Monday, February 1, 2010

Quinn v. Hynes: The electoral “flip-flop” of the ’10 primary campaign cycle

I tried hiding from political-type things on Sunday, spending as much time at home as possible and avoiding those television newscasts. Yet those pesky campaign advertisements still caught up with me, and gave me my chuckle for the weekend when it came to the spots related to the gubernatorial campaigns.

I lost track of how many times I saw spots bashing the moral character of Republican Kirk Dillard because he has the audacity to not think of Barack Obama as some sort of socialist stooge (the two were friendly when both were in the Illinois Senate).

YET IT WAS the Democratic primary that truly caught my attention, for that is the campaign where even if Pat Quinn manages to hold onto victory come Tuesday’s elections, he’s going to be so badly bloodied to a political pulp that the GOP nominee will have a virtual head-start on the general election cycle.

Quinn used television spots reminding us of how the Illinois comptroller’s office (run by Democratic opponent Dan Hynes) may have overlooked evidence uncovered several years ago of flaws at Burr Oak Cemetery – the historically-black burial ground in Alsip that brought national shame to Chicago when conditions there became publicly known.

He also had spots telling us that Hynes has used some pretty shameful tactics in trying to dredge up dirt on Quinn.

All of this is true. But the impression that came across was of a whining, crying Quinn upset that the little runt of a challenger managed to get in a couple of solid punches and bloody his nose.

BY COMPARISON, HYNES gave us his “final touch” campaign ad, which reeks of cutesy.

Plenty of shots of the three Hynes sons, along with rhetoric about how he wants to make Illinois a better place for his children. Hynes also put to use the many newspaper endorsements his campaign has received by including a couple of seconds in the final ad depicting the nameplates of all the newspapers that think Hynes should win the Democratic primary (even though I suspect many of them want the Republican nominee to be the overall victor come November).

If Quinn comes off as a whiner, then Hynes takes a cocky attitude in ending his primary campaign for governor. One would think that Hynes had been the front-runner all along and that Quinn never had a chance.

Now before I go further, I will disclose once again that I used early voting to cast my ballot. I picked Quinn for governor – in part because I think keeping him for his own full term will provide a tiny touch of governmental stability. That would be a significant change from the chaos our state has endured for the past few years.

I ALSO WONDER if Hynes truly is up to the task of running a major constitutional office.

So I do feel a touch of disgust that this campaign is even a close race. Back in the early days, if I had had to guess how Tuesday will turn out in the Democratic primary, I would have said Quinn would win handily and that the U.S. Senate campaign would be the close one.

Various polls coming out in recent weeks show it likely is just the opposite – Barack’s basketball buddy (or incompetent banker, if you have a GOP spin to your thought process) Alexi Giannoulias seems to have that solid lead over his opponents, and likely picked up another 1 percent support with the withdrawal of Jacob Meister from the primary.

Yet the polls for the gubernatorial primary show either Quinn or Hynes in the lead – and always with margins so small that they fall within the “margin of error.” The dreaded “statistical tie,” which means there’s the potential for a long night before we know for sure who the Democratic Party’s voters have picked to run against whichever GOPer manages to win (that field is truly unpredictable).

PERSONALLY, I BELIEVE the responses that Quinn has been offering up to the campaign sludge that Hynes has been hitting him with. But I am not the least bit surprised that Quinn’s responses are not catching on in the mindset of the electorate to the same degree that Hynes’ allegations have.

Is it borderline sleazy for a Hynes to be trying to take the moral high ground in remembering what happened back during the era when Harold Washington was a living, breathing human being? Yes, but so much time has passed since those days that Harold has become more an image than a person – and we “read” into him what we want to believe about ourselves.

Should Hynes have been more on the ball when it came to the situation at Burr Oak Cemetery? Yes, but how many people even realize that Hynes ever had any authority to regulate cemeteries. His name probably was the last to pop into the heads of the public when it came to assessing blame for the shameful state that many older graves and corpses were found to be in.

I even have a problem with Hynes rattling off that list of newspaper “endorsements.” He may have received the backing of many of those publications, but I couldn’t help but notice the endorsements of the state’s two major newspapers.

THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES went for Quinn, while the Chicago Tribune keeps offering us self-righteous reminders of the fact that they are refusing to pick either candidate – saying in effect that they both stink.

I know many self-appointed political pundits already are calling this primary for Hynes (with the Associated Press recently writing that Quinn was suffering because of his association with now-impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich, even though anybody who knows anything is aware that Blagojevich detested Quinn so much that he deliberately kept him out of the loop of what was taking place in state government).

Personally, I’m not quite as convinced – I only know that whoever does win will not do so by much.

But if Quinn really becomes the guy who blew early poll leads of more than a score to lose to Hynes, then he deserves to sink from Illinois’ chief executive to being its most outspoken gadfly (his old role) in a matter of months.


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