.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Did 'Tomahawk Chop' overwhelm White Sox, Chicago moments of glory?

(Not in) COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- On the day that long-time Chicago White Sox hitter Frank Thomas got inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, one of the sights seen Sunday was that of a lone White Sox jersey-clad fan surrounded by Atlanta Braves fans who persisted in performing their nonsensical Tomahawk Chop.

Then again, maybe it was symbolic of what the White Sox franchise's fan base is like -- a small group of die-hards wondering why all the baseball fans around them get worked up over such nonsense.

BUT SUNDAY WAS the day that Thomas was formally inducted into the Hall of Fame, which is a designation he will continue to have long after he passes on from this particular realm of existence.

All those Atlanta fans (whom I'm sure could care less about how silly they looked or how some will claim their "chop" is racist and offensive) were on hand because of the fact that the manager and two top pitchers from their string of winning ball clubs of the 1990s all got into the Hall of Fame as well.

But those of us focused on the Second City merely viewed that as the prelude to seeing Thomas get his honors, with some even noting the fact that long-time manager Tony LaRussa began his career as a major league skipper on the South Side.

We're the ones who took some pleasure in seeing the tearful (literally, his voice kept choking up, particularly when speaking of his late father) Thomas try to make sure to thank everyone who had an influence on his life. "I'm an emotional guy who wears my heart on my sleeve," he said.

HE SPENT QUITE a bit of time talking of his family. But also worked his way through the nearly 850 ballplayers he was teammates with. Not that he actually named them all. But he rattled through a list of nicknames that included a lot of otherwise long-forgotten White Sox players.

Some of whom I'm sure only the most hard-core of fans remember.

Although he also gave some more detailed credit to long-time hitting coach Walt Hriniak, broadcaster Ken Harrelson (who came up with the "Big Hurt" nickname that may be the "Hawk's" lasting contribution to baseball) and manager Ozzie Guillen.

The latter for, "leading us to my only (championship) ring" in 2005. Of whom fellow teammates Jermaine Dye (the World Series MVP that year) and Aaron Rowand were present in Cooperstown on Sunday.

I'D BE REMISS if I wrote that Thomas was the only Chicago moment.

For Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux acknowledged the fact that half of his major league stint was with the Chicago Cubs, and he gave that 1989 ball club (managed by the late Don Zimmer) that went to the National League playoffs some recognition.

He even downplayed the ineptitude of Cubs management that let Maddux go even though it was apparent he was one of the best baseball pitchers of the era, saying instead on Sunday he left Chicago for Atlanta because he was looking for a nice place to raise a family.

Even LaRussa included the Chicago memories, even though many baseball fans tend to forget the 1983 division title White Sox to focus on the championship ball clubs Tony led in Oakland and with the St. Louis Cardinals.

LaRUSSA DIDN'T. HE mentioned those early-to-mid-1980s White Sox teams that had future Hall of Famers Carlton Fisk and Tom Seaver, along with talented leaders such as Greg Luzinski (he of the multiple rooftop shots, of which we can only dream how many Thomas would have hit if the old Comiskey Park were still standing) and Jerry Koosman.

LaRussa also gave a jolt to many White Sox fans when he recalled fan favorite Harold Baines, who came close to getting 3,000 base hits during his career and has some fans believing he should be a Hall of Famer as well.

"Like Tony Oliva (the Minnesota Twin star of the late 1960s), if (Harold) had kept his knees together (injuries), he'd have had his 3,000 hits," LaRussa said.

Perhaps that train of thought will influence the Veterans Committees the Hall of Fame has that give second chance consideration to ballplayers who fall short of induction like Baines himself has thus far.


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Too many unfunny laughs on Illnois' gubernatorial trail to endure at once

Phony headlines, or phony political praise?

That's what we're seeing these days in the political duel taking place between Gov. Pat Quinn and the venture capitalist using the Republican label to try to send him into unemployment.

I'M STILL TRYING to figure out which story related to the gubernatorial campaign is more lame -- the pseudo-support Quinn got from first lady Michelle Obama, or the pseudo headlines appearing in campaign spots promoting Quinn challenger Bruce Rauner.

On the surface, the fact that the first lady is speaking out publicly in favor of Quinn ought to be a plus. There are many public officials these days bearing the "Democrat" label who, if I promise them "off-the-record" status, will eagerly make all kinds of snotty comments about Quinn and how worthless they believe he is.

It is that kind of attitude that Rauner is hoping to play into -- a Democratic Party apathy that will cause many of their backers to stay home on Nov. 4.

That could make the rural Illinois/business executive coalition large enough to actually win an election in a state where a Republican candidate with no political experience like Rauner ought to be dead meat.

MICHELLE OBAMA USED a campaign event this week to urge people to make sizable donations to the Democratic Party's candidates and to turn out for Quinn in Illinois.

"We need to do everything in our power to get him over the finish line," she said. Which in a sense is true for Obama, whose influence would wind up being diminished if his own home state picks the opposition political party for its new leader.

But how many people really listen to federal officials when it comes to these elections? It comes down to the old Tip O'Neill saying, "All politics are local."

Besides, I still remember back in 2010 when President Barack Obama himself made a point of campaigning in Illinois to benefit the local Dems running for Congress.

MOST OF THEM wound up being defeated. Tea Party-types beat up on them -- such as the case of someone like Debbie Halvorson; the one-time state senator who wound up getting one two-year term in Congress before becoming a political has-been.

She got swept in by the Obama-love movement of 2008, then brushed out again in 2010 by the Obama-is-a-Muslim/terrorist/Communist/whatever other slur they can think of types in our society.

She wasn't alone.

Quinn won that year, but that was more because Republican opponent William Brady came across as so blatantly rural and hostile to Chicago interests that Chicago voters turned out en masse.

RAUNER ISN'T GOING to make that same mistake just over three months from now.

President Obama had little to do with Quinn's victory in 2010. I doubt the first lady will have much influence in turning out votes for the governor in November.

People who think she will be just don't seem to get it.

Although they're not as ridiculous as the Rauner camp seems to be these days with their new campaign attack ad that features newspaper "headlines" that, the Chicago Tribune figured out, never actually appeared in any newspapers.

THEY WANT THE credibility that the printed word conveys with its sense of permanence (at least compared to the Internet where things perpetually disappear, only to reappear when least desired). But they want their own take on these alleged headline facts.

Quinn aides are attacking Rauner, who's trying to claim that they're disseminating accurate information. They want Quinn to "Shut Up" and take the blows they wish to dish out to him.

But what amuses me about this line of defense is that a similar controversy came up in 2004 when documentary filmmaker Michael Moore got hit with the same accusation for "Fahrenheit 9/11."

His movie came up with "headlines" that showed negative news coverage of then-President George W. Bush. Except that one of the headlines that supposedly appeared in the Bloomington Pantagraph newspaper was actually a headline that appeared on someone's "Letter to the Editor," rather than on an actual story of fact.

THE IDEOLOGUES WHO like to trash people still demonize Moore for "making up" facts to bolster his film.

But I'm sure these same people will eagerly defend Rauner -- whose defense sounds remarkably the same as what Moore offered up.

Which makes the whole thing such a line of bunk -- yet another phony controversy to go along with a not-so-legitimate endorsement from the White House.

Although I'm sure the people who want to believe it all also lapped up every single word spewed during Rauner's campaign appearance with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Any new traffic jam jokes?


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Are Rauner/Edgar alike on taxes?

It was the 1994 election cycle in Illinois when Gov. Jim Edgar blasted (and whomped all over) Democratic opponent Dawn Clark Netsch for her proposal to shift public education funding from local property taxes to state income taxes.

It would result in significant tax hikes, Edgar said. Netsch would wind up harming the populace of Illinois. Just as current Republican gubernatorial nominee Bruce Rauner is claiming Gov. Pat Quinn will do with his desire to have the state income tax remain at a higher level -- rather than revert back to the levels of old.

RAUNER WANTS TO think this single issue will result in Illinois voters dumping Quinn come Nov. 4. He's spending millions to ensure that thought gets pumped into the mindset of the electorate.

There's just one thing to contemplate. A few years after lambasting Netsch, Edgar tried unsuccessfully to implement a state education funding reform proposal that many political observers said was identical to Netsch's rhetoric.

History seems to be repeating itself in this election cycle. For Rauner spoke with the Chicago Tribune, which reported Thursday that he says the idea of a sudden decrease in the state income tax (the concept that he's trying to peddle to ideologically-minded voters) isn't going to happen.

He told the newspaper that the bottom line isn't getting back to 3 percent for an income tax (it has been 5 percent in recent years), but is now creating a more business-friendly climate in Illinois.

THAT WILL INCLUDE some sort of cut. But it might not be the full cut that some people are being led to believe is their birthright.

The part of the Tribune report that caught my attention was the concept that the final tax rate is going to wind up being negotiated by Rauner with the General Assembly.

Does Rauner himself realize that the concept he's peddling to voters of an income tax rate restoration is not realistic, and probably dangerous to the financial status of Illinois?

The state has obligations, and is going to need the revenue to meet them. There's just no getting around that. And whether one likes the idea of the higher income tax rate, there is a sense that Quinn is telling us the ugly truth when saying it needs to remain in place.

SO WHAT SHOULD we think of Rauner? I'm not about to call him a liar!

More a political opportunist. Making statements that sound good in their simplicity for people who can't stand the idea that government isn't simple. The kind of people for whom details are what is wrong with government officials.

Maybe those individuals will become disenchanted with Rauner. Only he's hoping it doesn't happen for another year, by which time he's entrenched in office and has until early 2019 to get something done.

But keep in mind that the rest of Illinois government is going to remain partisan to the Democratic Party. For the Legislature itself remains Dem-leaning and is not likely to change.

REPUBLICANS ARE PUTTING so little effort into the campaigns of other candidates running for office in this year's election cycle that Illinois will still have a Democratic-leaning government structure.

The truth is that Rauner, the candidate, is one of those business executives whose ego would like to have a political office in his life's story, and he thinks he can be the CEO of Illinois government.

Perhaps he thinks the Legislature is the equivalent of a board of directors put in place to rubber-stamp his decisions. Which just isn't going to be the case. Perhaps he's watched too much of the City Council and the way it kow-tows to the mayor?

It isn't going to happen on the Springfield scene anytime soon. Which makes me wonder if the day will come that people will ponder a Quinn defeat this year the same way they wonder what could have been if Netsch could have had an adequate campaign fund to fight back against Edgar's allegations.

THEN AGAIN, QUINN has the campaign fund to get his message out, even though he will get outspent by Rauner's personal contributions -- along with the millions coming from business interests who want a governor who will kneel before their desires.

It's not like a Rauner victory is really going to result in a sudden drop in the income tax, the way the ideologues fantasize about.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

No weather-related complaints here!

I don't want to hear any complaints from people concerning the weather.

I'm talking about the fact that it is expected to be hot Tuesday. Temperatures in the 90s, with other factors in play that make it feel more like 100 degrees.


But I can't help but find it refreshing. Because I still recall Jan. 6 and those other days early in 2014 when we got hit with Arctic-like temperatures. That was cold. And messy with the frozen snowfall.

Besides, this is summertime in Chicago. It's supposed to get hot this time of year.

Not that I objected to the cool breezes of recent days. They were relaxing. But Tuesday's heat blast across the Midwestern U.S. seems more like a jolt of reality.

THAT, AND THE fact that Chicago has two ball clubs with losing records, with a mediocre football team scheduled to begin training camp next week, means that all is right with the world in the Second City.

Which means instead of whining about the weather, we ought to focus our attention on learning to pronounce "Bourbonnais." Lest we want to sound buffoonish in our upcoming rants about the Bears.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Pols put impersonal ‘personal’ touch to their pleas for our money

In my e-mail inbox Wednesday when I woke up were messages from “President Obama” and “Governor Quinn.”

No, I’m not trying to claim that I’m some sort of big-shot who has the ears of the top officials of federal and Illinois government. In the case of Quinn, I’m fairly sure that on the rare occasions he thinks of me, it’s as some sort of colossal pain-in-the-behind.

IT’S JUST THAT I couldn’t help but be amused by the latest fund-raising pitches made by both officials; resorting to that now-common political tactic of sending out these messages to make it feel like they’re reaching out to me, little old me, for a bit of help.

In the case of Quinn, he wants money to pay for his re-election bid against venture capitalist Bruce Rauner – who has millions of his own money to spend and has shown a willingness to use it in his crusade to get votes by convincing us that, “Pat Quinn is Evil!”

So Quinn is asking us for donations. Not much of one, actually. Only $5.

But that supposedly gets us entered into a raffle, with the result being two people will “win” the big prize of attending a Chicago White Sox game with Quinn – who himself is a season-ticket holder, but insists on maintaining a man-of-the-people image by having his seats in the upper deck that causes so much derision for U.S. Cellular Field.

A BALLGAME WITH the guv. While the rest of us chip in those dinky donations that add up to significant amounts of money for Quinn to campaign against Rauner.

Personally, the thought of a political ballgame isn’t that thrilling. Many years ago, I accompanied then-Illinois Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka to what was then-New Comiskey Park, and had her turn on me during a lull in the game to point out past stories I had written that she thought were snotty in tone.

There also was a time about a decade ago when I went to a rare weekday afternoon White Sox game, and encountered a legislative chief of staff in the beer line, former state Senate President Phil Rock mingling with the crowd, and Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan relieving himself (along with many other fans) following the ballgame.

So a hot dog with the governor? Actually, I view baseball as something to follow to get away from the nonsense of the political world (although the story behind the construction of U.S. Cellular Field is the ultimate commingling of the two).

ALTHOUGH IT’S REALLY not about baseball. It’s about money. It’s meant to be a different pitch to get people to dig into their wallets for political purposes.

Just like the president is doing. Only he’s not offering to take anyone out to the ballpark. He’s trying to stir up resentment among the public to the lawsuit that Republicans in Congress want to file against Obama – contending that he’s violating all sense of decency by trying to go around their desires by using executive authority powers.

Considering that Congress, because of the Republican House of Representatives majority, is deliberately stalling so many issues, a part of me wonders if a more legitimate lawsuit would be to sue GOPers for governmental inactivity.

But in recent days, I have been getting repeated e-mails bearing the names of assorted Democratic Party operatives and officials (including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who the Washington Post reported Wednesday was talking about how she has dreams of retaking control of the House come the Nov. 4 elections) asking for money, telling me how House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, will win and cause irrevocable harm unless I kick in my money for the cause.

AND ON WEDNESDAY came the similar, almost identical, message in the name of the president himself.

The bottom line? I didn’t give Quinn my $5. Nor did I make the $3 donation desired by Democrats (who like to come up with daily causes, it seems, for me to kick in my three bucks).

Partly because I don’t donate money to political people or sign their petitions. Partly because I’m cheap.

And partly because I did what I suspect many real people wish they could do to much of the politically partisan rhetoric they hear these days – I hit the “delete” button.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Will voters decide dumping Rahm more important than keeping Quinn?

51-39. 45-36.

Those are the latest poll results in the two big elections coming in the next few months.

THE FIRST IS the margin by which Republican gubernatorial nominee Bruce Rauner leads Gov. Pat Quinn in a study by the We Ask America polling group.

The latter are poll results by the same group of the 2015 mayoral election – if it turns out to be a head-to-head race between Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

I’m sure there are those individuals who will want to view those results as evidence of a “throw the bums out” mentality at work. Although I’m not convinced. I suspect that most people who are displeased about the current political state are more focused about dumping Rahm than anything else.

It is that sense of apathy toward Illinois government that may result in the Democratic vote of Chicago not turning out in strong-enough numbers to help Quinn come Nov. 4.

SUCH A STRONG “blue” state as Illinois would not be giving a Republican an 11-point lead IF Chicago voters cared. It is the reason William Brady was able to dominate all of Illinois outside of Cook County, yet still lose the 2010 election cycle for governor.

Chicago cared enough about the thought of a Brady victory that they turned out in force for Quinn. It is the reason Quinn is engaging in so many campaign attacks to make Rauner out to be a rich guy with nothing in common with real Chicagoans.

The one about him paying ridiculously-high prices for a parking space near his Near North Side residence is something that nobody outside of that neighborhood will comprehend. But is it enough to stir up resentment and a strong voter turnout?

I think many Chicago voters are getting swept up with the sentiment of trying to find a replacement for Rahm Emanuel.

HENCE, THE LATEST poll that shows Emanuel losing not only to Lewis, but to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

Which is interesting in that neither one is actually a candidate for the February mayoral election, although the Chicago Sun-Times reported Tuesday that Lewis has created an unofficial exploratory committee and is starting to take some of the other actions that a real candidate would take.

Although Emanuel has such a large financial advantage and the opposition has so little time to try to catch up that he still ought to be considered the electoral favorite. Which is why she made the political announcement Tuesday that some people are determined to disbelieve -- she's NOT running for mayor next year!

That same We Ask America poll showed that the one officially-declared challenger to Emanuel – former Alderman and county official Robert Shaw – would get his butt kicked by Rahm. 48 percent to 30 percent, to be exact.

THERE’S ALSO THE fact that the poll treats the mayoral campaign as a head-to-head race, instead of Rahm against several opponents who will cut into his opposition. That just isn’t real.

I suspect that the large leads for Lewis and Preckwinkle are based on the idea that they look better than the incumbent, at least until we start seeing them up close. Then we’ll discover their political warts and Emanuel’s money will make sure every one of them gets analyzed and exaggerated.

Just as Rauner is trying to use his personal fortune to pay for a campaign that repeatedly pumps into our heads the concept of “Pat Quinn is Evil.” That, and “Don’t Look Too Closely at My Flaws.”

Will people care about the long-term care homes owned by a Rauner-controlled company whose care was less-than-stellar? As reported by the Lee Enterprises chain of newspapers that includes the Times of Northwest Indiana? Or will it come across as too technical and cause potential voters’ eyes to glaze over?

IT JUST MAKES me wonder how will voters perceive things if Rauner winds up winning in November, then Emanuel prevails in February (or in an April run-off election)?

Why do I suspect that the combination of political friends Rahm and Rauner would wind up putting the ultimate fright into those individuals who are clamoring for radical change?!?