Saturday, October 25, 2008

Bush (the elder) and McCain – will Blagojevich make it a bipartisan pol trio?

I still recall a political luncheon in Chicago early in 1993 when a semi-prominent Illinois Republican official with whom I was engaging in mindless chitchat let me in on what he considered to be “a secret.”

“You know why George Bush lost the election, don’t you,” the GOPer told me of the then-recently completed presidential election that saw the nation get eight years of Bill Clinton.

“IT WAS THE economy,” he told me. “If it hadn’t conspired against us, we’d have a real president now.”

I guess it was hard for the Republican faithful to accept that a good chunk of the U.S. voter population didn’t want George Bush the elder for a second term as president. Perhaps they were still bitter over the way that Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot’s presidential dreams impinged on some people who usually would vote Republican.

Easier to blame it on something that was out of their control, and to think of it as a “conspiracy,” a force upon which they could fantasize unleashing the U.S. attorney to prosecute somebody for denying us four more years of George H.W. Bush.

This particular moment came to my mind Friday when I learned that Gov. Rod Blagojevich is blaming his unpopular stance among the Illinois electorate on “the economy.”

THAT’S WHAT HE told reporter-types in suburban Blue Island as a semi-snide response to the Chicago Tribune – which earlier in the week published a picture of the governor that made him look particularly vacuous, next to a bright red “13 %.”

That percentage is a statistic offered up in a Tribune-commissioned poll, and it supposedly is the number of people in Illinois who actually believe Blagojevich is doing an acceptable job as governor.

Heck, even George Bush the younger gets approval ratings these days of between 25-30 percent in various polls.

Is Rod Blagojevich really more incompetent than George W. Bush?

IS IT TRUE that only 10 percent of the electorate would vote for Blagojevich for a third term as governor when the next Illinois elections are held in 2010?

Since Blagojevich has already made it clear he plans to seek that third term, we will find out in just a couple of years (which will fly by so quickly) when the governor has to face a challenge in the next Democratic primary.

For his part, Blagojevich made it clear this week he thinks the Tribune poll’s low approval rating is really disgust by the electorate toward all government officials, due to economic troubles.

He is applying the logic of George Bush the elder in thinking that would-be voters are taking out their frustrations on him, as though they would eagerly vote to re-elect him if only they would think about the issue sensibly.

IN TALKING WITH reporters, Blagojevich even went so far as to say he thinks he would win re-election, if the Illinois state government elections were held this year.

Gov. Milorod apparently thinks the coattails of Barack Obama in Illinois are so long that they would stretch even to him. And I know I have heard some political pundits speculate that an Obama presidency could put Illinoisans in such a rose-y mood for the next year or two that they will look favorably upon all Democrats in 2010.

In short, a “President Obama” would make a slight majority of Illinois voters (which is all one needs to win an election) forget the political infighting of Springfield of recent years.

I’m not sure what to think of Blagojevich’s lack of popularity, which is a combination of rural Illinois Republicans who remain miffed that Rod brought a 26-year-stretch of GOP governors to an end when he got elected in 2002, combined with the infighting among Democrats of differing factions that is the status quo of the City Hall political culture.

THERE MAY BE a lot of Democrats who think Blagojevich is some sort of jerk, but will ultimately back him because they consider themselves loyal to the party, and it’s not like someone has to personally like someone in order to cast a vote for them come Election Day.

Which is why I don’t think it all that outrageous that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, in its attempt to boost the chances of congressional hopeful Debbie Halvorson, used as an accusation against her Republican opponent (concrete magnate Marty Ozinga) that he made campaign contributions totalling, “23 grand ($23,000) to Rod Blagojevich.”

Some people are amazed that Democrats would use a contribution to their political party’s guy as a negative. I see it as the standard issue accusation made against a political person during a campaign season. It’s trash talk of the finest kind, and should not be taken too seriously.

So what should we make of all this?

IS BLAGOJEVICH TRYING to set the stage for future campaign rhetoric, claiming that opposition to his re-election as governor is irrational? Is it a delusional way of thinking that the negative perception of Blagojevich is something that will go away?

Is it just a smart-aleck response to a Tribune poll story that was laid out in a way to inspire the local pundits to spend the next few days taking cheap shots at the governor (with Mother Tribune getting a free plug every time somebody brings up the “13 percent” figure)?

“It’s a baker’s dozen. I consider it a lucky number,” Blagojevich quipped on Friday.

I’m also sure that our state’s governor is trying to feed off the political problems faced by Republican presidential nominee John McCain.

ALL THOSE POLLS showing him dropping far behind Democratic opponent Barack Obama in recent weeks are tied to the public perception of the economy. Many Republicans are convinced they would be more competitive if not for the Wall Street meltdown of ’08, and are trying desperately to shift the voter’s attention to other issues.

In short, the evidence is already laid out for McCain to use the Bush the elder excuse for losing Campaign ’08 should he turn out to be unsuccessful come the Nov. 4 elections. Is our governor really squirming so much that he’s determined to make that GOP duo a bi-partisan trio?


EDITOR’S NOTES: Does Rod Blagojevich really believe his popularity rating is a cyclical thing ( that inevitably has to rise?

Democratic political operatives in Washington perceive Blagojevich as so low that he can be used ( as the punch line (of sorts) for political attack ads.

A new poll shows only 26.1 percent of the electorate (or at least those who were surveyed) think the nation’s economy would improve if the United States were to be blessed ( with a “President McCain.”

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